Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, J.K. Rowling, all these writers have one thing in common – they struggled with depression. A common mood disorder, depression induces multiple symptoms affecting a person’s physical and mental health.
Depression is a common trait for writers and other creative individuals. In this article, we inspect the vicious circle of writing and depression and other negative consequences including identity loss.
Writing and Mental Health
Although creativity can help people feel better and manage their mental illness, in some cases the relationship between the two is negative. For example, writing is one of top 10 professions wherein people are more likely to suffer from depression.
Research carried out by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute found that people working in creative fields including photographers, dancers, and authors were 8% more likely to develop bipolar disorder. In fact, writers were 121% more likely to suffer from this condition and 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
When the researchers looked specifically at writers, they found that besides seeking depression treatment more often than the general population, they are also overrepresented among patients with schizophrenia, anxiety, and substance abuse problems. Surprisingly, close relatives of people with mental health issues including depression were more likely to be associated with some creative profession.
Why Writers Suffer from Depression?
It is important to clarify that depression can affect just about any writer; it is not only reserved for authors such as J.K. Rowling or Ernest Hemingway.
It is not uncommon for bloggers or freelance writers to complain about feeling depressed. Did you ever ask yourself why? As much as creativity is a beautiful, beneficial trait, it also comes with the dark side.
Writers don’t have a 9-5 job with regular pay. Although they can earn a decent amount of money with their talent, it all depends on how much they work. If you work a lot, you earn a lot. A writer’s productivity greatly depends on inspiration and concentration.
Sometimes you can’t concentrate enough to write high-quality works, and other factors play a role too e.g. lack of sleep. Irregular pay and uncertainty with the financial situation is a major source of depression, but it is not the only reason.
Writers are socially isolated; their contact with other people is brought to the minimum, especially when they have a lot of work to do in a little time. Since being social is of immense importance for a person’s mental health, it comes as no surprise why the isolation makes writers particularly vulnerable and prone to emotional and mental health issues.
Scientists explain that although writing can be very therapeutic, those who do it professionally are digging into themselves. This is more pronounced in fiction writers who create characters on a daily basis. In this, self-examination is inevitable as well as self-doubt.
Also, many writers are quiet introverts who find it stressful when their work is assessed publicly. This applies to all writers. While you love the process, the sheer thought that everyone can see what you wrote, dig into your soul or even criticize it is enough to make a tremendous impact on your mental health.
Freelancer Writers Face Client Challenges
When speaking of depression among writers, freelancers are not the exception. Besides financial insecurity and social isolation, they also deal with numerous client problems. Working with clients can be very stressful, particularly when they are too demanding and disrespectful.
As a result, a writer’s confidence suffers significantly. Demanding clients rejected applications or articles, lack of free time make freelancer writers prone to depression.
Bloggers can experience the same, particularly if the blog is the sole source of income. Blogging can be a profitable business, but keeping up with the current trends to stay relevant in the blogosphere, working with clients whose products or service you perform, can increase stress and anxiety.
Unresolved stress is a major risk factor for depression and other mental health problems.
Fiction Writers and Identity Loss
It is not uncommon for fiction writers to deal with the loss of identity, which is closely tied to depression. This happens because fiction writers get personally involved into the story they write.
You get invested into every event from your novel. You live and breathe the plot from the moment you get inspired to write the story and well beyond it is over. If your characters are going through hardships, you feel them too.
Also, being familiar with misery, pain, and suffering makes it easier for you to write about it. Although it is possible for writers to write about these tense feelings and emotional troubles without experiencing them, for some it would mean their story would lack authenticity.
Novels and books aren’t finished overnight; you spend a lot of time thinking and living like your characters, which is why identity loss is in most cases inevitable.
Writing is an incredible talent and a great way to improve emotional health, but professional writers are prone to depression. Reasons behind a depression in writers are numerous ranging from financial struggles to social isolation. Fiction writers can also deal with identity loss. A practical way to prevent (or manage) depression and avoid identity loss is to socialize more.