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Depression and Creativity

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Robert Aukema

on 3 April 2014

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Transcript of Depression and Creativity

Mental Illness Induced Mood State Correlations with Creative Insight and Output
An analysis of recognized creative individuals in their respective fields of expertise

Eman Awadh, Robert Aukema,
Paulina Rojas-Coutino, & Esohe Ogbomo

Michelangelo
-Very shortly after birth was abandoned by his mother (1), and repeatedly feared further abandonment, as apparent in his writings:
"My soul... is saddened by new suspicions every hour" (Girardi no. 22, Illustration 27-29) (1)

-Suspected to also have suffered from Autism Spectrum Disorder as well (4)

-Reflects feelings of of abandonment through many of his representations of Mary holding Jesus, often looking away from Jesus, somber, or absent-minded, as if 'she had forgotten about him' (1)

Sylvia Plath
Started feeling sad when her father died at 8 years old
Other traumatic experiences for her were not being able to meet her writer whom she idolized, her husband having an affair, and her divorce.
Daughter is also a poet and son died by suicide
Plath wrote her first poem at age eight and it was published in a local newspaper
Vincent Van Gogh
Kurt Cobain
Biggest negative impact in his life was his parents' divorce. All he wanted was love from parents that were together. He even witnessed domestic violence with mom's boyfriend.
• Cobain men had painfully low self-esteem, and used alcohol to relieve their inhibitions, to feel like they thought everyone else felt
The band name Nirvana was taken from the Buddhist concept, which Cobain described as "freedom from pain, suffering and the external world," which paralleled with the punk rock ethic and ideology
Ernest Hemingway
Edvard Munch
melancholic proliferation and creative vindication
Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Lupe Fiasco
Kurt Vonnegut: Trauma reflected in his work
-Many of the traumatic events in his life were displayed in his work:
- Imprisonment in Dresden during WWII reflected in
Slaughterhouse Five
(1)
-Underlying themes of family dysfunction in
Breakfast of Champions
and
Slapstick,
following the break-up of his own family in the 1970's (3)


Michelangelo: Impact of depression on work
Although he often complained of suffering throughout letters, it did not appear to hinder or reduce his creative output, and in many ways he almost enjoyed his suffering:

"There is more relief the more distress preceded" (1)
Kurt Vonnegut: Periods of Depression
-During certain periods of deep depression, he had difficulty writing, specifically the year following his father's death in 1957 (1)

-Furthermore, he once stated that he had been planning a book about his time in the Dresden prison camp since the 1940's (2), but it was never published until 1969 (1), likely due to great difficulty in coping with and attempting to explain such a traumatic personal event (2)
"Dylan's true autobiography... is his work, in which he consciously and unconsciously shares everything that occurs in his inner and outer life"

- Howard Sounes (1)
Bob Dylan, about playing shows:
Bob Dylan
-Never formally diagnosed as depressed, but many critics feel his songs reflect a period of depression following his divorce in 1977 (3) (4)

-Known to also abuse substances throughout career, and even introduced The Beatles to marijuana (5)
(P1)
(P2)
(P1)
(P1)
Works Cited 1
Vonnegut:
(1) Morse, Donald E. (1992). Kurt Vonnegut. San Bernardino, CA: The Borgo Press.
(2) Lundquist, James. (1977). Kurt Vonnegut. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co.
(3) Allen, W.R. (2014). About Kurt Vonnegut. In
Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.
Retrieved from www.vonnegutlibrary.org/about
(P1) http://www.amazon.com/Slaughterhouse-Five-Kurt-Vonnegut/dp/0440180295
(P2) http://whenyouputitthatway.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/kurt-vonneguts-letter-to-a-school-board-that-banned-his-books/

Michelangelo:
(1) Leites, Nathan. (1986). Art and life: Aspects of Michelangelo. New York: New York University Press
(2) Condivi, Ascario. (1976). The life of Michelangelo. Hellmut Wohl (Ed.). Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
(4) Rolland, Roman. (1921). Michelangelo. New York: Duffield & Company.
(P1) http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/arts/artwor/michelangelo-sculptures20.htm
Virginia Woolf
:
Figueroa, C. G. (2005). Virginia woolf as an example of a mental disorder and artistic creativity. [Virginia Woolf: enfermedad mental y creatividad artistica] Revista Medica De Chile, 133(11), 1381-1388.

