Like millions of other people around the globe, we at Fairwinds Treatment Center are still reeling from the tragic death of Oscar-award winning actor and brilliant comedian Robin Williams. Williams reportedly suffered from severe clinical depression and was very open about his past struggles with addiction to alcohol and cocaine, underscoring the strong connection between mental illness and substance abuse that Fairwinds has spent the last 25 years addressing.
However, is there also a third factor at play in the story of Williams' life and death? Could there actually be a link between depression, addiction and creativity? In the wake of the beloved performer's apparent suicide, many are arguing that the answer to that question is 'yes,' and indeed, there is scientific data to support the claim. In fact, a recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that comedic talent and mental illness often go hand in hand. The scientists, led by a researcher from the University of Oxford, administered personality tests to 523 British, American and Australian comedians. They discovered that the subjects were more likely than both non-comedian actors and those who don't perform at all to exhibit signs of psychotic personality traits. Some even showed possible indications of manic depressive disorder.
"Being creative – writing, composing, painting and being humorous – might therefore be an outlet, an escape from the pain of depression," the researchers wrote. "The poet and writer Antonin Artaud, who himself experienced serious mental illness, wrote, 'No one has ever written, painted or sculpted, modeled, built or invented except literally to get out of hell.'"
Williams' passing also reminds us of the deaths of other talented comedians, such as Chris Farley, John Belushi and Greg Giraldo, all of whom died from drug overdoses. Some experts believe that such performers who may struggle with mental illness use both substance abuse and humor to escape their dark feelings and thoughts and relate to the people around them.
"They often wear what we call 'the mask of depression,' which helps them put on a more acceptable face to the world," clinical psychologist Deborah Serani told ABC News. "But behind that mask there is a terrible struggle going on. There is a stigma about depression and oftentimes the laughter distracts from feelings of weakness."
Here at Fairwinds Treatment Center, we often see firsthand how some of the world's most sensitive, creative and talented people suffer terribly from addiction and mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. These struggles ultimately end up taking an enormous toll on relationships, quality of life and creative productivity. However, too often addiction specialists do not acknowledge the possible existence of undiagnosed psychological, mental or emotional problems that may have worsened or even caused a chemical dependency. That's why we employ our unique dual diagnosis methodology, which uses a personalized combination of clinical treatment and therapeutic counseling to promote lasting recovery in each and every patient. Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef has been successfully using this two-pronged approach since he founded Fairwinds Treatment Center in 1989.
If you or your loved one can relate to the struggles of creative and talented, but troubled, individuals like Williams, there is no better place for you to find peace, healing and wellness than at Fairwinds Treatment Center in Clearwater, Florida.