Studies comparing the links between mental illness and creativity have become more and more prevalent: the media often capitalizes on sharing the stories of children affected by disorders such as autism being inherently more creative than the general population.
Are these studies to be taken seriously, or are they taking cases which are far too specific, and trying to draw larger generalizations that don't have a real foundation?
Another study was recently done which took a group of 100 individuals who have not been clinically diagnosed with any disorders and also do not have a history of drug or alcohol abuse and tested them on creativity and psychopathologic spectrums.
As far as creativity goes, questions in 10 different areas were asked (including music, visual arts, written arts, etc.) which ranged from " I have no experience in this field" to "I have been recognized in a master, public scale for my skill in this area." For psychopathy, people were asked questions which included "Other people often have a hard time understanding my thoughts" and "Other people seem to think my behavior is weird." The two psychopathologic characteristics which seemed to have a link with the level of achieved creativity were hypomania and psychotism.
Psychoticism is characterized by impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and proneness to psychosis. Hypomania is a mood state characterized by high energy levels, rapid mood fluctuations, and racing thoughts. These two attributes, it seems, can be linked to creativity within the general population.
Overall, the findings make sense: high IQ might be associated to high standardized test scores (including standardized tests for creativity), but real-world creative achievement cannot be predetermined by IQ as it relies on a number of long-term factors, including but not limited to inspiration and motivation.
What does this mean for the link between mental disorders and creativity? Well, it means that those characteristics which lead to a diagnosis of mental disorder (racing thoughts, inability to focus, unusual behavior) increasing the probability of one being judged as more creative by others.
Still, it is only whether or not someone is perceived as creative that we are judging, not their actual creativity. That, it seems, we still haven't found a way to judge.