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Psychiatrist’s Study Links Art and Madness

March 23, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ A connection between creativity and madness, long the subject of speculation, is corroborated in a psychiatrist’s 15-year study of writers, Psychology Today reported in its April edition released Monday.

″From these studies, it appears that a tendency toward manic depression may facilitate access, in creative individuals, to a richness and intensity of experience that is not shared by the rest of us,″ the magazine concluded.

″More systematic investigation into their mental troubles would perhaps give us a less romanticized view of genuises, but it would add to our understanding of how the morbid and extreme among us have enlarged our perceptions of reality,″ the article said.

The study, which concentrated on 30 members of the prestigious University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, found that 43 percent had some degree of manic- depressive illness, compared with 10 percent of a comparison group matched for age, education and sex.

Manic depression afflicts at least 1 percent of the overall population, the article said, and the rate is considerably higher in the upper social and economic classes.

Eighty percent of the writers had been treated for mood disorders, compared with 30 percent of the comparison group, according to the findings by Dr. Nancy C. Andreasen of the University of Iowa College of Medicine.

Alcoholism, normally high among suffers of manic depression, afflicted 30 percent of the writers surveyed and 7 percent of the comparison group, the magazine said.

Two of the 30 writers committed suicide during the 15 years of the study.

″Issues of statistical significance pale before the clinical implications of this fact,″ Andreasen said.

The data lends weight to the findings of a 1983 study conducted in England by psychologist Kay R. Jamison of the University of California at Los Angeles, the magazine said.

Jamison, surveying 47 of the top British artists and writers, found that 38 percent had sought treatment for mood disorders - a rate of about 30 times that of the general population.

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