Genes linked to creativity could increase the risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, according to new research done by scientists at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London.
Creativity and mental illnesses have long been suspected to go hand in hand, with several famous artists suffering from psychiatric illnesses–such as Vincent Van Gogh. Prior studies have shown that bipolar disorder in particular is often found in families with many members who are part of creative professions. But it wasn’t until the IoPPN study that scientists were able to definitively say genetics played a part, as opposed to environmental factors.
Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder both affect thought patterns and emotions, which includes creativity. Creativity is difficult to define in a scientific context, but the IoPPN study looked at 86,292 individuals from Iceland, pinpointing the trait in the artists, dancers, and song writers, and linking their genes to the risk mental illnesses.
The findings suggest that creative individuals are predisposed to thinking differently, which may contribute to psychiatric disorders. By understanding the thought processes behind healthy behaviors, such as creativity, and how that trait links to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, scientists hope that they can understand how the brain goes wrong.
This should lead to better treatments for mentally ill people, always good news!
Therapy is a crucial part of treatment. There are several different types of therapies that your mental health professional may encourage you to take.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common types of psychotherapy, and is often preferred by many mental health professionals. During CBT, you work with a therapist to challenge negative thinking and develop constructive beliefs. That’s the cognitive part. The behavioral part helps you act on these beliefs.
CBT can be conducted one-on-one, or along with family, or with other people who have similar issues in a group setting. During CBT, you will learn about your mental illness and practice relaxation techniques and coping methods.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
Interpersonal therapy focuses on the relationships you have with others, being based on the principle that relationships affect your moods. IPT also helps you express your emotions in healthy manners. The therapy is highly structured, and intended to finish in 12–16 weeks. IPT and CBT are the only therapies that are mandated for mental health professionals to be trained in.
Family therapy goes by many names. To wit: it’s referred to as couple and family therapy, marriage and family therapy, family systems therapy, and family counseling. The driving force behind family therapy is the thought that involving family members benefits patients. People undergoing the therapy learn how to communicate with each other and solve problems.
Psychodynamic therapy operates on the principle that you have unconscious habits and emotions which developed early in life and cause difficulties in daily functioning. The therapy focuses on revealing and resolving these unconscious problems. Dream interpretation and free association are often used. This therapy is a treatment of choice for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but largely used to treat personality disorders.
Art therapy uses art such as music and painting to help you resolve problems and reduce stress. Art therapists will work with you to help tease out messages from your art. They are trained in artistic practices and psychological theory. You do not need to be artistically talented or trained to make use of art therapy.
Psychoeducation is just as it sounds: education about your mental illness from a mental health professional. Psychoeducation can occur in a one-on-one setting or a group session, where several people are informed about their illnesses at once. Family members can also benefit from learning about your mental health condition, and are encouraged to sit in on psychoeducation sessions.
There are several therapies out there, and not every therapy works for every person. Stick with your therapy at first, to see if it works, and if it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to try another.
Medications. Like it or not, sufferers of mental health problems usually need to take them to manage their conditions. Being compliant with your prescribed pills is the best path to stable moods. But what happens when you run out? Here are a few tips to deal with just that.
1. Don’t Panic
If you have a mental health issue that’s triggered by stress, panicking is the worst thing you can do for yourself. Withdrawal symptoms can be harsh, but not as bad as triggering your illness. Breathe. Remind yourself that this is a temporary problem, which can be fixed. Which brings us to our next point…
2. Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor immediately, and keep them apprised of the situation. If you can’t meet with them, find out if they will call in a prescription for you to a pharmacy. Any doctor at your regular office should have access to your files, and should be able to fill a prescription.
3. Use a Regular Pharmacy
If you can, visit the same pharmacy and get to know your pharmacist. Bring your empty prescription bottles with you to talk to the technicians, and they might be able to give you an emergency five- or seven-day supply, or direct you to an emergency clinic that can. You are unlikely to get one if you are sixteen or younger, as pharmacists are reluctant to give out medication to minors. Take an adult that you trust with you to help smooth things over.
4. What if I Can’t Afford Them?
If you can’t afford your medications, ask your doctor. He or she may have access to free samples of the pills you need, or be able to prescribe you a cheaper generic drug. If you’re an American citizen and you’re uninsured, find out if the pharmaceutical company that manufactures your drug has a patient-assistance program. You may qualify for these programs if your income is 100% of the poverty line, but it’s unlikely that you will if you receive Medicaid benefits. Ask your pharmacy if they have a discount program if you pay in cash. If you’re over fifty and have a membership with the AARP, you can receive discounts on pills.
There is no reason for you to go into medication withdrawal. Ideally, you’d be able to have your doctor prescribe some drugs months in advance, but if that’s not the case, contact your doctors and pharmacy to find out what they can do for you. They want to work with you.
Mental illness is widely misunderstood by the general public. People who suffer from mental disorders can find that many myths surround their condition. These misconceptions contribute to stigma, making it more difficult to seek treatment and manage disorders. We’d like to dispel some of these fictions.
