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No. 98: Mar-Apr 1995

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Madness And Creativity

The observation that creativity and genius are often allied with psychiatric problems is an ancient one. More recently, male writers have been shown to have high rates of mood disorders and alcoholism.

Persuing these kinds of correlations further, but with the female sex, A. Ludwig, of the University of Kentucky Medical Center, chose as his "creativity" sample 59 female writers attending a Women Writers Conference. These were compared with 59 non-writers matched in terms of social, demographic, and family factors. Psychiatric problems in both groups were elicited through interviews. As the table below shows, the psychopathological differences between writers and non-writers are large.

Panic attacks225
Eating disorders122
Drug abuse175
Childhood sexual abuse3912

It seems that Dryden, back in the 17th century, was correct when he wrote: "Great Wits are sure to Madness near ally'd."

(Anonymous; "Madness and Creativity Revisited," Science, 266:1483, 1994)

From Science Frontiers #98, MAR-APR 1995. � 1995-2000 William R. Corliss