Creativity has long been associated with the bipolar spectrum, particularly among unaffected first-degree relatives and those with milder expressions of bipolar traits, suggesting that some aspects of the bipolar spectrum may confer advantages for creativity. Here we took a multifaceted approach to better define the shared vulnerability between creativity and bipolar disorder. We recruited 135 individuals with bipolar disorder, 102 creative controls, and 103 non-creative controls for a total of 340 participants. All participants completed a comprehensive assessment battery that included several self-report temperament and personality questionnaires, a computerized test of cognitive function across multiple domains, and an evaluation of creative performance and achievement. Significant group differences were observed for the hypothesized shared vulnerability traits of hypomanic personality, cyclothymic temperament, impulsivity, and positive schizotypy. While both the creative and bipolar groups demonstrated superior creative ability, the creative group alone revealed enhanced cognitive performance. Accounting for intercorrelations between traits, a combination of openness, hypomanic personality, divergent thinking, and reasoning ability emerged as the strongest predictors of creativity, collectively explaining 34% of the variance in creative achievement and correctly classifying 85% of individuals with high achievement irrespective of diagnosis. These results confirm and extend earlier observations of a shared vulnerability between creativity and bipolar disorder and suggest that mild to moderate expressions of bipolar spectrum traits are associated with enhanced cognitive functioning and creative expression. Further investigation of these traits is needed to clarify the nature of this shared vulnerability and suggest individualized treatment strategies to improve clinical outcomes in bipolar disorder.
Keywords: Bipolar disorder; Cognition; Creativity; Mood; Personality; Temperament.
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