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NEUROTICISM: A SIGN OF CREATIVITY

Habitual overthinkers all over the world found cause to rejoice recently: A new paper theorizes that neuroticism and creativity go hand in hand.

Previous theories about neuroticism pointed to heightened sensitivity to threat. Perkins and his co-authors point instead to higher activity in the parts of the brain that control self-generated thought. That hyperactivity could also explain the creativity a lot of neurotic people exhibit.

It makes sense when you think about it. People who worry obsessively are constructing detailed and varied “what-ifs” in their heads. They’re imagining situations where a condition could become a problem. The rest of us? We who don’t worry focus on the least imaginative outcome possible : That everything will be fine.

“Cheerful, happy-go-lucky people by definition do not brood about problems and so must be at a disadvantage when problem-solving compared to a more neurotic person,” says Adam Perkins, one of the paper’s authors, as quoted by Forbes. “We have a useful sanity check for our theory because it is easy to observe that many geniuses seem to have a brooding, unhappy tendency that hints they are fairly high on the neuroticism spectrum. For example, think of the life stories of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Vincent Van Gogh, Kurt Cobain, etc. Perhaps the link between creativity and neuroticism was summed up most succinctly of all by John Lennon when he said: ‘Genius is pain.’”

So to all you worriers out there: You might just be creative geniuses.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.

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