A new study suggests that inspiration, or the idea to spawn creative works, is associated with people at higher risk of developing bipolar disorder.
Researchers from Lancaster University explain that for generations, artists, musicians, poets, and writers have described personal experiences of mania and depression.
This history supports the unique association between creativity and bipolar disorder. But, until now, the specific links between inspiration and bipolar disorder has received little attention.
New research now shows that people at higher risk for developing bipolar disorder consistently report stronger experiences of inspiration than those at lower risk.
Professor Steven Jones, co-director of Lancaster University’s Spectrum Centre, said, “It appears that the types of inspiration most related to bipolar vulnerability are those which are self-generated and linked with strong drive for success.
“Understanding more about inspiration is important because it is a key aspect of creativity which is highly associated with mental health problems, in particular bipolar disorder.”
“People with bipolar disorder highly value creativity as a positive aspect of their condition. This is relevant to clinicians, as people with bipolar disorder may be unwilling to engage with treatments and therapies which compromise their creativity.”
In the study, published in PLOS One, 835 undergraduate students were recruited to complete online questionnaires from both Yale University in the U.S. and Lancaster University in the U.K.
They were asked to complete a questionnaire which measured their bipolar risk using a widely-used and well-validated 48-item measure which captures episodic shifts in emotion, behavior, and energy called The Hypomanic Personality Scale (HPS).
They also completed a new questionnaire developed by the team which was designed to explore beliefs about inspiration, in particular the sources of inspiration — whether individuals thought it came from within themselves, from others, or the wider environment. This measure was called the the EISI (External and Internal Sources of Inspiration) measure.
The students who scored highly for risk of bipolar illness also consistently scored more highly than the others for levels of inspiration and for inspiration which they judged to have come from themselves.
Researchers said that although this pattern was consistent, the effect sizes were relatively modest. Thus inspiration and bipolar risk are linked, but it is important to explore other variables to get a fuller picture and to conduct further research with individuals with a clinical diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
This article first appeared on ‘Psych Central’ on 28 March 2014.