A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Understanding the Fascinating Link Between Anxiety and Creativity

Just as scientific research has found that anxious people tend to be more intelligent, there seems to also be a link between anxiety and being more creative. Psychotherapist Diana Pitaru explained that anxiety is often felt by creative people even if the symptoms vary from one person to another. It’s not uncommon to learn that creative people like artists, singers, actors, and writers struggle with mental health issues such as anxiety.


Painter Vincent van Gogh suffered throughout his life, as he explained in a letter to his brother: “I am unable to describe exactly what is the matter with me. Now and then there are horrible fits of anxiety, apparently without cause, or otherwise a feeling of emptiness and fatigue in the head … at times I have attacks of melancholy and of atrocious remorse.”

Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, who famously painted the “The Scream,” suffered from anxiety and hallucinations throughout his life. In fact, that painting came to him as a vision while he was trembling with anxiety. He wrote in his diary: “My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art.”

Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia stated that music is “something that escapes between frenzies, between anxiety attacks.” Woody Allen and Larry David both capitalized on their neurotic view of the world to hit it big in Hollywood. The list goes on an on, and I imagine you know some people in your own life who fit the description of an anxious artist. Or you may not even realize that they are channeling their nervous energy into artwork.

Throughout history, social scientists have suspected that there may be a link between anxiety and creativity. For a long time, this assumption was based on anecdotes alone. But over the past few decades, a growing body of research suggests that there may be a link between creativity and mental illness.

What the science tells us

One of the first key studies, which found that creative people had an unusually high number of mood disorders, reviewed individuals in creative fields like literature and the arts. Researchers in Sweden’s Karolinska Institute tracked over one million Swedes and their relatives using a registry of psychiatric patients. The patients demonstrated conditions such as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia. They found that people working in creative fields, including dancers, photographers and authors, were eight percent more likely to live with bipolar disorder. Writers alone were 121 percent more likely to suffer from the condition. Researchers also found that people in creative positions were more likely to have relatives with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which shows that there may be a genetic trigger for both creativity and mental illness.

In 1987, Dr. Nancy Andreason of the University of Iowa found that a sample of creative writers had significantly higher levels of bipolar disorder than a control group. She also noted that a writers’ first-degree relatives were more likely to be creative and suffer from mental illness. Then in 1994 a study examined about 60 female writers’ mental health. The results showed that the writers had significantly higher rates of depression, mania, panic attacks, or generalized anxiety compared to the control group. A 2004 survey by psychologist Erika Lauronen in Finland found that of 13 published studies, all but one supported a connection between mental illness and creativity.

More recently, a 2015 study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience found that genetic factors that raise the risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are found more often in people in creative professions. Painters, musicians, writers and dancers were, on average, 25 percent more likely to carry the gene than less creative professionals like farmers, manual laborers, and salespeople. The scientists point out that to be creative people need to think differently, and this may be genetic.

The main reason for the connection between anxiety and creativity is imagination. The dichotomy lies in the fact that the same brain that conjures up inventive paintings, poetry, and music can also get trapped in repetitive thoughts and dreadful worries. According to an expert at Evergray Digital Media, these individuals use their imagination to visualize something before it happens, whether it’s a piece of art or an issue (whether real or made up) that frightens them to cause feelings of great concern and panic. People with both traits also tend to overthink and over-analyze everything, which can make them more anxious and even neurotic at times. Interestingly, dwelling on one’s fears might be the very root of creativity and problem solving.

However, some skeptics still question the direct link between anxiety and creativity. Research tends to be limited because it is difficult to define creativity and to replicate it in the lab. Also, they argue that while a connection may exist between these two traits, one is not necessarily causing the other. There are plenty of people who are exceptionally creative who don’t battle anxiety or other mental health issues.

What does this mean for parents?

So, what should you do if your kids are the anxious creative types? Of course, it is always a good idea to seek professional help so your children can be properly evaluated. If everything checks out and they just tend to have shaky nerves, it may be important to help your children learn how to channel their anxious energy into a creative project or hobby. Once we learn what is actually going on, we can give them the tools to start using their imagination as a way to minimize their anxiety. According to Dennis Palumbo of Psychology Today, some artists are able to channel their anxiety in the right places to their creative benefit. Creativity comes from expression, and some of the most powerful forms of expression result from struggles. “To be truly in the eye of the emotional storm, to create from a state of anxiety, is to surrender any fantasy of perspective. In fact, in the purest sense, it’s the ultimate act of creative surrender from which, out of the crucible of your deepest pain, you might discover a joyful, wonderful surprise.”

Here are some ways to help your children transform their anxiety into creativity:

  • From a young age, offer them a variety of creative art activities at home like painting, drawing, poetry, sculpture, dance, and music to make their imagination come alive.
  • Sign them up for a variety of classes, camps, and other activities in the arts so they can discover where their talents and passions lie.
  • Turn mundane moments into creative ones in the car, at the store, or while waiting in the doctor’s office. For example, play games like making up stories or songs about what they observe around them.
  • Encourage them to keep a journal of their thoughts, ideas, and concerns.
  • Keep an open line of communication so they will talk about what scares them. This will help them be able to turn those fears into something positive.
  •  Teach them to accept their anxiety as part of who they are, and to focus on the positive ways it impacts their life, such as getting their creative juices flowing.
Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

You might also like:

Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

You might also like:

When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

You might also like:


The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.


Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.