Koutsantoni, K. (2012). Manic depression in literature: The case of virginia woolf. Medical Humanities, 38(1), 7-14.
Lupe Fiasco
"Ryan Seacrest - Lupe Fiasco Battled Suicide & Depression Leading Up To New Album [AUDIO] -." Ryan Seacrest. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2014.
synchronization of life and work - referred to his paintings as his children
created the art form known as expressionism
emotionally charged artwork - compulsive repetition, incapable of ridding himself from original trauma
“[My troubles]are part of me and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and it [treatment] would destroy my art. I want to keep those sufferings.” - Munch
Affective Disorder Led to Creative Legacy
-Born 11 November 1922 (1)

-Father was a well-known architect (3), and brother Mark wrote a published book
Eden Express,
(3) so it is clear that creativity was present in his family


Kurt Vonnegut: Family
Munch Madness
-Mother died of suicide by overdose in 1944 (1), and Vonnegut claims to have learned a 'bone-deep sadness' from both of his parents (2) and has impacted his life

-Son Mark suffered from bipolar disorder (3)
Mental health issues were prevalent in Kurt Vonnegut's family:
creativity and madness
Sylvia Plath
• She did not publish much when she was depressed, rather it can be said that most of her work was done during manic phases.
• However, in her last months of life when she was really depressed she did complete her last collection of poems.
• She only really talked openly about her depression in her book
The Bell Jar
-Born January 25, 1882
-English Writer
She suffered from depression and hypomania.
Her first manic to depressive episode occurred at age 13, after the death of her mother (Julie Stephen) in May 1895.
In
A Sketch of the past
Woolf writes "I remember very clearly how even as I was taken to the bedside I noticed that one nurse was sobbing, and a desire to laugh came over me, and I said to myself as I have often done at moment of crisis since "I feel nothing or whatever" then I stooped and kissed my mother's face, it was still warm"
She suffered second episode at age 22 when her father died of cancer.
Her first suicide attempt occurred during her Second episode period.
Age 31, argument with her husband Leonard Woolf lead to her third episode and second suicide attempt.
Her famous work like Mrs Dalloway(1925), To the lighthouse(1927), Orlando(1928), A room of one's own(1929) and the waves(1931) appeared after her first three severe episodes. she was more productive between attacks and created little or nothing while she was unwell.
Her illness were the source of material for her novels. She wrote about her life experiences.
Died from committing suicide at age 59 in 1941
Robert Schumann
Cornell university - "carnaval" opus 9 described as a "catalog of Bipolar Symptomology"
Schumann's music described as an "exteriorization of the disorganized and illogical thought processes that typify manic episodes" by Dr. Kogan of Cornell University
Due to the psychotic inferences in his groundbreaking contributions to music artistry it can be deducted that the illness served as a marker for his creative excellence
struck by insanity at the height of his creative output
early adulthood mania often accompanied by unbounded creative insight and output
musical inspiration derived from musical hallucinations
There are no known family members
with mental illness history.
Some of the life experiences that
influenced his mental illness are: Bad breakup when he was 16, kicked out by the church when he wanted to be a minister, his father wanted him to go to a lunatic asylum, his roommate moving out and feeling lonely, he may have been drinking more whenever he felt that his unique bond with Theo was threatened or his brother's health was declining

Vincent Van Gogh
• At age 27 he decided to be a painter
• After leaving Saint-Remy he began to be recognized as an artists and one of his paintings had been sold

With regards to painting, he said:
“It is not difficult to express here my entire sadness and extreme loneliness”
Creativity and madness
• While at Saint-Rémy Hospital (1889-1890), he produced some 300 works of art, among them several copies of religious scenes by older masters and the transcendental masterpiece Starry Night. He was psychotic mostly during this

