My Thoughts

Creatives and Mental Health

Navajo reservation in Arizona

This may be off the beaten path of photography, but I think it’s really important to address mental health in whatever facet of life you are in. It seems that there is a stigma that creatives are more susceptible to suffering from depression and anxiety. Coupled with a rural isolated lifestyle, it never hurts to keep the lines of communication open on the topic of mental health. This isn’t an article to point out that creative people always struggle, quite the contrary. We can live a very balanced life but can be susceptible for many reasons. I have often found myself wondering why certain people struggle with different things than I do.

I have noticed that many creatives are empathic by nature, meaning the way we navigate this life is by sensing and feeling the world around us. We can often take on those feelings as our own. I asked ChatGTP the reasons creatives can struggle with mental health and this is what it came up with. I would have to say I agree with the answer but acknowledge that this is coming from an AI bot and not a sourced human-written article. On that note, it’s more about the principles and if they resonate rather than finding proof.


“Creative people often face unique challenges that can contribute to mental health struggles. Several factors can explain this phenomenon:

  1. Emotional Intensity: Creative work often involves intense emotional experiences. Artists, writers, musicians, and other creatives frequently delve into deep emotions, both positive and negative, as part of their creative process. 
  2. High Expectations and Perfectionism: Creatives often set high standards for themselves and their work. The pressure to produce original, high-quality work can lead to stress, self-doubt, and feelings of inadequacy if they do not meet their or others’ expectations.
  3. Irregular Work Patterns: Many creative professions lack the structure of a traditional 9-to-5 job. Irregular work hours, financial instability, and the pressure of deadlines can contribute to anxiety and stress. The uncertainty of freelance or project-based work can also lead to financial insecurity, which further exacerbates mental health issues.
  4. Isolation: The creative process often requires solitude and deep focus, which can lead to feelings of isolation. While some solitude is necessary for creativity, too much can result in loneliness and social withdrawal, impacting mental well-being.
  5. Sensitivity to Criticism: Creative work is often subject to public scrutiny and criticism. Negative feedback or rejection can deeply affect creatives, leading to self-esteem issues, anxiety, and depression. The fear of criticism can also stifle creativity and lead to creative blocks.
  6. Personality Traits: Research suggests that certain personality traits common among creative individuals, such as openness to experience, heightened sensitivity, and emotional reactivity, can predispose them to mental health challenges. These traits can make them more susceptible to the highs and lows of the creative process and life in general.
  7. Historical and Societal Factors: There is a historical romanticization of the “tortured artist” trope, which can sometimes lead creatives to believe that suffering is a necessary part of the creative process. This can discourage them from seeking help for their mental health issues.

Understanding these factors highlights the importance of mental health support and resources tailored to the needs of creative individuals. Encouraging a balance between solitude and social interaction, promoting healthy coping mechanisms, and challenging the stigma around mental health in creative professions can help mitigate these challenges.”

 This sounds sad and a little dark for artists in general. But we don’t necessarily encounter all of these. And it doesn’t have to be the norm. Creatives can lead a very stable and fulfilling life. But it helps to know that these obstacles are out there so that we can stay ahead of the curve so to speak. Personally I can feel the emotions of people constantly. It can be a little out there at times and hard to discern what feelings are mine and what are others. But that is what makes me good at what I do. I can tap into the emotions of others to properly represent who they truly are by having a greater understanding of them.

I’m a fan of Tim Ferriss and like to read his newsletter on occasion. This week he shared a link to a TED Talk about a less talked about reason behind Depression and Anxiety. It has to do with the way we are living as a human being with unmet needs. A quote from the talk…

“This is why one of the leading doctors at the United Nations, in their official statement for World Health Day, a couple of years back in 2017, said we need to talk less about chemical imbalances and more about the imbalances in the way we live. Drugs give real relief to some people — they gave relief to me for a while — but precisely because this problem goes deeper than their biology, the solutions need to go much deeper, too.”

“But most of the factors that have been proven to cause depression and anxiety are not in our biology. They are factors in the way we live. And once you understand them, it opens up a very different set of solutions.”

What he talked about is how many countries are now doing something called social prescribing where people come together in a group to accomplish things together. He also talks about the effects that diet can have on depression and anxiety. Check it out and see if it resonates with you. This is no means an answer for serious mental health issues, but it is a great way to beat the isolation blues that we may or may not even be aware of. Society has changed so dramatically and so quickly in the last 20 years that I often feel unsure if I can truly catch my breath. Technology was treated to greater connect people but I feel we are all left feeling quite the opposite. Isolation is more of a factor than ever.

The TedTalk was enlightening and got me thinking about what rural communities used to be, versus what they are now. 

In the book Grain By Grain by Bob Quinn, he talks about the small rural community of Big Sandy that he grew up in in the 60’s. Then, farms and ranches were much smaller than they are now, and the communities were supported by a much larger group of families. Now that economics has changed the face of the agricultural industry, farms and ranches are much larger, leaving communities to struggle or collapse because of the lack of numbers to support these towns. 

It could be that the isolation has left people feeling like they are fending for themselves in an increasingly complicated and tumultuous world.

Opportunities to come together physically are becoming less and less of a trend as we shift to a more digital lifestyle. I believe that Johanna Hari’s Ted Talk can give insight into a different way to alleviate some of those symptoms of depression and anxiety we may all seem to face at one point or another. 

It’s a nice reminder that there is no replacing the feeling of coming together as a community to accomplish a common goal that can lift everyone’s spirits. Small ideas can bring big results if we allow them to snowball and use them to connect with like-minded people wanting to achieve the same goal.

Reaching out rather than pulling back is a practice and not necessarily innate. I constantly have to remind myself that the world is big and full of many people who are also looking to connect, share ideas, and get to know new people.

I encourage you to check out Hari’s TedTalk here and see if you agree.

[Again, I wrote this article to simply build awareness and open a conversation about Mental Health. I am by no means a therapist and have no credentials to diagnose or treat.]

To read more about overcoming anxiety as a photographer on my blog post HERE

Want to know the best camera to buy if you’re a beginner photographer? CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

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