Understanding The Fascinating Connection Between Anxiety And Creativity (With Tips For Parents)

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Some research studies claim that there is a very slim line between anxiousness and high intelligence. In other words, people who have these anxiety tendencies are more likely to possess a remarkable intelligence level.  Some psychotherapists believe that people affected with anxiety are those with creative skills and talents, compared to others without the said condition. This theory was supported by the fact that several actors, singers, writers, and artists have been suffering from anxiety.

A Norwegian artist named Edvard Munch and renowned painter Vincent van Gogh are famous for their work. However, behind their fame, they suffered from anxiety issues. According to Van Gogh, he cannot define precisely what is wrong with him. And it seems that the problem occurs just as suddenly, and in an unpredictable way. He couldn’t tell exactly what causes it. Munch, on the other hand, was suffering from hallucinations all throughout his whole life. His anxiety level is so high that he was scared it would destroy his art.

Jerry Garcia of Grateful Dead is also one of those artists affected by anxiety. No one could actually tell that Jerry is suffering from the said mental illness. All people could see is his masterpiece, but he claimed that those were the products of his anxiety being channeled to an artwork.

According to Timothy Walsh, LPC, “Imagination is the main reason for the connection between anxiety and creativity is imagination. The difference lies in the fact that the same brain that conjures up inventive artwork can also get stuck in repetitive thoughts and unpleasant worries.”

Even before these people, the theory between anxiety and creative intelligence is already being discussed.

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What Science Has To Say

Early studies claimed that creative people, especially in the field of arts and literature, have mood disorders. A study in Sweden revealed that there is a significant number of psychiatric patients who were found to be intellectually creative people. Specifically, some of these people are photographers, authors, and dancers. Around 8 percent of them have bipolar disorder. Writers are the next in rank to have the said disorder.

It was also found out that some relatives of the patients were actually suffering from mental health disorders as well. They have extreme schizophrenia. This only follows that mental health disorders are genetic, as well.

Dr. Nancy Anderson, from the University of Iowa, drew a conclusion in her 1987 study that creative writers have higher chances of suffering from a bipolar disorder compared to other arts professionals. Another noteworthy fact is that their first degree relatives are also found to be creative professionals who are also suffering from mental illnesses.

A study that was conducted in 1994 revealed that writers are prone to experiencing panic attacks, depression, mania and some forms of anxiety. After several years, Erika Lauronen has concluded in one of her studies that there is indeed a significant relationship between creativity and mental health disorders.

Nature Neuroscience also made a statement that there are genetic factors that can trigger schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. And the usual victims of such conditions are creative professionals. This is because creative people think differently.

For Diana Pitaru, LPC, “Anxiety is a common emotion experienced by creative people and while some of the symptoms may be similar from one person to the next, how and when people experience anxiety differs widely.”

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Significance To Parents

For parents who have kids with creative minds and are displaying anxiety signs and symptoms, it is best that you allow a mental health professional do an assessment on your child. If your suspicion is right, you should help your child find a way to channel it out. You must also look for ways to stimulate their imagination. Psychology Today’s Dennis Palumbo stated that successful artists made it because they were able to channel their anxiety to the right place.

With this, here are some tips on how your child can channel his anxiety or convert anxiety to creativity:

  • At an early age, expose your child to activities where he can make use of his imagination. Enroll him in art school, dance classes, music, making sculptures, or writing, among other creative arts.
  • Signing them up in camps will also help them discover their potential.
  • During waiting moments, always have an activity for the child to work on so that his anxiety would not be triggered.
  • Encourage your child to have a journal where he can write down his ideas and other creative masterpieces.
  • Make it clear to the child that you are always open to him. Make sure he can talk to you anytime, and he can tell you anything and everything.
  • Coach your child to cope with anxiety. Make him understand what it is, and that instead of focusing on it, look more on the brighter side. Stay positive and fight the issue with creativity.

“Understanding the upsides of anxiety can help your child embrace their sensitivity. Studies show that anxious people are great problem solvers, tend to have higher intelligence, and are sensitive to all sorts of experiences and situations that non-anxious people can miss.” – Alicia Clark, Psy.D. 

Anxiety is a tough thing to overcome, but with your help and your acceptance, your artistic and creative child would be able to get through it.