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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 54 (2012) 7, 603 - 615


Creativity and psychiatric disorders: exploring a marginal area

E. Thys, B. Sabbe, M. De Hert

background Creativity is an important human quality on which many of man’s achievements are based.
aim To give a historical and cultural context, to facilitate meaningful scientific research into the link between creativity and psychiatric disorders.
method Review of relevant literature.
results The possibility of a link between creativity and psychiatric vulnerability was first discussed in antiquity. Modern interest in the subject stems from the romantic era and acquired a scientific aura in the 19th century. In the 20th century creativity and psychopathology became still further entangled as a result of the influence that mentally disturbed artists exerted on art. The history of the Prinzhorn collection illustrates many aspects of this interaction. Psychometric, psychodiagnostic and genetic research supports a link between creativity and psychiatric illness within the bipolar-psychotic continuum, with schizotypy/thymotypy as prototypes of creativity-related disorders. Evolutionary hypotheses connect the schizophrenia paradox to a survival advantage obtained as a result of enhanced creative ability. Neuro-aesthetics explains the neurologic correlates of the aesthetic experience on the basis of the features of the visual system.
conclusion A specific challenge for scientific research in this complex and heterogeneous area is appropriate operationalisation of creativity and psychiatric illness within an truly artistic context. There is a continuing need for meaningful definitions and measurement instruments and for a multidisciplinary collaboration.

keywords creativity, multidisciplinary approach, psychiatric disorders