Authors are wacko: Swedish study

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Doug Pardee
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Authors are wacko: Swedish study

Post by Doug Pardee » October 16th, 2012, 8:13 pm

A big study done by researchers at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet has found that writers tend to be crazier than other creatives. The study followed almost 1.2 million people to determine correlation between creative occupations (both artistic and scientific/technical creativity), with a special emphasis on authors, and quite a number of different mental health disorders.

The only finding for creatives in general was an increased tendency toward being bipolar. They're also more likely to have relatives who are bipolar, anorexic, or schizophrenic, and to have siblings who are on the autism spectrum.

"However, being an author was specifically associated with increased likelihood of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and suicide," the study notes. The likelihood of authors successfully committing suicide is about 50% higher than for non-creatives.

I guess I'm an author. I see myself in that list. :shock: (Fortunately, not the suicide part.)

Margo
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Re: Authors are wacko: Swedish study

Post by Margo » October 16th, 2012, 8:52 pm

Kay Redfield Jamison looked at this in Touched With Fire. It segmented poets out from general "writers" and found poets to be the most disturbed among creatives and architects and other more graphic artists types to be the least. Fascinating for the forensic work it looks at as well as being written from the viewpoint of a mental health professional who also suffers from bipolar disorder (which is massively overdiagnosed these days). It would be more accurate to say most artistic types have features of mood disorders. The problem with doing so...indeed the problem with doing so for any person...is the tendency of people to then indulge their own disgnosis. Otherwise functional people start shirking the responsibility for their own behavior by falling back on, "I'm an artiste! We all have disorders! We can't be expected to be civil or functional or..." Etc.
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Doug Pardee
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Re: Authors are wacko: Swedish study

Post by Doug Pardee » October 17th, 2012, 12:05 pm

Margo wrote:The problem with doing so...indeed the problem with doing so for any person...is the tendency of people to then indulge their own disgnosis.
I got the impression from the press release (linked above) that another problem is treating the disorders: "the doctor and patient must come to an agreement on what is to be treated, and at what cost." Bipolar creatives are notorious for being unreceptive to medication, claiming that they lose their creative edge when medicated — any factual basis of that belief is unclear. I think that schizophrenics also have a fairly high non-compliance rate (around half). If the alternative to being nuts is being normal/uninteresting, treatment can be a hard sell.

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Re: Authors are wacko: Swedish study

Post by Margo » October 17th, 2012, 12:56 pm

Doug Pardee wrote:
Margo wrote:The problem with doing so...indeed the problem with doing so for any person...is the tendency of people to then indulge their own disgnosis.
I got the impression from the press release (linked above) that another problem is treating the disorders: "the doctor and patient must come to an agreement on what is to be treated, and at what cost." Bipolar creatives are notorious for being unreceptive to medication, claiming that they lose their creative edge when medicated — any factual basis of that belief is unclear. I think that schizophrenics also have a fairly high non-compliance rate (around half). If the alternative to being nuts is being normal/uninteresting, treatment can be a hard sell.
Bipolar Type 1's are also extremely hard to keep on meds because they are primarily manic, while it's easier with Type 2's, who are primarily depressive. I'm of the opinion that many of the people being diagnosed as bipolar, however, are cyclothymic at worst, probably going through a traumatic period in life and having a bad reaction to psych meds prescribed by GP's (who are the first prescribers more than 90% of the time despite having limited training in the application of these kinds of meds). These kinds of patients need neither life-long medication nor indulgence of the "crazy artiste" stereotype when its absolutely possible for them to be creative, social, stable, and functional the vast majority of the time.

Your comment does bring up the issue of what is disorder and what is artistic eccentricity/process. Creatives are also usually (how's that for a scientific term) notoriously hard to live with as friends, lovers, family members.

I've also seen a very very very high rate of borderline personality disorder in creatives, which is thoroughly treatable if one can get the client to commit to regular psychotherapy for 2-3 years--which is difficult.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

Sommer Leigh
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Re: Authors are wacko: Swedish study

Post by Sommer Leigh » October 17th, 2012, 5:18 pm

One thing I find flawed, or maybe telling, about these types of studies, is that they look for the prevelence of mental health disorders and personality markers in authors and other creative types, rather than looking at the prevelence of people with mental health disorders and certain personality markers who seek out writing and other creative vocations as outlets for the issues they suffer from. I personally believe that writers are not necessarily troubled, emotional, or a little bit crazy. I think people who need an outlet for their confused and complicated relationship with the world find it through stories and art.

I also agree with Margo that our profession tends to excuse behavior and indulgences as part of some artistic license.
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Doug Pardee
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Re: Authors are wacko: Swedish study

Post by Doug Pardee » October 17th, 2012, 7:50 pm

Sommer Leigh wrote:One thing I find flawed, or maybe telling, about these types of studies, is that they look for the prevelence of mental health disorders and personality markers in authors and other creative types, rather than looking at the prevelence of people with mental health disorders and certain personality markers who seek out writing and other creative vocations as outlets for the issues they suffer from.
I may have misunderstood what you're saying, but if I did understand...

This study wasn't a simple "correlation" study. It was a longitudinal study looking at whether people who were in creative occupations tended to develop (or more correctly, be diagnosed with) mental health issues later. It took matched case/control groups and tracked them over a period of 40 years. It singled out authors as a special-interest case, so it's possible that there may have been other creative occupations that also developed problems in multiple areas.

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Re: Authors are wacko: Swedish study

Post by ivin » October 25th, 2012, 9:20 am

Vey interesting subject indeed. May I ask one thing though? Did the study say anything about songwriter/singers? Are they included in the category or is it just novelists and poets? Does anybody know the answer to this question? It would e greatly appreciated.

ivin
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Re: Authors are wacko: Swedish study

Post by ivin » October 25th, 2012, 9:26 am

Oh sorry, one more thing. i reckon the folk that study the wacko folk are just as wacko. The whole world is wacko and if the blind lead the blind they'll both fall into a ditch. another thing is that I've had friends and family in institutions and the from what I can recall ninety nine percent of wacko people weren't a strand bit creative. They were just nuts. So I think the figures we count are wrong. 'Wackoness' doesnt mean creativity. I think were just highlighting a certain few. Another study showed that all serial killers were crazy. who wants to be a serial killer?

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