These days, doctors hand out drugs like candy at the first sign of a mood disorder just so they can control unpredictable behavior. But is it possible that they’re unwittingly stifling some people's genius potential?
New studies show that mood disorders are more likely to affect people with higher levels of intelligence and creativity. It makes sense when you think about it—people have associated “madness” with creative genius for thousands of years now. That belief has been carried into modern times in the “tortured artist” characterization that defines people with a strong artistic temperament.
As it turns out, there may be some truth to it and serious mood disorders may be the price the highly intelligent pay for their genius and creativity. It’s only recently that researchers have been able to conclusively show a correlation between the two.
Mood Disorders and Great Achievers
Some of the most influential artists of all time suffered from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder appears to be the most common mood disorder. It has touched many of our greatest achievers, including Jackson Pollock, Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, and Buzz Aldrin just to name a handful.
One study shows that young adults who got straight A’s in school are four times as likely to have bipolar disorder. This finding holds true for high achievers in every field. Studies also suggest that the highly intelligent kids are more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
A study from the late 1980s compared a sample group of writers to a control group of non-writers. The researchers checked for the presence of mood disorders over time in both groups and concluded that the majority of writers did have higher rates. In fact, 80% of the sample group had a tendency toward bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder often leads to long periods of depression followed by periods of mania that are characterized by extreme ambition, creativity, and happiness. It can be controlled with the right cocktail of drugs.
So why does high intelligence come with such a burden? Nobody knows, yet. Whether it’s mood disorders that lead to higher intelligence or vice versa is still a mystery. But one thing many researchers can agree on is that the two are definitely connected—at least that’s what the mountain of evidence suggests.
Soon, science will provide us with improved medicines to treat disorders of the mind. But at what cost to society?
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!