Home » Blogs » The Creative Mind » Can Depression Help People Be More Creative? Part 2

Can Depression Help People Be More Creative? Part 2

Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility“The only thing I could do was write. I used to crawl from the bedroom to the computer and just sit and write, and then I was alright, because I was not present. ‘Sense and Sensibility’ really saved me from going under, I think, in a very nasty way.”

Emma Thompson on her depression in the past.

From my post: Emma Thompson, depression, and Mental Health Awareness.

[Photo: Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, 1995, for which she also wrote the screenplay.]

An article on the BP hope site (which “strives to increase the awareness of Bipolar Disorder), quotes a number of psychiatrists and experts, including Kiki D. Chang, MD, quoted in Part 1 of this article.

He is director of the Pediatric Bipolar Disorders Program at Stanford University School of Medicine, and agrees the link between depression and creativity is hard to prove and notes that many people with bipolar are not creative.

“It doesn’t mean if you have bipolar that you’re going to be creative,” he says, “but if you have creativity, you’re more likely than the next person to have bipolar.”

Stephen Hinshaw, PhD (psychology department, UC Berkeley), warns that untreated, bipolar “is an extremely lethal condition.” He says one in five people with bipolar complete suicide and over 50 percent attempt it.”

But he notes: “During the initial stages of hypomania [people can have] increased energy, increased productivity, and if the person were creative in the first place, increased creativity.” So, during the early stage of mania, a person’s motor is revving at a high idle, and ideas are flowing fast. But hypomania doesn’t make creativity in and of itself, he says.

From article: Bipolar and creativity—is there a link?

Stephen Hinshaw is author of book The Years of Silence Are Past: My Father’s Life with Bipolar Disorder.

A research paper by Dr. Kiki D. Chang is referenced in the book Finding Your Bipolar Muse: How to Master Depressive Droughts and Manic Floods and Access Your Creative Power, by Lana R. Castle.

Dr. Chang also writes a positive foreword to the book Bipolar Strong: An Empowering Collection By and For Teens & Adults With Bipolar Disorder.

Silver Linings Playbook

Novelist Matthew Quick struggled with depression while writing The Silver Linings Playbook, and said in an interview that although he has never been diagnosed as bipolar, his wife “would tell you I’m bipolar. It’s not as severe as what Pat [the bipolar character in the book and movie] goes through but I’m someone who understands mood swings.”

He added, “Kurt Vonnegut is a hero of mine. He suffered from horrible depression and attempted to kill himself. Ernest Hemingway is a hero of mine, and we all know what happened to Ernest and the struggles that he had. I don’t think it’s any secret that as storytellers, when we start a story, the character is status quo, then they rise up to a climax, then the resolution and then they go back down.

“Then in the next story we tell, we have someone that’s status quo, then they go up and they have a climax, and then up and down, and up and down. These are the rhythms of bipolar disorder, and it’s no surprise that so many of our novelists, so many people that create stories and are great storytellers deal with depression and depressive episodes.”

From A conversation with ‘Silver Linings’ author Matthew Quick, by Patrick Ryan.

In another interview, Quick comments: “The way our brains are wired creates problems, but they can also create beautiful things. If I didn’t have depressive episodes, I wouldn’t be a novelist. When I wrote this book, I had been living in my in-laws’ basement for two years. I was unemployed and felt very alone. I hope this book helps people feel less alone, too.”

From ‘Silver Linings’ hits close to home for director Russell, by Korina Lopez, USA TODAY.

The movie is wonderful, with outstanding performances by Bradley Cooper as Pat, and Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, a woman with her own mental health challenges – along with strengths. I just saw it for the second time. You can get the DVD on

Concluded in Part 3.


Can Depression Help People Be More Creative? Part 2

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
~ ~
Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
~ ~

Emotional Health Resources - Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Eby, D. (2017). Can Depression Help People Be More Creative? Part 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 1 Jun 2017
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.