Creative People – Mood Disorders, Misdiagnosis and Medication
Psychiatric misdiagnosis and consequent unnecessary or even destructive medication for “troubling” symptoms is an issue that impacts many creative, gifted and talented people.
In her personal story about psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, Gogo Lidz wrote:
“Between the ages of 16 and 21, I was prescribed more than fifteen different stimulants, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. The cure was worse than the disease.”
She continues, “But the Ritalin made me feel spacey. Classes were easier to sit through, but if a teacher asked me a question, I’d answer with a disoriented ‘Whaaat?’
“When I explained this to Dr. Titrate [her psychiatrist] at our next session, he turned pharmacist. Over the next few months, he plied me with a small galaxy of ADD drugs: Metadate, Dextrostat, Dexedrine Spansules, Adderall, Adderall XR, and Strattera, alone and in various combinations.
“The stimulants turned me into a tweaked-out whiz kid. It was as if I had been nearsighted and now had X-ray vision. Adderall XR was my drug of choice.
“It turbocharged my brain during the school day, but when I got home, I crashed hard. Sometimes I’d lie in bed for hours and sob.”
As a supplement to the Adderall XR, she was prescribed the short-term amphetamine Dextrostat, but so many stimulants “made it hard to sleep more than six hours a night. It also made me rapidly lose weight.
“At first, I liked this side effect. But when my classmates started calling me Anna Rexic, the thrill faded. I always felt queasy, and food tasted like sand.
“Hopped up on stimulants, I gained confidence… A C student in tenth grade, I was pulling A’s by the eleventh… I got a near-perfect score on my SAT. I turned from a basket case into an overachieving young adult.
“But I was dimly aware that the ADD medication was also doing something else, something I didn’t like. I felt impatient, irritable, explosively angry. I’d scream at my father for buying me the wrong toothpaste. I’d scream at my sister for borrowing my hairbrush. I’d scream at my car for running out of gas.”
From drugs to DBT
At the time of the article, she was back in college and “free of manic feelings and suicidal thoughts. I’ve got a new therapist, who specializes in dialectical behavior therapy… The therapy is different from any I’ve ever had. I feel like I’m taking a college course on myself.”
From article My Adventures in Psychopharmacology, by Gogo Lidz, New York Mag., Oct 24, 2007.
Gogo Lidz “was 19 when her first feature story was published in the Los Angeles Times in 2004. She wrote freelance for New York Magazine while studying at Bard College, and worked in New York film production and distribution for 10 years before becoming a full-time writer for Newsweek.” From Newsweek bio.
She has also published articles for New York Magazine, IndieWire and others.
Lower photo from article: Study Drugs Run Rampant and Wreak Havoc at Colleges and Graduate Schools by Valerie Harris.
More related articles:
Giftedness and ADD – medicating the gifted and talented
A news article on the topic of ADD and treatment interviews several people, including Maggie Preston who “was diagnosed with ADD at 16 and took Ritalin for four years. She quit over concerns about addiction after several occasions when she used her medications recreationally. Now she’s a student of photography at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.”
ADD Stimulant Medications: Are They the Best ADD Treatments? by Tess Thompson, Native Remedies
ADHD Natural Remedies: Finding the Best Herbs for Hyperactivity by Tess Thompson, Native Remedies
Incorrectly diagnosed by mental health professionals
Probably most mental health professionals sincerely want to help their clients, but many may not be well-informed about the unique qualities of gifted and exceptionally creative people.
Psychologist James T. Webb affirms that “Many of our brightest, most creative, most independent thinking children and adults are being incorrectly diagnosed as having behavioral, emotional, or mental disorders.
“They are then given medication and/or counseling to change their way of being so that they will be more acceptable within the school, the family, or the neighborhood, or so that they will be more content with themselves and their situation.
“The tragedy for these mistakenly diagnosed children and adults is that they receive needless stigmatizing labels that harm their sense of self and result in treatment that is both unnecessary and even harmful to them, their families, and society.”
James T. Webb, Ph.D., is president and publisher of Great Potential Press, Inc., a licensed psychologist and the lead author of five books and several DVDs about gifted people.
