Psychiatric Quarterly [psaq] PH015-294626 May 4, 2001 10:18 Style ﬁle version Nov. 19th, 1999
Psychiatric Quarterly, Vol. 72, No. 2, 2001
BIPOLAR ILLNESS, CREATIVITY,
Albert Rothenberg, M.D.
There have been in recent years increasing claims in both popular and profes-
sional literature for a connection between bipolar illness and creativity. A re-
view of studies supporting this claim reveals serious ﬂaws in sampling, method-
ology, presentation of results, and conclusions. Although there is therefore no
evidence for etiological or genetic linkages, it is still necessary to explain interre-
lationships in those creative persons suffering from the illness. Examples of the
work in progress of artists with bipolar disorder, Jackson Pollock and Edvard
Munch, illustrate the use of healthy and adaptive creative cognition—janusian
and homospatial processes—in the former’s breakthrough conception during an
improvement phase in treatment leading to the development of the Abstract
Expressionist Movement and in the latter’s transformation of an hallucination
into his famous artwork “The Scream.” Treatment options that do not produce
cognitive effects are important for creative persons with bipolar disorder.
KEY WORDS: creativity; bipolar illness; Jackson Pollock; Edvard Munch; homospatial
A number of creative people in the arts have been reliably diagnosed
as having bipolar disorder (formerly manic depressive illness) such
as writers Ernest Hemingway, Robert Lowell, Theodore Roethke, and
Albert Rothenberg, M.D., is with the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard University.
Address correspondence to Albert Rothenberg, M.D., Box 1001, Canaan, NY 12029;
2001 Human Sciences Press, Inc.