When I was a child, a doctor once told me that he suspected that I might have attention deficit disorder – ADD (or ADHD as it’s now called). He went on to say “..but, only a touch of it. Basically enough to make you creative”. I suspect that he was joking at the time, but it always made me wonder.
I was reminded of this recently when I dug up a report based on research by Professor Arnold Ludwig of the University of Kentucky.
Dr. Ludwig studied over 1000 “original thinkers” in a wide array of professions – art, music, business, science, politics and sports. In his research spannig close to 10 years, he studied these people’s mental fitness, their chosen professions and the releationships between their mental health and career selection. What he found was interesting: Crazy people have jobs that rely on creativity.
The results from his study (“Method and Madness in the Arts and Sciences”) showed that:
- 9 out of 10 poets studied had diagnosable mental disorders (!)
- 77% of fiction writers had mental disorders
- 74% of theater people
- 73% of painters and other visual artists
- 68% of musicians (which I think is dead accurate based on my own experience of being in bands!)
This is compared to 18 to 29% for sports, scientists and business people.
Many studies have shown higher rates of depression in creative people as well (how depressing!).
So, the question that begs to be asked is what is the causative relationship? Are creative people crazy, or are crazy people creative? Dr. Ludwig says:
“Mental illness is not the price people pay for their creative gifts… creative people who are mentally ill find themselves, almost by default, in the arts rather than in business or the other sciences.”
Ok, so being creative doesn’t make us crazy… Whew, we dodged that bullet. What this does mean, however, is that we may have to deal with more off-kilter-ness from our co-workers and professional relationships if we work in a creative field.
Tell us what you think – do you agree with Dr. Ludwig’s findings, or do you just think he’s crazy being creative?