1. People Can Use Willpower to Recover
While there is no definite cure-all for mental illness, it definitely can’t be treated by willpower alone. People can’t just “snap out of it.” If only managing a condition were that easy! Conversely, treatment such as medication, psychotherapy, and Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) actually works. Scientists are frequently discovering new advances in treatment, and with them, sufferers of mental illness can manage their disorders and lead healthy, productive lives.
2. Mentally Ill People Can’t Work
Nope, this is bogus as well. People with mental disorders can and do contribute to the workplace and home. Most of the time, the mentally ill are excellent at “covering” for their illnesses, which basically means that they can successfully pretend that all is well. They can be so good at covering, friends and family don’t even recognize that the disordered are mentally ill.
3. It’s Just Bad Parenting
No, no, no. The causes of mental illness are varied, including genetics, physiological changes, and environmental stressors. Neglect and unusual stress in the home tend to exacerbate underlying conditions which have biological causes. It’s not the parent’s fault that a child develops mental illnesses. Which leads us into our next point…
4. Children Can’t Be Mentally Ill
Children make up a great percentage of the mentally ill. More than half of all mental illnesses show up before a child turns fourteen, and three-quarters of them appear before the age of twenty-four. Even very young children can demonstrate symptoms of mental disorders.
5. Mentally Ill People Are Violent
Dead wrong. Suffers of mental illness make up a meager 3-5% of the incidences of violent acts in society. Hollywood has a terrible habit of stereotyping the mentally ill as violent, from Norman Bates in Psycho to Jim Carrey’s character in Me, Myself, and Irene. In fact, disordered people are ten times more likely to experience violence than the general population.
6. Mental Illnesses are Uncommon
This is absolutely not the case. One in five adult Americans endure mental illnesses each year. Roughly six percent of the population suffers from a debilitating disorder. You’re not alone if you have a mental health problem.
Medications and ECT are only part of the equation. The rest is talk therapy, which most people prefer to use rather than drugs, and peer support groups. These latter strategies try to lessen the effect of environmental stressors, which can trigger or exacerbate underlying conditions.
These myths are damaging to the mentally ill. By educating yourself about mental disorders, and spreading the truth about them, you can help combat dangerous misconceptions which stigmatize sufferers of mental health issues.
“What do you mean he’s mentally ill?” the woman said. “He just needs to get his act together!” I was sitting in an Olive Garden the other day, and overheard part of a conversation from a very loud patron. I tried to ignore her, but she said something that caught my attention: “Well, how do you define mentally ill?”
Hearing that made me think about what a good question it was. How do you define mental illness? Mental disorders are more prevalent than heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Twenty-five percent of American adults and thirteen percent of American children are diagnosed each year with a mental illness, per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The causes of mental illnesses are still unknown, though recent research points to genetics as well as environmental stressors.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions–disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior.” Generally, these illnesses cause dysfunction in your life. Examples include schizophrenia, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, phobias, unipolar depression, and many more. These conditions are classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th. Edition (DSM-V). Published by the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM-V is considered the guide to mental health issues. It covers five dimensions of mental illness:
• clinical syndromes, such as bipolar disorder
• developmental disorders and personality disorders, such as autism and borderline personality disorder
• physical conditions
• severity of psychosocial stressors
• and highest level of functioning in the last year, which is a measure of the mentally ill person’s ability to meet life’s demands on an annual basis.
But how does society define mental illness? There are stereotypes of the disordered person ranging from unpredictable to slovenly. Countless news stories report people with mental health issues as violent, while research shows that they’re no more violent than the general population. In fact, they are more likely to be the victims of violent crime. Thesaurus.com even lists “crazy” as the second synonym for violent.
What’s even worse is how society has treated the mentally ill. In Ancient Greece, physicians used to drill holes in people’s heads to let the evil spirits escape, and ostensibly cure their disorders. Institutionalism was rampant from the 1800s to the 1950s, and some patients were even chained to their beds and left in filth. It was as recent as the 1930s that lobotomies and malarial infections were the leading treatments for the mentally ill.
So, when the woman in the Olive Garden spoke about her friend’s husband, putting him down for suffering from mental health issues, I was irritated with her. People who endure these grueling conditions and their families have enough to deal with without others questioning their diagnosis.
Most people with mental illnesses are aware that they can sometimes be inappropriate or different than others. Mental disorders are not something you can just will yourself to cure. They require treatment ranging from talk therapy to medications, and some are even treatment resistant. Many people who do not receive treatment are unable to cope with their lives, which in turn causes them to not be able to keep the house clean or hold down a job. Many more can control their mental illness, or mitigate symptoms—with treatment.
Treatment has come a long way since the insulin-induced comas of the 1930s. But it’s not far enough. Communities have been slow to offer housing support and life skills training for the mentally ill who were deinstitutionalized in the 1950s. People who suffer from mental health disorders need more care than society has been willing or able to give.
Better funding for research into disorders would be a good start. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimated that the organization would spend $396 million on mental illness research in 2016, compared to $1 billion for diabetes research.
But what can individuals do for those of us who suffer from mental illnesses like bipolar disorder? Be kind to the mentally ill. Learn about various diagnoses and the stresses that trigger them. Advocate for better housing options and more funding for research. With these efforts, concerned people can make the world a better place for those with mental health conditions.