Writing is an Illness?

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So, science has just worked out that anyone who shows any kind of creativity is suffering from a mental disorder. Where do they get these notions from?

In a recent article on the BBC, entitled “Creativity closely entwined with mental illness” it was pointed out that writers have a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, according to a team of researchers at the Swedish Karolinska Institute, led by Dr Simon Kyaga.

It went on to say that anyone who is in the least bit ‘creative’ is almost twice as likely to kill themselves; far more than the general population. According to the researchers, creativity is often part of a mental illness, with writers being particularly susceptible.

Thanks a lot folks; that maybe explains why I am so driven to write. It’s a funny thing but I’ve never ever thought of writing as being a mental affliction before. A passion, maybe, but an illness, where’s the proof?

The article mentioned four well known authors as classic examples:

The novelist Virginia Woolf famously suffered with depression and eventually drowned herself.

Hans Christian Andersen suffered from depression.

Ernest Hemingway also suffered from depression and killed himself with a shotgun.

And finally, Graham Greene suffered from bipolar disorder.

The article ended by saying – “We know that one in four people will be diagnosed with a mental health problem this year and that these individuals will come from a range of different backgrounds, professions and walks of life. Our main concern is that they get the information and support that they need and deserve.”

Ok, if that’s the case, where’s the help I supposedly need while I sit here agonising over a storyline. Where’s the help when a story I’ve written and published gets rubbished?

Talking with other writers of my acquaintance, we all suffer from depression. It’s an occupational hazard which goes with the territory. Without exception we all fret and worry over how our latest book will be received by the reading public. We all privately suffer when we get bad reviews. We are all concerned over the book’s ratings in the marketplace. We constantly talk among ourselves about sales, usually moaning about why one particular book is doing better than the one we personally prefer.

One thing is certain; none of us can predict which of our books will be popular, nor can we dictate which of our books the public should buy. If that’s not enough to bring on a bout of depression, or an anxiety attack, I don’t know what is.

Now if you will all please excuse me, I must go and lay down in a darkened room to contemplate my navel. Too hell with that! I’ll get drunk instead.

4 Comments
  1. joycewhite says

    Hi Jack, I will admit I also suffer from depression and so does everyone in my family. I am the only writer. The others are too dysfunctional to read my stuff. I worry they will never know the real me unless they read me. I think writers in general, just empathize with others more. This over-utilization of our senses makes us depressed. We want to fix stuff that is wrong in the world. Stuff can’t always be fixed so we try to rewrite life. I worry my work is received well but it keeps my mind off being sorry for myself. Joyce

  2. RHPolitz says

    Perhaps Jack, the psychiatric community has gone a bit too far in labeling and “diagnosing” each and every emotion as a mental condition. Well of course they are unless one happens to be “Spock” in the Star Trek stories.

    Perhaps also, the goal of said psychiatric “business” is to provide the help needed to eliminate the ups and downs of human life and produce what they consider to be a stable and unemotional breed of people…, and become wealthy in the process. Although, it’s possible that they just might find out how the brain actually works and who we really are. “Id” has always been a mystery to me so I write about others who are far more interesting. (Get the Freudian slip there?)

    And…, I do enjoy a glass of Macallan 25 year old nectar now and then though. {;p)

  3. Nancy Duci Denofio says

    How true it is. Thanks for sharing this with other writers. Always, Nancy

  4. Joyce White says

    I commented on this subject sometime ago. In forethought I should have mentioned that writing is a wellness. They who call us creative got it backwards. Kind of like the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? Does depression come first with our minds so disturbed all we can do is reside in an imaginative world? Or, are we naturally created with our wires crossed only to be able to create our our perceptions by writing? Writing and creative endeavors can be wellness for the insane and the sane of us. My thanks to Jack for bringing this subject up. It spurred me to start writing again. Joyce 2/15

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