Might artists be more sane than non-creatives?

Might artists be more sane than non-creatives?


norman lebrecht

September 27, 2014

New psychological variations on a vital theme. Read here.



  • John Borstlap says:

    Creativity as a general phenomenon, seems to be obviously contributing to mental health. But the cases of uncommon ‘super-creative’ artists cannot be scientifically researched because they are always one-off characters, i.e. no general conclusions can be drawn from their condition.

    The only observation that can be made, is that such people possess stronger sensitivities, which makes them more vulnerable to life’s inevitable problems and struggles. Great artistic achievement requires an intensity of concentration and dedication which absorbes so much mental and emotional energy that not much remains for practical life, and in combination with a more vulnerable sensitivity this means quite much extra suffering apart from the ‘birth pangs’. Schopenhauer has already made some convincing observations about that…. now almost 200 years ago (‘About genius’, in ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’).

    It goes without saying that when we consider ‘super-creative artists’ we don’t think in the first place of people who exhibit cut corpses in formaldehyde and ask hughe prices for the idea, or charlatans having grotesquely-sized balloons assembled by salaried teams.

  • anon says:

    The article suggests that Andreasen relied upon her subjects having ‘reported some mental illness’. For a writer, ‘mental illness’ may be perceived as a badge of honour, whereas for ‘administrators, lawyers, social workers, and so on’ the converse would probably be the case. Consequently, a writer is probably more willing to admit to having had a ‘mental illness’ (or maybe even pretend to have had one, or overinterpret a bad day as such) than a ‘nonwriter’, who would probably be doing his/her utmost to convince himself/herself that there were nothing wrong. Even if the data were collected by means of medical records, there is the bias that some people would ‘hold it in’, or be less willing to consent to their records being scrutinised by a researcher. Until some objective method (a method which would have to be unobtrusive enough so that people do not see its purpose immediately, otherwise bias would be introduced by some people dropping out or acting) of ascertaining ‘mental illness’ could be devised (maybe it never will be…), we have to account for the intricate social factors that influence the definition and reporting of ‘mental illness’.

  • David Boxwell says:

    The ghost of Robert Schumann just told me the answer to this is, “nein.”

  • Pamela Brown says:

    Interesting points. Another issue to consider is that we all have a tendency to assume that our ‘reality’ is consistent with that of others, when, in fact, that may not be the case.

    To use Mozart as an example, I think he had an unusual gift, or aspect to his gift, that he was never aware of, in the sense that the manner in which he experienced things was distinctly different from others. The issues with his handling money point to this. When Leopold insisted he find a seat at court, as he might have wished for himself, he was playing apples-and-oranges with Wolf. I doubt the two ever realized how different their realities really were.