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Depression Inspires Creativity



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                Some people may think there is a connection with the depression and it helping to inspire creativity. It is thought that since depression has its darker, negative effects, then this could be a factor in bringing out a person’s creativity. While many studies have been conducted in order to prove this connection, between depression and creativity, the extent of the truth in this lay theory has yet to be discovered fully. When observing the findings of several studies on depression levels and creativeness, the results were all leaning towards supportive as to whether depression has a link to inspiring a person’s artistic ability.

                For instance, one of the studies reported that depression contributed in a positive ways to artists work because it gave insight into one’s own depth and pain and helped those feeling be directed into a creative process to produce better art with more passion (Turcic and Yarhouse, 2003, pg. 352).  There were fifty-four conference participants who completed surveys while attending the biennial meeting of Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA). This professional organization was composed of religious artists, teachers, and students. The total attendance at the conference was an estimated total of 200 participants, all of whom were afforded the opportunity to complete the survey.

    The measure taken in this survey to observe depression with creativity was asking the participants several questions concerning depression, mania, and religion. “Concerning depression, respondents were asked to rate their experience on a Likert-like scale (1-10) as to the level of depression they experienced in the past two weeks, past year, and in  their lifetime” (Turcic and Yarhouse, 2003, pg. 350). Qualitative data was collected regarding any positive contributors of depression to respondents’’ work as artists. When looking at mania, respondents were asked if they experienced “manic” or “unusual elevated moods.” Since this was a Christian organization for artists, researchers also collected data about ways in which religion has helped them cope with mania or depression. After looking at the surveys, they showed that the respondents who were classified as moderately or very depressed “nine (16.7%) also reported five or more current symptoms of depression; similarly, rates of depression the year prior to the survey dropped to 37% and lifetime rates to 50% among those who were moderately or very depressed and reported five or more symptoms of depression” (Turcic and Yarhouse, 2003, pg.351).  The study concluded that of the 27 respondents who were identified as moderately or very depressed included increased passion, expression, focus, and introspection.

                Furthermore, the second study explored the relationships between creativity, depression, and successful aging. Specifically, the study examined the relationship between level of depression symptoms and degree of creativity, and determined whether level of depressive symptoms moderated the relationship between creativity and successful aging. A total of 152 participants completed a demographic form, the Life Satisfactory Inventory-A, Purpose in Life Test, Similes Preference Inventory, and Geriatric Depression Scale Short Form. Most of the participants resided in assisted living facilities or neighborhoods within the parish or senior centers where the studies were taken place, therefore the participants tended to be elder. The 15- item Geriatric depression Scale Short Forum was used to measure the depressive symptoms with the possible scores 0-15, with higher scores indicating more depressive symptoms. The Similes Preferences Inventory (SPI) was a 54-item instrument used to measure creativity by indicating levels of novel ideas and concepts. Then, there was the Gough Personality Scale (GPS) which was to be correlated with the SPI to measure creativity, not for personality features, but rather for cognitive senses. Lastly, both The Life Satisfaction Index-A (LSI-A) and The Purpose of Life test (PLT) was used as a measure of successful aging. These tests looked at degrees to which a person experiences sense of meaning and purpose in life (Flood, 2007).

                The findings show participants tended to be White, female and widowed women. This study had few depressive symptoms that would constitute for depression, and had a low mean score on the range of reported means. “The presences of depression symptoms appeared to be a moderate relationship between creativity personality traits and successful aging, suggesting that depressive symptoms weaken the relationship between creativity and successful aging” (Flood, 2007, pg.67). The study concluded that other finding must be considered in this sample, such as low levels of depression, and caution should be used when applying for the results to older adults of other backgrounds. Also older adults who are sicker and or different racial groups should be included in future studies. The findings of the present study suggest that depression must be addressed in order for creativity to contribute to successful aging.

    Finally, the last study shows that when individuals are biologically vulnerable to experiencing negative affect and are exposed to a situation that brings about intense negative emotion, they show the most artistic creativity. There was 96 participants total with 65 females and 31 males, ages 18-25, recruited from newspaper advertisements, to take part in a two hour study on “physiological responses during various laboratory tasks” (Akinola and Mendes, 2008, pg. 1678) Each participant arrived in the afternoon and after 30-minute rest period, provided a saliva sample. They then went on to a baseline creativity task where the participants had nine triangles on a page and had to make a picture that was unusual and interesting with a title and common theme. After this, the participants went to a social evaluation task where they had to prepare and deliver an 8 minute speech followed by a five minute Q and A. Following this was the self-report measures where the interviewer evaluated them. The participants rated their agreement on a scale of 1-7, with seven being the high score. The participants also rated their feelings. Lastly, was the creativity task where participants were given 10 minutes to complete a second artistic creativity task to make a collage on the cardboard provided. They could use as much or little of the items given to them to make their collage; it was up to them (Akinola and Mendes, 2008).

    The results were when the participants received rejecting social feedback, lower dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEAS) was significantly correlated with greater negative emotional responses (Akinola and Mendes, 2008). The second important finding was that social rejection resulted in greater artistic creativity than did the social approval on nonsocial situations. When individuals were more biologically vulnerable and exposed to a strong rejection situation, they performed better on the artistic creativity tasks. The study concluded their findings provide proactive evidence with consistent volumes of historical and empirical evidence relating depression to creativity.

                Overall, each study found their results to be fairly similar; the first asserts that there is a definite correlation, the second claims there is a possible correlation, and the third also asserts that there is a definite correlation. The limitations in the three studies were the age grouping. The second study lacked a mixture of races and genders along with age ranges other than the elderly. These are the only factor which kept this study from being fully correlated to the lay theory. Otherwise, all of these studies signified a decent correlation with one another and the finding were about the same. They all took factors such as measurements of depression such as, well being, or past traumatic experiences to help determine depression in different types of tests. They all generally looked into ideas on what and how depression could cause one to be inspired creatively. In conclusion, I believe a casual relationship between depression increasing one’s inspiration of creativeness can be confirmed in these empirical studies.


    Akinola, M., and Mendes W.B. (2008). The Dark Side of Creativity: Biological Vulnerability and Negative Emotions Lead to Greater Artistic Creativity. Personality and social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1667-1684. Retrieved from PsycINFO database.

    Flood, Meredith (2007). Exploring the Relationships between Creativity, Depression, and Successful Aging. Activities Adaptation and aging, 31:1, 55-71. Retrieved from PsycINFO database.

    Turcic, E.L., and Yarhouse, M.A. (2003). Depression, Creativity, and Religion: A Pilot Study of Christians in the Visual Arts. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 31:4, 348-355. Retrieved from PsycINFO database.

    Depression Inspires Creativity. (2016, Oct 19). Retrieved from

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