Daily Archives: January 15, 2012

Do Psychiatric Medications Destroy Creativity?

That is the concern I hear the most often.

Psychiatric medications will take away my talent, X.

X could be comedy, it could be visual art, it could be musical talent, it could be writing ability, or any number of creative endeavors.

The guys over at Penny Arcade (a rockin’ webcomic I’ve been following for 10+ years) have often been both open and candid about their various experiences with these sorts of medications, inspiring a huge number of people in the gaming scene to seek psychiatric help on their own. I really can’t give them enough props for that!

One of their recent comics this month, Bedeviled, muses on this subject.

(Please note before visiting the Penny Arcade website that these comics often contain mature themes and I would particularly like you to note that the article about this comic shares a page with the annual “dickerdoodle” -yes, that’s a genital themed, cookie making contest. You’ve been forewarned.)

It seems like a justified worry though, doesn’t it? After all, we’re told that these medications affect our brain, which is where all this creative stuff comes from, right?

Another argument is that our creativity comes from the illness itself. If a long list of people with bipolar disorder were famous artists, would we be safe in assuming that bipolar disorder might have something to do with it? In that case, the concern about medication still comes up. If I’m stifling an illness that makes me more creative, would I then be less creative?

At this point there is no right answer. We don’t really know.

Personally I feel, if anything, bipolar disorder works against my creativity. I know there are people that don’t feel that way, but for me any motivation mania might give me is completely overshadowed by the long periods of depression where I can’t create anything at all. Maybe that’s just because I’m not one of those people who can brood, and then create. Stability is by far my biggest creative state.

So I don’t think that by suppressing bipolar disorder, I’ll suppress my creativity.

And as far as the part about messing with our brains, that’s something I think turns out a lot like Russian roulette for creativity. There is so much trial and error that occurs with psychiatric medications today that, at least in my case, I was bound to find one or two that pushed me down into the depressive side of things. If I’m depressed, I’m not going to produce anything, so maybe it wouldn’t be my creativity that is altered but my motivation. In the end, if production using my creativity is the end game, then it is being affected, and not for the better.

One of the biggest issues I’ve talked to people about with this situation is that after starting a combination of different medications, most doctors seem content to leave bipolar patients in a mildly depressed state. After all, they’re stable right? Many of these people have then been told that what they’re feeling is in the realm of normal, they just aren’t used to going without experiencing big mood swings.

That, my friend, is a lie. A stable state should include happiness. Obviously not, “I’m the king of the world” manic happiness, but it should still be there all the same. There should be more than one feeling, but some doctors feel fine leaving their patients with a single feeling: bland. Everything gets muffled out, numbed, and instead of extreme emotions there are none at all.

In this case, your creative endeavors will take a hit. How couldn’t they?

There are thousands of combinations of medications out there, there is no need to settle for a cocktail that leaves things flat. Make sure your doctor knows your priorities, and if they disagree then find another. Life is too short to spend it suspended it a depressed state, even a slight one.

I’m a firm believer that with the right medications, talent X wont be affected. Don’t put your health on the back burner out of fear of losing yourself. It isn’t impossible to have your cake and eat it too, sometimes it just takes a while to get there.