Are Mood Disorders the Price We Pay for High Intelligence and Creativity?

Are Mood Disorders

Do you think highly intelligent and creative people commonly suffer from mood disorders?

History is peppered with famous artists, actors, and musicians who were highly intelligent and creative, and experienced significant mood swings. Some are quite notorious for their outbursts; painter Vincent Van Gogh and the composer Beethoven are two examples. Writers like Virginia Woolf and Silvia Plath also seemed to suffer from their exceptional level of creativity, where episodes of unstable behavior were common.

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Sadly, if these great artists were alive today, they would most likely be coerced into taking pharmaceutical drugs to “temper” their moods. Unfortunately, this scenario doesn’t require any great stretch of the imagination, considering almost seventy-nine million Americans take some form of the psychiatric drug — including over a million children under the age of five. But at what cost?

A Modern Take on the Classic “Temperamental Artist”

Throughout history, many great thinkers and artists have been known to possess “eccentric” personalities, with behavior that could be downright bizarre. But the society at the time recognized the creative genius within and gave such individuals a relative wide-berth of freedom to express their gift.

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Today, these same people would be classified as bipolar — a chronic mental illness of extreme changes in mood, alternating between euphoric mania and the depths of depression. The episodes can occur a couple of times a week or just a few times a year.

There are three primary types, which include:

Bipolar I: One or more manic cycles either before or after a depressive episode.

Bipolar II: One or more major depressive episodes lasting at least two weeks, with a mild manic cycle lasting at least four days.

Cyclothymic disorder: Cycles of mild mania and depressive episodes that last for two years or longer. The mood swings are generally less severe in this particular form of the disorder.

Even though there are different categories of mood disorders, the symptoms tend to be similar in most people. The following list from Healthline details common traits:


  • persistent feelings of extreme grief or despair (depression) for a long period of time
  • loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • trouble concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
  • anxiety or irritability
  • eating too much or too little
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • thinking or talking about death or suicide
  • suicide attempt


  • overly happy or outgoing mood for a long period of time
  • severe irritability
  • talking quickly, rapidly transitioning different ideas during a conversation, or having racing thoughts
  • inability to focus
  • starting numerous new activities or projects
  • feeling very fidgety
  • sleeping too little or not at all
  • acting impulsively and partaking in dangerous behaviors


Hypomania symptoms are the same as mania symptoms, but they differ in two ways:

  1. With hypomania, mood swings usually aren’t severe enough to interfere significantly with a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.
  2. No psychotic symptoms occur during a hypomanic episode. During a manic episode, psychotic symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia.

What these clinical classifications fail to address, however, is that the disorder is also linked with high levels of creativity and intelligence.

The Flip Side of the Bipolar Coin

When an individual is experiencing a manic or hypomania episode, they often feel inspired and ambitious, which in turn, fosters a willingness to engage in a new creative endeavor. In fact, a large number of remarkably creative people are also bipolar. And now the results of several scientific studies may help explain why this may be the case.

48 thoughts on “Are Mood Disorders the Price We Pay for High Intelligence and Creativity?”

  1. Avatar of Audie Mar Simsuangco

    is a kind of habitual behavior or addiction from our mental and emotional state….
    it defines by our action and response to our state of our being…
    the mood is state of condition dictated by emotion and feelings…

    1. Avatar of Sara Aftab

      Aletheia Ilion : I don’t blame you my friend .. having a family member with mental illness, behavioral Disorder is no Picnic .. I KNOW that .. trust me .. my cousin Zainab knows the history .. so we joke about it to lighten things up .. No offense intended .. I just joked about it sarcastically ..

    2. Avatar of Auwn Gurmani

      yeah it’s hell of silver lining thats often propounded to us. i think its a great injustice to dub mentally ill as creative cuz this gives a hope and that hope eventually stops us from evading miseries.

    3. Avatar of Sara Aftab

      Auwn Gurmani : i agree .. you’ve got a point there .. but “different” people do excel in some fields .. since they have the out of the box perspective about life ..

    4. Avatar of Auwn Gurmani

      “I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our more stupid melancholy propensities, for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one’s very being and yet to hold it fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away?” Voltaire

    5. Avatar of Sara Aftab

      Auwn Gurmani : I dont argue with Voltaire :p the man is a legend .. on a serious note, I see your point .. !! one has to remind one’s self over and over about priorities to get through this hell .. but even feeling this way, Voltaire became what he was .. ” rough seas do make a skillful sailor “

    6. Avatar of Auwn Gurmani

      Sara Aftab wondering if it’s possible to be creative and mentally ill both at the same time. what people see something as “creative” is in fact the excruciating pain that the alleged creator endured in one point in time. People not valuing the pain but superficially cherishing the creativity is problematic.

    7. Avatar of Auwn Gurmani

      the society tragically reeks of hypocrisy as i came across people who cherished the creativity however despised the creator just for the reason that he/she was misfit or something like that.

    8. Avatar of Sara Aftab

      true .. but there are things we tell ourselves to fall asleep at night .. let it be one of them .. these painful trims will polish the diamond in the rough that you are .. i believe its possible .. i believe you can never write something that connects to millions of broken hearts, if you never had your heart broken or know the pain ..

    9. Avatar of Sara Aftab

      Auwn Gurmani : happens to my loved one every single day, i see him dying inside .. right in front of me, helpless !! yes that’s exactly what it is ..

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