Another book of his, Searching for Meaning: Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope addresses existential depression, among other topics.
Of course, a number of people have very real mental and emotional challenges, such as mood disorders, and can benefit from appropriate treatment.
But having a racing mind and intense feelings and unusual personality traits may simply be part of being a gifted or creative person, and not a disorder to be medicated.
If you need professional help with emotional or mental health issues, please help everyone and get it.
Here are two lists I have assembled that may be of help:
Also see multiple self-help resources on the page:
Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.
Sharon M. Barnes, MSSW, LCSW is “a Psychotherapist, Speaker, Trainer, serving children, teens and adults with social & emotional needs of GT, HSP, 2E & SPD.”
She notes, “Many highly sensitive, creative, gifted or twice exceptional people struggle to find their balance emotionally.
“It’s not that they don’t have emotions or aren’t in touch with their feelings, but they tell me that they are often challenged in finding ways to cope with them and manage them.”
Here is one of my videos about her work:
Emotional health for creative, gifted, highly sensitive people
Read more in my article Emotional Health, Waves and Creativity — or visit her site to learn about her course:
Do you ever “stifle yourself” to more easily get along with that ‘normal’ world?
Creative and high ability people are complex in many ways, as researchers have pointed out over the years. Part of that complexity can lead many creative children and adults to feel “crazy” at times, and be misunderstood by health professionals.
Another article on that topic:
Like many talented and creative people, novelist Patricia Cornwell has experienced mental health issues.
“I’ve had my own difficulties. My wiring’s not perfect and there are ways that you can stabilise that.
“I have certain things that run in my own ancestry.
“It’s not unusual for great artistic people to have bipolar disorder, for example…
“The diagnosis goes back and forth but I’m pretty sure that I am…
She adds that – like many people – she manages her “miswiring” with appropriate medication: “I take a mood stabiliser.”
Her popular crime stories feature Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner.
What are some of the reasons people stop taking medications?
What are the alternatives?
- My inner life, and sometimes my outer life, is painful/chaotic/confusing. The DSM symptoms list for certain mental illnesses seem to fit me so I must be ill.
The mental suffering of sensitive, creative and divergent children and adults is real. Existential depression, loneliness, and emotional overwhelm are very real, as are the complications arising from our use of behaviors and substances to alleviate our suffering.
These experiences don’t require a diagnosis of mental illness in order to be taken seriously. And treating our suffering doesn’t need to include tampering with our highly sensitive brains.
From article Giftedness, sensitivity and psychiatric drugs: why do we take them and why do we quit? By Cat Robson.
She is a writer and vintage clothing and decor entrepreneur – see her Facebook profile.
Too much – too intense
“I’ve been accused of being ‘too much’ all my life. Too loud, too fast, too smart, too multi-talented, too audacious.
Writer, writing coach, teacher, and speaker Cynthia Morris continues,
“I’ve never been able to live according to that external standard of ‘just right’. Artists are often ‘too much’. It’s the job of the artist and writer to reflect what they see and feel.
“This expression of their art and talents must be larger than life. The trouble is, our expression doesn’t always jibe with what’s going on in the ‘normal’ world.”
Read more in article Intensity and Being Creative.
This kind of emotional or physical or intellectual intensity may be another basis for misdiagnosis – as mania, for example.
Bipolar – Didn’t fit the profile
For another personal story, see the Huffington Post item BiPolar – The New “Must-Have” Disorder, by Bruce Genaro –
“For years I told doctors that I thought I was manic depressive, and, because I didn’t fit the profile that they understood.. they dismissed the idea and kept trying to treat me for depression. My current therapist is as bit savvier than the others…”
The genius of ‘difference’
This image is from Genius! Nurturing The Spirit Of The Wild Odd And Oppositional Child – by George T. Lynn and Joanne Barrie Lynn.
A premise of the book is that the genius – the “guiding spirit” – of neurologically different / attention different children is necessary for the advancement of culture:
“The creative genius of children diagnosed with AD/HD will show itself in athletics, the performing and visual arts, and in entrepreneurial endeavors.
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