Is Intelligence Linked to Mental Illness?

Abe Lincoln

Many famous people have been known to have mental illnesses ranging from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. According to Odyssey Online, several key historical figures have been known to have a mental illness:

  • Michelangelo, artist, (1475 – 1564) had obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Isaac Newton, explained gravity and the Laws of Motion, (1643 – 1727) had bipolar disorder
  • Beethoven, composer, (1770 – 1827) had bipolar disorder
  • Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, (1809 – 1865) had depression and anxiety attacks
  • Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s wife, (1818 – 1882), had schizophrenia

With several key figures in history, and even more, who had a mental illness and could lead successful lives, the question remains: is intelligence linked to mental illness? Researchers from Sweden found in one study that straight-A students were four times more likely to develop bipolar disorder. The study was later extended in 2012 to more than 1 million participants, and found a link between artists, authors, and scientists and the propensity to develop a mental illness. The mental illnesses exceeded bipolar disorder, however, from drug abuse to anorexia nervosa, to depression. It is said that mental illness sparks more creativity and productive thinking.

It seems that simply having a mental illness isn’t a predictor for intelligibility, but rather combining an individual’s creativity, intelligence, energy, and curiosity with a mental illness opens the possibility for even more creative endeavors and accomplishments. Shelley Carson, a Harvard Psychologist, describes it as this “Getting swamped by new information that you have difficulty handling may predispose you to a mental disorder, but if you have high intelligence and a good working memory, you are more likely to be able to combine bits of new information in creative ways.” In this sense, it’s the concept of the combining of forces that make a person extremely artistic, musical, scientific, and more.




If you have a mental illness and are ready to seek treatment to help cope with your symptoms, call us today at 888-958-7511. Avalon Malibu is a California state-licensed treatment center with licensed, experienced professionals who truly care about your well-being. We will help you to restore your mind, body, and spirit in our home-like center. Make the decision to take control of your symptoms and your life. Call us for a consultation.

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