period.
Kurt

C
obain
• His suicide is often attributed to his unhappiness at having gone from proud indie rock rebel to mainstream superstar
• Cobain would say in an interview with
Musician
that "some of my very personal experiences, like breaking up with girlfriends and having bad relationships, feeling that death void that the person in the song is feeling. Very lonely, sick."
Genetics:
Woolf's father: Sir Lesile Stephen suffered unpredictable mood swings-Cyclothymic for two years. He was also a writer. He experienced numerous episode of brain collapse throughout life
Woolf's Grandfather: Sir James suffered from depression and hopeless rejection
Woolf's Uncle: Fitzjames was a journalist who suffered Senile dementia
Woolf's Cousin: James developed manic-depressive outburst due to a blow on the head in his late twenties.
Woolf's Half Sister: Laura makepeace suffered Asperger's syndrome.
It is possible that genetic predisposition to emotional problem with Lesile Stephen's family was passed on onto Virginia Woolf.
won the nobel prize for literature in 1954
Developed an obsession for the glorification of blood and the art of killing, through bullfighting
Suffered from "bipolar disorder, alcohol dependence, traumatic brain injury, and probably borderline and narcissistic personality traits"
Family predisposition to Manic Depression - father, mother, siblings, son and grand-daughter
Traumatic upbringing - 2 key childhood experiences (masculinity confusion and abusive father)
Dark side of his artistic literature - themes of violence and suicide
1960- writer's block stemmed from overbearing depression and paranoid delusions
TWO SUSPECTED EPISODES OF DEPRESSION , BOTH RELATED TO DIVORCE:
2. Following his divorce in 1986 to Carolyn Dennis (3)
-Only released one album between 1990 and 2001 (3), which had deeply emotional themes:

"They tell me everything is going to be all right, but I don't know what 'all right' even means"
(Trying to Get to Heaven)
(3)
1. Following his divorce with Sara Dylan in 1977 (4)
-Many feel was his deepest period, as evidenced in
Abandoned Love
:

"But as long as I love you I'm not free, How long must I suffer such abuse"
Works Cited (2)
Bob Dylan

(1) Marshall, Lee (2007).
Bob Dylan: The never ending star.
Cambridge: Polity Press.

(2) Dettmar, Kevin J.H. (Ed.). (2009).
The Cambridge companion to Bob Dylan.
Cambridge: University Press

(3) Murashko, Alex. (2011). Did Bob Dylan suffer clinical depression. In
Christian Post
. Retrieved from http://www.christianpost.com/news/did-bob-dylan-suffer-clinical-depression-53112/

(4) Shelton, Robert. (2011).
No direction home: The life and music of Bob Dylan (Revised and Updated Edition)
. Milwaukee: Backbeat Books.

(5) Inglis, Ian. (1996). Synergies and reciprocities: The dynamics of musical and professional interaction between the Beatles and Bob Dylan. In
Popular Music and Society, 20
(4), 53-79.

(P1) http://www.smithsoniamag.com/smithsonian-institution/july-25-1965-dylan-goes-electric-at-the-newport-folk-festival114743/?no-est

Rumination:

(R1) Verhaegen, P., Joormann, J., & Khan, R. (2005). Why we sing the blues: The relation between self-reflective rumination, mood, and creativity. In
Emotion, 5,
226-232.

(R3) Cohen, Joseph R., & Ferrair, Joseph R. (2010). Take some time to think this over: The relation between rumination, indecision, and creativity. In
Creativity Research Journal, 22
, (1), 68-73
Family Life
-Although he came from an educated family (1), it appears he was the only creative one

-was constantly beaten by his brothers and fathers who preferred the study of literature, and felt that his liking for art was a 'disgrace' (2)

OUR FINDINGS
Born February 16, 1982
GENETICS: INFLUENCE OF CREATIVE GENES, AND INFLUENCES OF DEPRESSION
In the case of Virginia woolf: Her family members suffered from some sort of mental illness. Virginia’s father Lesile Stephen; who was a writer as well, was reported to have had unpredictable mood swings (Cyclothymic). Virginia’s Grandfather Sir James suffered depression and hopeless dejection. It is possible that genetic predisposition to creativity and emotional problems with Virginia’s family was passed onto Virginia Woolf.
MANIC VS. DEPRESSIVE PHASES
-It can generally be seen that artists had significantly higher creative output when in manic phases compared to depressive phases.


