We all know the stereotypical personality of an artist in popular culture: someone who is brilliant, absorbed in their work, and a little dramatic – confident, energetic, and extroverted one minute, insecure, despairing, and irritable the next.
Some research suggests that creative people are more comfortable with nonconformity, risk taking, and expressiveness. This could explain why some artists do indeed experience and communicate big emotions, both in their professional and personal lives.
However, if you notice your artistic process is becoming overwhelmed by your intense emotions or dominated by behaviors that feel out of your control, it could be a sign something is amiss with your mental health.
It’s important to know how to identify that you might be struggling, instead of dismissing possible mental health symptoms as “just something artists go through”.
When highs become extreme
Many creatives find getting in the zone while making their work to be invigorating, a feeling similar to an adrenaline rush. Some even lose track of time because they’re wrapped up in their passion for their work.
Being very focused on work is harmless enough, but the “high” might be extreme if:
- You don’t seem to need as much sleep. For example, if you get little or no sleep for a few days and still don’t feel tired
- You have a burst of new ideas that feel like they’re rushing through your mind, and you find yourself talking much faster than usual
- You suddenly feel super optimistic and confident, out of proportion to your current context
- In addition to feeling highly creative, you have a strong urge to shop, drink or use drugs, or have sex more than usual
These could be signs of hypomania or mania, an elevated mood state that can lead to irrational or reckless behavior.
The euphoria of the elevated mood can feel good in the moment and even lead to creative output, but if left unaddressed, it can come with significant risks.
When lows become concerning
When artists experience setbacks, it can be very painful. Rejection or criticism feels very personal because so much emotion and self goes into creating artwork.
Feelings such as sadness or doubt are inevitable in life. However, these “low” feelings might be concerning if:
- You stop feeling interested in things you used to enjoy
- You feel worthless or empty
- You feel hopeless about the future
- Part of you thinks about falling asleep and not waking up, or you have thoughts of harming yourself
If you’re feeling “stuck” in this state, you could be experiencing depression.
Although it may not feel like it, there is hope for people with depression – connecting with therapy and any other resources you may need can help you cope with your symptoms and make life changes to alleviate triggers.
Knowing why it’s happening doesn’t mean you’re not struggling
If you think your highs and lows are connected to your mental health, you don’t have to accept things the way they are in order to be an artist. Your creativity comes from you, not your moods, and many creatives find they are actually more insightful and productive when they’re feeling well.
If you’ve been thinking about whether therapy can help you feel better, click the button below to set up a free phone consultation – we can discuss what you’ve been going through and where you could use some support.
If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about harming yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of harming themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or reach out to your nearest emergency room.