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Exploring the links between the phenomenology of creativity and bipolar disorder

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number7
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Affective Disorders
Pages (from-to)658-664
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date4/11/14
<mark>Original language</mark>English



The links between bipolar disorder (BD) and creativity have historically attracted academic and public interest. Previous research highlights common characteristics of people considered to be highly creative, and those diagnosed with BD, including extraversion, impulsivity, divergent thinking and high motivation (Ma, 2009).


In the first phenomenological study focussing on the links between creativity and extreme mood, an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach was used to collect and analyse in-depth interview data from seven people diagnosed with BD in the UK.


Four key themes were constructed to reflect and convey the collective accounts: 1. High mood leads to an expanding mind; 2. Full steam ahead; 3. A reciprocal relationship between mood and creativity 4. Reframing bipolar experiences through creative activity.


Participants were a small sample of people who were identified as having BD on the basis of a clinical diagnosis and Mood Disorders screening Questionnaire (MDQ), and who defined themselves as creative without further corroboration.


Among this sample, creativity was recognised as a valued aspect of BD. Clinical services may usefully draw on creative resources to aid assessment and formulation, and even utilise the effects of creativity on the management of mood. Research demonstrates a high prevalence of non-adherence to medication among persons with BD and this ambivalence might be better understood when the links between extreme mood and creativity are considered.