Rapper and song writer
Currently suffering from depression.
He began rapping his poem in the eighth grade.
his
Debut
album received four Grammy nomination
His father died of type II diabetes.
He raps about his life experience.
Lupe describes his song "
Beautiful Laser
to be about battling depression and suicide" which even he's meddled with himself.
On the track, Lupe spits: "If you feel like you don't want to be alive/ you feel just like I am."
Mania increases motivation, but it does not necessarily increase creative output
-Why could this be?
Depression and suicide
Intrinsic motivation: desire to do something based on inherent interest or enjoyment (1)

Mania has been shown to INCREASE motivation (2), and depression has been shown to DECREASE motivation (3)
Decreased motivation during depression
-Decreased motivation due to depression could be attributed to reduced reward in pleasurable activities (R3)
-A person suffering from depression experiences abnormalities in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) (R3), which is strongly implicated in the processing of reward (R3)
Thus, in summary, mania or hypomania allows for increased creative output, either through motivation, drive, over excitability or hallucinogenic insight
THE ROLE OF RUMINATION
Rumination helps to facilitate creativity in 2 ways:
(1) Heightens sensitivity to feelings, and thus causes motivation to express feelings, often through creative output (R1)
This makes sense, because many of our artists had persistent depressing thoughts that they expressed in their work
Virginia Woolf
Her first manic-depressive and suicide episode occurred at age 13, after the death of her mother
She suffered second episode at age 22 when her father died of cancer.
Age 31, argument with her husband Leonard Woolf lead to her third episode and second suicide attempt.
She was more productive between attacks
She wrote about her experiences each time she recovered from her manic-depressive episodes.
Kurt Vonnegut
-following the divorce and subsequent break-up of his family in the early 1970's, many of his following books had underlying themes of family dysfunction
Clearly, writing was an important outlet for Vonnegut's thought expression
RUMINATION: passive, repetitive thoughts about one's symptoms of distress and the meanings and the consequences of their distress (R2)
Depression is related to alterations in neurotransmitter levels such as NE, which might have an important role in creativity.
The alteration of NE might possibly be due to creative individuals having brains that can store more specialized knowledge (in tempoparietal cortex) along with divergent thinking (frontal lobe), and having a way of controlling the frontal lobe - locus coeruleus (the NE) system. They might be able to suppress NE levels and reach the discovery of novel and useful relationships.

(2) Rumination also allows a thought to remain in one's consciousness, allowing for further elaboration (R4) and influence of other ideas

This is allows for creativity to emerge!
-Many of our artists had relatives that also suffered from depression and other various mental illness... Clearly, other mental illnesses also have an impact and have comorbidiy with depression
The End
Reduced synaptic activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex might be related to the lack of attention or the ability to plan for the future in depressed patients (a concept called pathological disengagement). Rather, they focus on introspection and rumination. This is important for creativity because frontal lobes primarily control the locus coeruleus. By controlling it, NE levels can be diminished and this in turns reduces the signal-to-noise ratio.
Works Cited (3)
(1) Dietrich Blumer, M.D. The Illness of Vincent van Gogh. Am J Psychiatry 2002;159:519-526. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.159.4.519
(2) Ian Halperin, Max Wallace. Who killed Kurt Cobain?
(3) http://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/depression-12/depression-news-176/even-in-his-youth-644949.html
(4) http://www.bipolar-lives.com/kurt-cobain-and-manic-depression.html#.UzzE86jwkud
(5) Heilman, K. M., Nadeau, S. E., & Beversdorf, D. O. (2003). Creative innovation: Possible brain mechanisms. Neurocase, 9(5), 369-379. doi:10.1076/neur.9.5.369.16553
work cited
Braunschweig, Y. (2010). To listen to schumann, bring a couch. NYTimes, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/arts/music/28schumann.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

James, J. (1994). Classical music; though this were madness, was there yet method in 't? . NYTimes, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1994/08/07/arts/classical-music-though-this-were-madness-was-there-yet-method-in-t.html

Alsop, M. (2008, JUNE 20). Robert schumann: Music amid the madness. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2008/06/20/91707206/robert-schumann-music-amid-the-madness



Dark Side of Creativity
Edvard Munch
Early work usually involved self-portraits, which demonstrated disdain and discontent
Would often relive traumas by recapturing their depressing nature through creative renderings ( his paintings), such as his sisters battle with tuberculosis
Full transcript