Bipolar and Creativity

Creativity and BipolarBipolar and creativity have a well known relationship. Kay Redfield Jamison eloquently described aspects of this relationship in her book, “Touched with Fire.”

More recently, a movie by the same name, tells one story about two young people learning and experiencing aspects of artistic expression and bipolar.

There are several aspects of bipolar that may account for this relationship.

Many people with bipolar have higher scores on ratings of divergent thinking. Impulsivity, or reduced inhibition, may also be connected with creativity, as may more intense emotions.

Simon Kyaga, and fellow researchers, conducted two studies looking at the relationship between bipolar disorder and two types of professional success: leadership achievement and creativity. They used registry data from Sweden that covers health information and other demographic information on the entire population of that country.

In keeping with other researchers, they found that individuals with bipolar disorder and healthy siblings of people with bipolar disorder were overrepresented in the creative professions. As you can see in the chart below, this was a strong correlation. Bipolar individuals were 1.35 x as likely as others to have creative professions, and siblings without bipolar were almost 1.5 x as likely to work in a creative career.

Bipolar and Creative Occupations.jpg

McCraw found a specific link between hypomania and creativity in their study.

82% of BP patients affirmed being creative when hypo/manic, with comparable results for the BP I and BP II subtypes (84% and 81% respectively).

Of course, this means that there may be periods when creativity ebbs.

Bipolar Hope has an interesting article about what to do when creativity goes away…


Gartner, J. The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America. Simon & Schuster. 2005

Higier RG, Jimenez AM, Hultman CM, Borg J, Roman C, Kizling I, Larsson H, Cannon TD. Enhanced neurocognitive functioning and positive temperament in twins discordant for bipolar disorder. Am J Psychiatry. 2014 Nov 1;171(11):1191-8. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.13121683. PubMed PMID: 25124743.

Kyaga S, Lichtenstein P, Boman M, Hultman C, Långström N, Landén M. Creativity and mental disorder: family study of 300,000 people with severe mental disorder. Br J Psychiatry. 2011 Nov;199(5):373-9. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.110.085316. PubMed PMID: 21653945.

McCraw S, Parker G, Fletcher K, Friend P. Self-reported creativity in bipolar disorder: prevalence, types and associated outcomes in mania versus hypomania. J Affect Disord. 2013 Dec;151(3):831-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2013.07.016. PubMed PMID: 24084622.

Smith DJ, Anderson J, Zammit S, Meyer TD, Pell JP, Mackay D. Childhood IQ and risk of bipolar disorder in adulthood: prospective birth cohort study. BJPsych Open. 2015 Aug 20;1(1):74-80. PubMed PMID: 27703726; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4995557.

For More Information

Touched with Fire


Kay Jamison