Recent research suggests that the link between creative genius and anxiety is closer than you might think.
I think we all know someone who you'd call a worrier or an overthinker. It seems like they take forever to figure out what they need to do. They might frustrate us, but according to a recent study, people with these traits often have them because they're incredibly developed, creative people.
Researchers at King’s College London found that worriers had a higher level of activity in the part of the brain that controls our perception of threat, meaning that they jumped into panic mode quicker than most.
Because of these key neurological differences, the worriers also had exceptionally active imaginations, which only exacerbates these feelings of threat. In essence, overactive imaginations (an essential trait for creative geniuses) and intense worrying behaviors are not only inextricably linked, but also fuel each other in a never-ending creative cycle of torment and ingenuity.
Dr. Adam Perkins, an expert in Neurobiology of Personality, said: “It occurred to me that if you happen to have a preponderance of negatively hued self-generated thoughts, due to high levels of spontaneous activity in the parts of the medial prefrontal cortex that govern conscious perception of threat and you also have a tendency to switch to panic sooner than average people, due to possessing especially high reactivity in the basolateral nuclei of the amygdale, then that means you can experience intense negative emotions even when there's no threat present. This could mean that for specific neural reasons, high scorers on neuroticism have a highly active imagination, which acts as a built-in threat generator."
'Hopefully our theory will also stimulate new research as it provides us with a straightforward unifying framework to tie together the creative aspects of neuroticism with its emotional aspects.' He added.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense: of course one cannot find a solution without first examining the problem at length. The very process of putting ourselves insidea problem is absolutely necessary to give that lightning bolt moment a chance to strike. Without people worrying about how to get around more quickly the wheel might never have been invented; if Alexander Fleming had not worried about bacterial infections we might still be living in a world without antibiotics; were it not for concerns about unplanned pregnancies the contraceptive pill might still be a twinkle in its inventor’s.
Also, the early human worriers would hunt down much more than they could immediately consume, and then find ways of preserving meat and plants so that they could last the winter. Worrying about such things served as a worst case scenario safety mechanism, and to envision such scenarios you needed to be incredibly creative.
So overthinkers take heart! Next time you are in the full throes of worrying about something, remember that it also has its creative benefits, and who knows, one day your worrying could change the world.