Scientific journal

New Psychological Research

Ryzhov A.L. Affective disorders and creativity – hypotheses about the relationship

Andrey L. Ryzhov, PhD (Psychology), Associate Professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia; bld. 11–9, Mokhovaya str., Moscow, Russia, 125009;

The report at the conference “New Challenges of Digital Society: An Interdisciplinary Approach” examined the current state of the problem of the relationship between mood disorders and creativity, highlighted aspects of its study and hypotheses about the nature of the relationship. If empirical studies of creative people mainly support the ideas about the relationship between mood disorders and creative achievements, then population studies are much more conservative in their conclusions, pointing to a comparable with the norm representation of creative manifestations in people with affective disorders and a dependence on the severity of the disease (Andreasen, 2007). D. Simonton summarizes that as we move from little-C, i.e. features of creativity in everyday life, to Big-C, i.e. creativity of great achievements, the connection between creativity and pathology strengthens (Simonton, 2017).

Hypotheses explaining this connection can be considered prospectively using the popular 4Ps of creativity research (Rhodes, 1961): Process, Person, Product and Press. From the point of view of the first P, the connection between mood disorders and creativity is most often sought in hypomanic states (Jamison, 1993). In addition to direct analogies in the descriptions of states of creative upsurge, flow state and hypomania, the role of enhancing the dynamic characteristics of activity, a general increase in performance and a decrease in the need for sleep is noted. More specific are the indications of the role of reducing “latent inhibition”, which contributes to the emergence of original ideas. Less clear, but more interesting due to their non-obviousness, are the data on the connection between depressive states and creativity. A hypothesis partially supported by experimental studies connects hypomania with the initial stages of creativity (the “random generation” stage), and depression with the late stages (the “selection” stage) (Davis, 2009). An important creative mechanism may be the ruminative cognitive style of depressive patients, which promotes detailed elaboration of ideas and images, increased self-criticism (Schubert et al., 2018). The role of figurative thinking (the “right-hemisphere hypothesis”) can also be pointed out. 

The second P of creativity refers to individual-personal traits that promote creativity. Here we are talking about the fact that premorbid characteristics and experience can influence creative abilities independently of the disorder itself. Thus, there is an assumption that creativity may be associated with a “cycloid temperament”, in the form of a combination of traits of openness to experience, sensation seeking and extroversion (Strong et al., 2007). Likewise, personality traits of depressive individuals, such as perseverance, social isolation, suspiciousness, responsibility, can contribute to the acquisition of the necessary experience and the formation of skills even in activities associated with early failures, which is necessary for subsequent high achievements. It is important to take into account the experience of self-observation, overcoming depressive episodes, which becomes material for creativity. The third P refers to the specific characteristics of the creative product, which can be defined as “depressive art”. K. Jaspers suggested that creativity is more associated with manic phases, and aesthetic sensitivity with depressive ones. The special qualities of depressive creativity can be defined as realism (physical or psychological), narrowing of the time perspective, the desire for integrity and self-sufficiency of the aesthetic object, and duality (post-ambivalence) in the depiction of opposing tendencies (good and evil, love and hate, generosity and envy with states depicted with equal credibility and sympathy). In many ways, the aesthetic appeal of the products determines the last aspect of consideration – Press, or the context in which “depressive” creativity acquires a special appeal for professional and non-professional audiences and wins its place in history. It is noteworthy that there are clear analogies between psychological theories of depressive states and concepts of aesthetic experiences (for example, E. Ballou's “psychological distance”, the concept of reparation in the theory of object relations, theories of suppression of expressive response, the principle of “economy of effort”, the theory of “empathy” and empathy), the discussion of the content of which does not allow the volume of the report. Finally, it should not be forgotten that the context can determine the connection between affective disorders and depression in another way – through disappointments, unjustified expectations and stress associated with creative activity, as well as abuse of alcohol and other psychoactive substances.


Key words: affective disorders, creativity, aesthetic perception


For citation: Ryzhov, A.L. (2024). Affective disorders and creativity – hypotheses about the relationship. New Psychological Research, No. 2, 212–216. DOI: 10.51217/npsyresearch_2024_04_02_12


Keywords: affective disorders creativity aesthetic perception

Received: 18th june 2024

Published: 18th june 2024

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