Mental illness is difficult to define. Even in today’s society with the advancements we have made in social awareness, mental illness still seems to be a subject of uncertainty and confusion in the eyes of the general public. This ignorance stems from the lack of concrete answers on how these diseases develop as well as, for the most part, the lack of physical symptoms presented in those with various mental illnesses and disorders. For now, doctors have gathered that these issues come from a combination of several biological, psychological, and physiological factors, including, but not limited to, genetics, psychological trauma, sudden change in location or status, social expectations, or familial complications. Any combination of these stressors can affect a person who is susceptible to mental illness and disorders, potentially causing them to develop from an early age, or through adulthood.
The main category of mental illness I will be focusing on is psychosis, and the underlying conditions that go along with it. Psychosis is a condition that involves a severe mental break with reality, usually involving hallucinations, delusions, and other sensory issues that come about through schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression, or excessive drug use. Within this category, studies have shown that entertainers, such as singers, dancers, actors, and others of the like, scored higher than the general public for psychotic traits, comedians scoring the highest among all of them. The traits in question were as follows: unusual experiences (belief in telepathy and paranormal events), cognitive disorganization (difficulty focusing thoughts), introversive anhedonia (reduced ability to feel social/physical pleasure, including avoidance of intimacy), and impulsive non-conformity (tendency toward impulsive, antisocial behavior). These studies believe that the high scores for these characteristics are the reason these people are able to perform, which also leads the general public to believe that every performer has to be disturbed in some way to be good.
Comedians in general are an interestingly peculiar niche of people, as they are both introverted and extroverted. They are willing to present themselves on stage in front of hundreds, perhaps even thousand of people, yet have trouble socializing and are more often than not withdrawn, interacting only with those they know. While psychosis is a severe disorder, and there is a big difference between having the disorder and showing traits for it, it is proposed that this is what helps comedians form new and interesting material, all the while providing an outlet for the more extroverted side as type of self-medication.
Mental illness can effect anyone, and more often than not can be a scary situation, especially since there is so little information on it as compared to physical illness; but in terms of entertainment, psychotic disorders may be the exact momentum needed to create a great performer. While not everyone suffers, most that do have certainly found ways to transform their problems to their benefit.
“Causes of Mental Illness”. WebMD. February 2014. Web. 26 October 2015.
Stang, Debra. “What Is Psychosis?” WiseGEEK. Ed. J.T. Gale. N.p., 12 Oct. 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.
“Comedians Have ‘high Levels of Psychotic Traits’.” <i>BBC News</i>. N.p., 16 Jan. 2014. Web. 28 Sept. 2015.