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The Mental Pitfalls of a Creative
By: Tom Roarty
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Earlier this week a study was released by Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, stating that creativity is “closely entwined with mental illness.” Although many creatives will probably find a dark humor to this revelation (because what creative hasn’t felt they were losing their mind at one point or another?), the study, led by Dr. Simon Kyaga, reached out to more than a million people and concluded that creative professionals were more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders than other people, with a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse. Although many of these disorders can be treated with the help of a professional, what is the cost to the creative whose ideas come from their “illness?”
People in the creative industry face criticism on a daily basis, and anxiety is par for the course for anyone who is having their work viewed by others, whether it be for a national campaign or a personal blog post, so how does one know if the extent of their feelings are part of the creative ritual, or something more? The first thing you can do is find a way to distance yourself from your process and put into perspective what it is you are working on. Take a walk, leave the place where the development is happening, read something non-related to the project, listen to music — basically anything except for design. The distance will allow your thoughts to become clearer and allow the process to take shape in its own time. It will also give you the ability to access your mental stability through the creative process and allow you to keep all those emotions you go through during that process in check.
All too often, especially with younger creatives, there tends to be a focus on the monetary value attached to a job as opposed to what is needed from a strategy perspective. However, in time, concepts do eventually come to light and projects get completed. The tribulation comes in the timing of a project from the aspect of how long the work actually takes, in the grand scheme of the project itself. I have known designers that talked about the stress of a job for three days but actually spent one day completing the project. Which, again, is all part of their process.
Having worked in high-pressure environments and having dealt with a few issues myself in the past, I have seen first-hand what the industry has done to others. It is easy for anyone to judge from an outside perspective. From office fist fights to art directors crying under their desks from three days with no sleep, the ability to create does not always come without consequence. The important thing is to know when the pressure is manageable compared to when it is pushing you to your breaking point, and to seek help if that's the case. Beth Murphy, head of information at Mind, said bipolar disorder personality traits could be beneficial to those in creative professions, but it may also be that people with bipolar disorder are more attracted to professions where they can use their creative skills. Just some food for thought for our already overworked, and possibly fractured minds to process among all of our other dealings.

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