The relationship between creativity and mental disorder in an African setting

Mens Sana Monographs 9 (1):225 (2011)

Abstract
Background: There has for some time now been recognition that there was a relationship between exceptional creative talent and mental disorder. The works of Andreasen (2008) and others in this area have been very significant. However, most of the research has been carried out in USA and Europe. Very little has come out of Africa on the subject. Aim : To survey the beliefs of different groups within an African society, concerning the possibility of a relationship between creative talent and mental disorder. To assess creativity within a community of people with a formal diagnosis of mental disorder. Materials and Methods: Some of the mythology of the Yoruba was examined for content, concerning the behaviour of certain notable individuals and the existence of psychopathology based on modern-day criteria. The beliefs of members of the general public and mental health professionals concerning the existence of a relationship between creative talent and psychopathology were surveyed using a questionnaire designed for the project. A sample of patients with formal diagnoses of affective disorder or schizophrenia drawn from two units, the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital and the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Yaba, were assessed for 'Creativity.' Results : Although there are notable 'eccentric' figures in local mythology, the overwhelming majority of the people surveyed do not believe there is any relationship between creativity and mental illness. They however believe that engaging in creative activities helps the mentally ill to recover from illness. The mental health professionals, who were clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, had a significant minority who believed that a relationship does exist, and they also strongly assert that creative activity has a therapeutic effect for the mentally ill. A survey of in-patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and affective disorder failed to show a significant difference in the creativity of the two populations, as measured by the originality score of the Rorschach scale. The survey of patients is inconclusive, based on small sample size (ten patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, ten with bipolar affective disorder.). The linkage between formal mental disorder is only recognised by a significant minority of mental health professionals. A significant proportion of the population believe that creative activity aids recovery from mental illness. More research is required into this important subject in Africa
Keywords Creativity   Cultural beliefs   Mental illness   Personality   Recovery
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DOI 10.4103/0973-1229.77439
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