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Are Creative People More Apt to be Addicts?

Are Creative People More Apt to be Addicts?

Eric Maisel

Creative people, our best and our brightest, squarely fall into the category of people at high risk for addiction—people who accept the “happy bondage” of an addiction even though they might be expected to know better. It isn’t just romantic mythology that creative people are more prone than their peers to succumb to the lure of an addiction. It is a fact, and there are many reasons for this. In addition to the biological, social, psychological, and developmental risk factors that confront many people, extra risk factors confront the creative person. That is a fact.

If you are creative, at how high a risk for an addiction are you? Consider what Tom Dardis has to say in The Thirsty Muse: “Of the seven native-born Americans awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, five were alcoholic. The list of other twentieth-century American writers similarly afflicted is very long; only a few of the major talents have been spared. In addition to the five Nobel laureates—Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O’Neill, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck—the roster includes Edward Arlington Robinson, Jack London, Edna St. Vincent Millay, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hart Crane, Conrad Aiken, Thomas Wolfe, Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy Parker, Ring Lardner, Djuna Barnes, John O’Hara, James Gould Cozzens, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, Carson McCullers, James Jones, John Cheever, Jean Stafford, Truman Capote, Raymond Carver, Robert Lowell and James Agee.”

You don’t have to be a creative superstar to run extra risks for addiction. My clients fall everywhere along the spectrum from unknown to established, from “Sunday painter” to world-famous, from someone who manifests her creativity by knitting to someone who manifests her creativity by fabricating monumental public sculptures. I work with individuals who don’t know what they want to create and who can’t seem to access their creativity and with individuals who know exactly what they want to create and who work obsessively to manifest their ideas and their intentions. What links all of these people and makes them more alike than different is their felt sense that creativity matters to them, that it is a part of who they are. If you can say that about yourself, then you are a member of this family—and you definitely run added risks for addiction.

If you’d like to learn more, including what a treatment program for creative individuals looks like, please take a peek at my book Creative Recovery

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