Inspiration associated with risk for bipolar disorder


A new study links internal inspiration to higher risks of Bipolar Disorder.

Well founded research has shown bipolar disorder to be linked with creativity.  The link between bipolar disorder and creativity accounts for the disproportionate prevalence of bipolar disorder in writers and artists compared to other professions. However, while this relationship is well established in the literature, the underlying cognitive and emotional processes related to it are not.

 In an effort to delve deeper into this association, researchers from Yale University and Lancaster University investigated inspiration– an emotional process linked to creativity–and the heightened risk of bipolar disorder. The study, published on March 26, 2014 in PLOS came up with a reliable measure for inspiration and found that an association between these two variables does in fact exist.

In order to assess the relationship between inspiration and risk for bipolar disorder, the researchers were first faced with the task of coming up with a reliable measure for inspiration. The measure they created was the External and Internal Scale of Inspiration (EISI) which is a self-report scale that measures not only levels of inspiration, but also the source of inspiration (self/others). The scale consisted of 25 statements such as I am inspired by myself and I am inspired by other people. Each item had a seven point scale ranging from I strongly disagree to I strongly agree.

The measure was reliable and valid when assessing levels and sources of inspiration. Furthermore, the findings of the study supported the hypothesis that people with higher levels of inspiration are at a greater risk for bipolar disorder. More specifically, the type of inspiration most associated with this risk is internal, that is, coming from the self rather than others. This is consistent with the literature that demonstrates that people with symptoms of hypomania (or mania) tend to experience overly positive self-appraisals. They see their creativity as a result of their selves and own ideas as opposed to external circumstances.

The study has important implications. First, it establishes a reliable measure for inspiration. Next, while there is much room for improvement in future research, the study set a foundation for understanding the underpinnings of the association between bipolar disorder and creativity. In the clinical setting, the findings are important because many people with bipolar disorder resist treatment because they fear that they will lose this creativity when they are ‘treated’. Thus, investigating and understanding the cognitive and emotional processes underpinning the relationship of bipolar disorder and creativity could have important significance.


Jones, S., Dodd, A., & Gruber, J. (2014). Development and validation of a new multidimensional measure of inspiration: Association with risk for bipolar disorder. PLoS ONE 9(3), 1-11.


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