Why Do So Many Musicians Have Anxiety and Depression?
My experience as a musician and music teacher has lead me to believe that there is a direct link between anxiety and depression and musical creativity.
I'd like to explain what I think that link is.
But first I would like to re-frame our attitude to towards these two mental health issues.
Anxiety and Depression are not bad things. Anxiety is there to keep us out of danger and depression helps us to mentally adjust to when bad things do happen.
So in simple terms anxiety and depression help us deal with bad things.
As a species we have been dealing with bad things for thousands of years. As bad things often kill people it's pretty obvious that bad things have shaped our evolutionary path as a species.
We have evolved to escape and deal with bad things, so therefore our genetic make-up will give us as a species an in built bad things coping strategy.
That in built bad things coping strategy I would like to call creativity.
Creativity solves the problems caused by bad things and also deals with the emotional fall out of bad things.
Our species existed in a hunter gatherer state for hundreds of thousands of years. Then suddenly, around ten thousand years ago humans started solving problems at an alarming rate, Our present state of technological and artistic advancement has been reached in just a few thousand years.
As a species we should all be grateful to the creative individuals who evolved to make this happen. And here is the point, it was individuals that helped our species survive and prosper. It was individuals who had evolved with a more advanced 'bad things' coping strategy that made our world a safer and happier place.
And these individuals passed their problem solving skills down their generations. It's highly likely that creative types are attracted to other creative types, thus strengthening the collective 'creative gene'. So in our present society there will be lots of individuals walking round with the 'creative gene'.
They have worked out how to feed us, keep us healthy, release huge amounts of energy from the Earth. They have turned the natural elements and compounds of the Earth into ipads and Pot Noodles. They have created laws, and nations, worked out what stars are made of and why they exist. They have made us laugh and cry and perhaps most importantly, created a world in which the things we do in between the bits we do to stay alive, are actually life enhancing.
(let's give them all a round of applause)
These creative types need problems but in the world they have created (for those whose lives are are not threatened by bad things) there are now a lot less problems to solve.
So what happens to all these evolved problem solvers?
They get to work anyway, and they start working on themselves and their world around them. They become self loathing, society hating, anxiety riddled depressives that see problems everywhere but most particularly in themselves.
You see, creatives are emotional and technological problem solvers. They need problems to exist. Anxiety and depression are just the flip side to creativity.
The best remedy for anxiety and depression is Creativity!
But often in their current state, the creative's self loathing stops this from working (but that is a post for another day)
I believe our society needs to recognise anxiety and depression as positive attributes, and see them as the symptoms of the creative individual, and these individuals need to be identified, supported and trained in science, technology and Art! (And here lies the great fault with the current STEM approach in the UK education system).
It is only through this method will we truly safegaurd our species' future against further bad things.