The study findings suggest that a similar percentage of bipolar I and II disorder patients experience heightened creativity during hypomanic and manic episodes, at 84 percent and 81 percent, respectively. This goes against previous theories that creativity is more common in patients with milder forms of bipolar disorder.
During the study, researcher Stacey McCraw of the Black Dog Institute in Sydney, Australia found that bipolar patients who pursued creative activities during manic episodes were also far more likely to have personality traits associated with hypomania and creativity than those who did not.
“This implies that [bipolar] disorder does not directly cause creativity, but rather individuals so inclined toward being creative… may simply have an enhanced drive to express these traits and abilities when in a hypo/manic state,” said the researchers.
The study involved 19 bipolar I disorder and 50 bipolar II disorder patients. The two subgroups did differ in their creative activity choices—bipolar I disorder patients were more likely to write during manic episodes and bipolar II disorder patients to draw.
Interestingly, none of the bipolar I disorder patients engaged in musical activities, compared with 14 percent of bipolar II disorder patients.
Furthermore, these creative activities were perceived differently among the subtypes, with bipolar II disorder patients being far more likely to report advantages to their creative highs than bipolar I disorder patients.
For example, both subtypes reported feeling good and being productive during their creative activities, but bipolar II patients were more likely to also report improved focus and clarity.
On the other hand, bipolar I patients were much more likely to spend large amounts of money on their creative pursuits. They also were more likely to give up on creative tasks before they were done and see projects dwindle, features reported by all patients.
The investigators suggest that different cognitive styles may help explain the previously reported variability in creativity within the bipolar spectrum by either helping or harming creative performance.
The researchers would like to further investigate the creative tendencies found in bipolar disorder patients before and during their first major mood episode in order to better understand “the relative impact of bipolar disorder versus inherent ability on creativity over time.”
Source: Journal of Affective Disorders
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