Bipolar may have an upside. Psychiatry experts at Stanford University determined that parents with bipolar disorder are likely to pass creativity along to their offspring. Previously, researchers noticed that people with bipolar disorder tended to be highly creative, but by exploring familial connections, this study marks the first detection of a probable genetic link between creativity and bipolar disorder.
The study followed 40 family units that included at least one parent diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as well as 18 more families with clean mental health to be used as the control group. Twenty of the families with a bipolar parent had at least one child with bipolar disorder, while the other twenty had a child diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). All participants were tested for creativity, while factors such as each subject’s age and length of time afflicted by the disorder were taken into account. When compared to the healthy participants, the parents and children with the disorders scored overwhelmingly higher on the creativity test.
For the purposes of this study, researchers used the Barron-Welsh Art Scale to measure creativity. The BWAS utilizes a series of shapes and images; people indicating a preference for the complex and unsymmetrical pictures of the bunch are believed to exhibit deeper creativity. Though the researchers concede that the BWAS is just one way of measuring creativity, they contend that it is an already respected psychological standard that could be easily reproduced for this particular study.
While this study makes a genetic link seems probable, questions remain. Are people creative because they have bipolar disorder or do they have bipolar disorder because they are creative? Fortunately, the groundwork has been established to merit further investigation. If the genes and causes are better understood, perhaps we can treat children with bipolar disorder without stifling their creative impulses.