Medication Effect on Creativity

How does medication for bipolar affect creativity?

The effect of medication on personal creativity and artistic productivity is often a concern for people beginning to manage their bipolar.  A widespread belief is that mania produces creative power that artists and writers can transform into works of art; and conversely, that the medication which dampens manic episodes also reduces the ability to create.  An interesting first-person account in BP Hope has got us thinking about the relationship between bipolar, artistic creativity, and medication.

Francisco X. Stork, an award-winning novelist, writes that in his experience, medication “does not prevent that wonderful, sometimes rare, absorption that seems to take us out of the grips of time. Medication does not prevent the reception of those gift-like intuitions, images, insights that we all depend upon as artists or creative persons.”

In an article in Psychology Today, Michael G. Pipich MS, LMFT comments that “it’s important to note how people often confuse the intense rise of manic energy with a sudden surge of creative skill. But this really isn’t how creativity works. Indeed, someone flush with energy may feel creative, with boundless excitement to “get things done;” but this can also lead to a disorganized and reckless path, which the person in mania will brazenly justify through denial.”

Medication allows creative people to use their creativity

In my own practice, I have worked with many creative people because I have an ongoing relationship with the San Francisco Art Academy. Overall, most creative artists, graphic artists, writers, etc. tell me that the net effect of their medications is to enhance their ability to use their creativity. Some medications do have a small negative effect on what is called “creative associonality” meaning the ability to come up with many novel creative associations. I describe this as the trait that makes some people “the life of the party”.

Even if they do note that reduction in the ability to come up with interesting ideas and associations, the vast majority of my patients say that the net effect is to improve their ability to be effective in their profession. In other words, they may have somewhat fewer ideas but they’re actually able to take those ideas and use them rather than being overwhelmed by a world of thoughts.

How to work with a psychiatrist to get optimum treatment

As we have frequently noted, the timing, dosage, and type of medication is critical.  If you can find a practitioner who is able to work with you on calibrating and recalibrating the dosage of your medications as your life situation or health condition requires, you will be able to function well on medications.  But it is not a simple matter to find the right dosage for each individual.  That’s why access to health care is key to best practice.

For further reading:

Finding a Psychiatrist


Treatment Controversies