Although we’ve become fairly confident that there are genetic causes of addiction, we’re also certain that there are a number of genes that could possibly make an individual more susceptible to addiction. A more likely scenario is that in addition to genetic factors, addiction is the confluence of other contributors as well, including those that are environmental and social in origin. This paints a pretty complicated picture of addiction as a disease and makes it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to determine a singular gene that can be blamed for some individuals’ suffering.
The complicated nature of addiction is further compounded by the various forms that addiction can take. Alcohol and drug addiction may be the most common, but there are also a variety of behavioral addictions—sex addiction, exercise addiction, gambling addiction, food addiction, and so on—that can be just as toxic to a person’s health and life as alcoholism.
However, the complexity of addiction is partly the reason why it’s so widely studied with most researchers hoping to isolate the most pertinent variables that correlate with addiction so that we can develop ways to either prevent or better treat those suffering from physical dependency. As the research has mounted, a frequent theme in studies of addiction causes has been identifying personality traits that are directly related to addiction in some way. One of the characteristics that have been studied with regard is creativity in addiction.
Some of the most important cultural figures have been addicts, either throughout their lives or for only a period of time. It’s been well documented that Sigmund Freud and Thomas Jefferson were both quite fond of cocaine while Bill Gates and Steve Jobs admitted to having frequently experimented with LSD. Even some of the biggest
Even some of the biggest creative minds have been addicts; Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix are among the countless musicians who had very public battles with addiction, especially heroin addiction. This has led many to wonder if there’s not some link between creativity and addiction, some component of the creative mind that makes an individual especially susceptible or likely to succumb to addiction.
What is Creativity?
In order to determine whether there’s a relationship between creativity and addiction, it’s essential to have a thorough understanding of creativity. By definition, creativity is described as a “phenomenon” whereby something new and, in one way or another, valuable is formed. This can be an idea, scientific theory, literary work, a joke, an invention, a musical composition, a painting, and so on.
As such, creativity is widely held to be an essential component of virtually every field, ranging from sciences like psychology, technology, political science, and even economics, to the wide breadth of visual and performance arts that exist. In short, those with exceptional creativity are widely considered to be more thoughtful than most others due to their ability to generate novel ideas that are useful and exceptionally valuable. Although it’s frequently associated with the arts, the development of some of the most important scientific concepts that we’ve yet seen has been the result of the creative thinking of scholars and scientists.
People who are creative tend to see or think of things in a way that’s unlike how most people would see or think. To use a common yet appropriate expression, creative people think “outside the box,” allowing them to develop ideas or create things that are very original, sometimes even pioneering and, consequently, can oftentimes be very important cultural or scientific contributions. As such, there have been countless studies conducted to determine what makes a person creativity and how, exactly, creativity affects other areas of the brain.
Many have tried to find out whether there are correlations between creativity and intelligence, creativity and personality type, creativity and mental health, creativity and neurological processes, and so on, but it seems that, much like addiction, a person’s creativity is a confluence of many different genes and personality traits that allow them to think in unique, innovative ways.
Creativity in Addiction
Due to how common it is for those who are creative to suffer from substance abuse disorders and addiction, many have started to wonder whether there’s not some sort of direct correlation or relationship between creativity and addiction. Even Stephen King, an incredibly creative writer and storyteller, feared that by giving up alcohol, he would lose the ability to write great stories, lending credence to the idea that substance abuse somehow allows a person to be more creative than they otherwise would be.
Despite the fact that creative people often have problems with addiction, we have not yet found any indication that the two are directly related or correlated in any way. Rather than there being a direct relationship, it’s more likely that those individuals who are exceptionally creative are also, due to certain personality traits common to creative thinkers, somewhat more prone to the development of a substance abuse disorder. However, even this idea should not be interpreted as being definitive or clear-cut because both creativity and the disease of addiction are incredibly complicated.
When determining whether there’s an identifiable link placing creativity in addiction, there are a number of personality traits that have been frequently identified in addicts that also tend to be common among those with high levels of creativity. Addicts tend to be incredibly impulsive risk-takers, which can be beneficial to someone who’s creative as these individuals will take chances that many others wouldn’t consider with the product possibly being something exceptional.
What’s more, addicts tend to be nonconformists while nonconformity is another common trait of creative minds. Those who suffer from addicts tend to need frequent stimulation and excitement, which is also common of those who are creative.
While there is certainly some overlap in the traits of both addicts and those who are creative, we have yet identified no evidence that creativity leads to addiction or that there is inherent creativity in addiction. Instead, research has shown us that there are many characteristics of both addicts and those who are creative that are very similar, possibly indicating that creative people might be slightly more prone or enticed by the prospect of substance abuse than the average person.
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