Schizophrenia and creativity

Many experts believe that people with mood disorders (writers, composers, artists) tend to be productive. 

With regard to the creativity of schizophrenic patients, most modern researchers adhere to a diametrically opposite point of view. Despite the fact that there are, although isolated, but vivid examples of talented people suffering from schizophrenia, including those awarded the Nobel Prize, the development of the disease after creative achievements cannot be ruled out. You also can not discount the accounts and a significant number of intermediate forms between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with a positive outlook in relation to creativity.              

Most patients with schizophrenia after a first episode of psychosis do not can return to full creative activity. If productive symptomatology still does not interfere with the latter, then negative symptoms and cognitive impairments significantly complicate it due to the weakening of the ability for purposeful and spontaneous activity.          

Even long-term schizophrenic patients may not lose some professional skills, such as playing the piano or chess. In addition, patients with schizophrenia may experience episodes of “intensely overvalued, displacing other types of activity, spontaneous visual, poetic and musical creativity” (Dresvyannikov V.L., 1998). However, perhaps in these cases we are again dealing with affective or schizoaffective disorders.       

The creativity of schizophrenic patients is characterized by stereotypes, a tendency to symmetry (ornamentalism), a combination of incompatible ideas, schematism, neologisms, incomplete works. 

E. Kraepelin (1909) noted in case of catatonia the desire of patients to endlessly repeating drawings depicting fabulous creatures. Monotony in the paranoid form of schizophrenia was discovered by W. Morgentthaler (1921). As the disease progressed, the patients’ works were constantly dominated by the same plot. In our practice, we met a patient – an artist suffering from a delusion of jealousy within the framework of schizophrenia, who for more than 20 years, depicted on his canvases the plot of Desdemona’s death from the play “Othello” by W. Shakespeare.                

Many psychiatrists also noted that patients with schizophrenia cannot stand empty spaces, draw with strokes, are prone to agglutination of images and symbolism. Their work is rarely finished. According to the well-known specialist in the field of creativity of the mentally ill P.I. Karpov (1926), drawings of patients with schizophrenia can be classified into four groups: a) with unexplained forms; b) stereotypes; c) symbolic; d) with a break in the associative apparatus. P.I. Karpov also noted the tendency of schizophrenic patients to depict animals with unusual shapes. On immobility and static images schizophrenics pointed H. Burger-Prinz (1932).                

The art of schizophrenic patients is characterized by the absence of gradation of color shades, the rejection of the integrity of the composition of the works, the desire for endless corrections of the smallest details of the drawing (Ferdiere G., 1951). According to S.A. Boldyreva (1974), in children suffering from schizophrenia, especially with a malignant course, either there is no interest in fine art at all, or there is a pathological attraction to drawing with the filling of albums with drawings of the same content.           

Relatives of people with schizophrenia are often more capable than their peers who do not have the disease in their families. This statement is true only in the case of detection of talent to 20 years, and in most notably progress in the field of mathematics and literature.          

British researchers from the University of Newcastle have found that some people prone to schizophrenia have high creativity and , therefore , enjoy increased attention from the opposite sex. In their opinion, with a “schizotypal character” expressed creativity is noted. These personalities have an unusual structure of thinking, often prone to impulsive and arrogant behavior.           

Some authors believe that complex hallucinatory-paranoid experiences can become a source of original religious, scientific, artistic, political and other ideas and discoveries that develop culture and science, ensuring evolutionary progress.   

Leave a Reply