The best things in life are free. Or are they? In a world where the most exclusive, most beautiful, high-end and high quality products come with the highest price tag, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that high intelligence and creativity might also cost you some part of your sanity. Psychologist have found that mood disorders might be the price some people pay for a higher level of IQ early on in life. Research has revealed links between higher childhood IQ and features of bipolar disorder in young adulthood. Published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, this study was carried out by Smith et al in 2015.

For the research 1,881 people were followed from age 8 until they were 22 or 23-years-old. Their IQ was measured along with any characteristics of mood disorders. The results showed that having 10 more IQ points at age 8 was linked to being in the top 10 per cent for having manic personality traits in their early twenties. Professor Daniel Smith, one of the study’s authors, stated that high childhood IQ was not necessarily a “clear-cut risk factor for bipolar disorder”, but more of a likelihood of a “shared biology between intelligence and bipolar disorder which needs to be understood more fully.”

He further explained, “Many other factors — including family history of mental illness, childhood adversity, stressful life events and drug misuse — are known to increase an individual’s risk of developing bipolar disorder. One possibility is that serious disorders of mood such as bipolar disorder are the price that human beings have had to pay for more adaptive traits such as intelligence, creativity and verbal proficiency.”

The debate on apparent links between creativity and bipolar disorder has long raged in scientific circles, with many geniuses struggling with mental illnesses. Beethoven was one such highly creative individual, whose fits of mania were well known in his circle of friends. When he was on a high, he could compose numerous works at once. But many of his most celebrated works were also written during his down periods. During the early part of 1813, he went through such a depressive period that he stopped caring about his appearance, and would fly into rages during dinner parties.

Others like Leo Tolstoy suffered from depression, while Leonardo Da Vinci was possibly high functioning on the autism spectrum. One of the most interesting examples is that of Newton, who suffered from a variety of mental illnesses including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He had huge ups and downs in his moods, combined with psychotic tendencies. He also had a tendency to write letters filled with mad delusions, which some medical historians feel strongly indicates schizophrenia. And yet, these did not stop him from inventing calculus, explaining gravity, and building telescopes — among his other scientific achievements.

Perhaps in growing into creative geniuses, the minds are unconsciously so pushed to enhance performance that some amount of “normalcy” has to be sacrificed. Or perhaps, the reason that people are able to evolve into geniuses is that their brain’s functioning is far less towards the side of “normalcy” and ordinariness, and that is why it produces extraordinary works. In fact, geniuses perhaps are those who are temperamentally inclined to deviate from the ‘norm’ and perhaps their brains evolve in a manner that allows them to see and experience something beyond reality. And that, perhaps, is how they are able to change the experience of reality for the rest of the world.

Zehra Naqvi