WEDNESDAY, Oct. 17, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- A large new study adds to evidence linking creativity and mental illness.
The findings also suggest that to safeguard the positive traits associated with mental illness, new approaches to treatment might be considered, the researchers said.
The investigators looked at long-term data from nearly 1.2 million Swedish psychiatric patients and their relatives, and found that bipolar disorder was more common among people with artistic or scientific professions, such as dancers, photographers, authors and researchers.
They also found that schizophrenia, in particular, as well as depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse were more common among writers. Authors were also 50 percent more likely to commit suicide than people in the general population.
In addition, the Karolinska Institute researchers found that the relatives of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia nervosa and autism were more likely to be in creative professions.
The findings, which confirm and expand on previous research conducted by the same team, suggest that it may be necessary to reconsider how to treat mental illness, said study author Simon Kyaga, a consultant in psychiatry and doctoral student in the institute's department of medical epidemiology and biostatistics.
"If one takes the view that certain phenomena associated with the patient's illness are beneficial, it opens the way for a new approach to treatment," he said in an institute news release.
"In that case, the doctor and patient must come to an agreement on what is to be treated, and at what cost. In psychiatry and medicine generally there has been a tradition to see the disease in black-and-white terms and to endeavor to treat the patient by removing everything regarded as [unhealthy]," Kyaga added.
Some of the world's great artists who reportedly suffered from mental illness include the painter Vincent van Gogh, composer Ludwig van Beethoven, mathematician John Nash (portrayed in the film "A Beautiful Mind") and playwright Eugene O'Neill.
The study was published online Oct. 11 in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about mental illness.