Kay Redfield Jamison's Touched With Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temeprament

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Kay Redfield Jamison's Touched With Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temeprament

In Touched with Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, Kay
Redfield Jamison explores the compelling connection between mental disorders and artistic creativity. Artists have long been considered different from the general population, and one often hears tales of authors, painters, and composers who both struggle with and are inspired by their "madness". Jamison's text explores these stereotypes in a medical context, attributing some artists' irrational behaviors to mental disorders, particularly manic-depressive illness. In order to establish this link, Jamison presents an impressive collection of artists who have
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Conversely, during the attendant lows associated with mental illness, the afflicted person experiences lethargy and hopelessness. Artists, in particular, often experience a creative block during their depressive periods, resulting in an intense frustration with their decreased productivity. In turn, this frustration may drive an artist to substance abuse, or even suicide. Depression is not the only cause of detrimental and possibly dangerous changes to one's behavior. Mania, of course, does not simply produce more creative energy. During a manic period, one tends to lose their grasp on reality, which could prompt irrational impatience, excessive spending, and impulsive sexual relations. Both manic and depressive periods alter behavior significantly and pose a threat to the patient's life.

After outlining the effects of manic-depressive illness on human behavior, Jamison presents profiles of some of the numerous artists who have suffered from some sort of mental disturbance. Among the most notable manes are Picasso, van Gogh, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Poe. Additionally, Jamison discusses a number of lesser known artists who were affected by manic-depressive illness. Indeed, one cannot help but wonder if these men and women were prevented from reaching greater career heights by their mental disorders. Many studies concerning the link between creativity and mental illness have been conducted in recent

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