The idea that very creative people are also a little crazy has been around since humanity’s earliest days. In ancient Greece, Plato noted the eccentricities of poets and playwrights, and Aristotle saw that some creative types were also depressives. In modern times, that connection has persisted, from Robert Schumann hearing voices guide his music to Sylvia Plath sticking her head in an oven to Van Gogh cutting off his ear to Michael Jackson … being Michael Jackson.
Today the link between creativity and mental illness is firmly embedded in the public conscience. Unlike some supposed cultural wisdoms, however, there’s a good bit of scientific evidence behind this one. Behavioral and brain researchers have found a number of strong if indirect ties between an original mind and a troubled one (many summarized in a recent post by psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman at his Scientific American blog).