Newton, Einstein, and a Gaggle of Writers

Linking Creativity With Mental Illness

Michael T. Compton, MD, MPH


June 17, 2011

In This Article

Editor's Note: As the third in a 3-part series on highlights from the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Honolulu, Hawaii, below Dr. Michael Compton explores the connection between mental illness and genius and creativity.

Mental Illness and Creativity: Introduction

In Lecture 24, on Tuesday, May 17, Dr. Nancy C. Andreasen (Andrew H. Woods Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine) spoke on "A Journey into Chaos: Creativity and the Unconscious."[1] In this presentation on the connection between genius/creativity and mental illness, she spoke about having interviewed the renowned playwright Neil Simon, who indicated that he "slipped into a state that is apart from reality" during his most productive and creative periods. He also said "I don't write consciously--it is as if the muse sits on my shoulder."

Similar examples of the creative process have come from other forms of art (eg, Mozart, who saw his music as a 3-dimensional matrix), as well as from science and mathematics, such as Henri Poincaré. These observations have clearly influenced Dr. Andreasen's work.


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