Skip to main content

15-11-2011 | Psychology | Article

Cyclothymic dimension of bipolar spectrum linked to creativity


Free abstract

MedWire News: Results from an Italian study of nonclinical student artists confirms that the cyclothymic dimension of the bipolar spectrum is associated with creativity.

Previous research has suggested a link between the bipolar spectrum and increased creativity, "with affective temperaments allegedly favoring creative expression and achievement, but a few studies only empirically tested the link," observe Antonio Preti (University of Cagliari) and team in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

To investigate whether individuals in creative disciplines are more likely than those in noncreative disciplines to show indicators of affective temperament, the researchers studied 152 students attending preparatory courses for creative artistic professions and 152 age- and gender-matched controls attending courses likely to lead to a profession mainly requiring the application of learned rules.

All of the participants were asked to complete the Temperament Evaluation of the Memphis, Pisa, Paris and San Diego-Autoquestionnaire (TEMPS-A), which is designed to quantify affective temperaments based on the concept of bipolar spectrum and includes five subscales: dysthymic, cyclothymic, hyperthymic, irritable, and anxious.

They also completed the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) and the Creative Achievement Questionnaire (CAQ).

The researchers found that creative participants scored significantly higher than controls on the TEMPS-A cyclothymic, hyperthymic, and irritable subscales, at 5.0 versus 3.8, 3.1 versus 2.6, and 1.5 versus 1.1, respectively.

There were no significant between-group differences regarding TEMPS-A dysthymic and anxious subscale scores.

Creative participants also scored significantly higher than controls on the Creative Achievement Questionnaire (CAQ) subscales of involvement (3.4 vs 2.4), achievements (7.5 vs 2.8), and stereotype (1.0 vs 0.4).

There were no significant differences between the groups regarding scores on the GHQ.

The CAQ involvement, achievements, and stereotype subscales were positively associated with TEMPS-A cyclothymic and hyperthymic subscale scores, and GHQ scores were positively associated with all TEMPS-A subscales, except the hyperthymic subscale.

No significant associations were found between GHQ and CAQ scores. Preti and team conclude: "This study confirms that the cyclothymic dimension of the bipolar spectrum is linked to creativity, and this link is likely to result from increased involvement into pleasurable activities, including creative ones."

They add: "Whether greater involvement in creative activities is a requisite to achieve success in people with temperament within the bipolar spectrum remains an open question. One possible mediating variable worth pursuing that might underlie success among cyclothymic artists is obsessive-compulsive traits."

By Mark Cowen

Related topics