Richard G. Petty, MD

Creativity and Promiscuity

What do Lord Byron, Dylan Thomas and Pablo Picasso have in common? Not only were they all creative, they also had lively and probably exhausting sex lives. British researchers have recently found evidence that this connection may be no coincidence.

Daniel Nettle from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and Helen Clegg of the Open University have spent some years examining the puzzle of schizophrenia. This is without doubt one of the most savage and distressing illness to afflict humanity. There is a heritable component, yet sufferers themselves often find it very hard to maintain relationships, have many physical illnesses and tend to have fewer children themselves. Yet the illness persists, and indeed appears to have become far more common in the middle of the 18th century, roughly coinciding with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The question then is whether some mild forms of the illness may have survival advantage. Theses investigators have been looking at some of the personality traits that may be predictive of schizophrenia. They found high rates of what is known as “Schizotypy” amongst the artists and poets.

The typical features of schizotypal personality disorder are:

1. Unusual experiences, including odd perceptions, magical thinking and sometimes hallucinations

2. Cognitive disorganization

3. Impulsivity

4. Non-conformity with regard to rules and social conventions

5. Often introverted, though some become overly sociable

People with schizotypal personality may develop schizophrenia symptoms if stressed, and they are found more commonly in the families of people with full-blown schizophrenia.

Psychologists have previously found that the creativity of professional artists and poets acts almost like a sexual magnetic, and it has long been thought that creative people are more likely to engage in increased sexual activity, but this research is the first to prove it. The average number of sexual partners for artists and poets was between four and ten, compared with three for non-creative types. Statistics also showed that the average number of sexual partners for both men and women rose in line with an increase in the amount of creative activity.

Links have been made before between bipolar disorder and creativity and also between creativity and schizotypy. An essential feature of creativity is the ability to put together unusual associations and ideas. In the schizotypal person who is creative, this is kept in balance, but in schizophrenia these association can become bizarre. Schizotypy tends to be associated with cognitive activation and sometimes greater sociability.

Apart from art and poetry, it is an open secret in the psychiatric community that several Nobel Prize-winning scientists have schizotypy, at least two have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, including John Nash of Beautiful Mind fame, and several famous Nobel Laureates have first-degree relatives with schizophrenia. The numbers are much higher than in the general population.

Some commentators have suggested that if you want to be lucky in love, perhaps you need to be more creative. We cannot all be a Byron or a Picasso, but I would suggest that injecting a little more creativity into your current relationships and if you are looking for new ones, being more open and creative about how and whom you meet, will likely make encounters more congenial for both of you.

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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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