Trading Creativity for Bipolar Medication

April 26, 2010 Cristina Fender

Does it matter that my creativity has dwindled down to almost nothing now that my bipolar medications have taken over? Should it matter that my essence is now a dull wit? Am I willing to trade a part of my soul for a lot of sanity? Should I have to choose between my bipolar medication and a normal life?

creativespark1I wish I had all the answers. Right now, I’d give up a piece of my soul for a good blog post. The thoughts haven’t been flowing for several weeks now and it irks me to no end. I’ve written for as long as I can remember. I’ve journaled for more than half my life. I never had a moment when there was nothing but blankness, yet here I am. I never pretended to be a good writer, but I always knew that I was a writer nonetheless. And now I feel a little lost. Words are failing to enter the void that has become my head.

But I wouldn’t trade the bipolar medications for a few good journals in my head. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have something to look forward to. I have a life of purpose planned for myself and I wouldn’t trade that for the ability to write. Sanity hasn’t changed who I am inside. Perhaps I just need to look a little deeper, past the vast amount of bipolar medication I’m taking. Perhaps I was merely in a funk and life has given me a little nudge. Perhaps it’s not the medication and only a bit of writer’s block.

Bipolar Disorder and Creativity

So many people with bipolar disorder have the creative streak running through them. I’ve heard tales of their creativity coming to a dead-end when there is too much medication for Bipolar Disorder involved. Many feel that it blocks them and they decide to stop taking bipolar medication. I just can’t see myself doing that. Life has so much more to offer me when I am medicated. My life is fuller. My family gets more of me and I get filled up by each day that I accomplish something great.

Maybe one just has to work a little harder to find that creativity deep inside. I believe that the medication does dull the feelings a bit, but it’s something that will get better in time. I’ve learned that the medication side effects wane a little bit with each passing day. Soon I will be back to normal. I just have to be a little patient.

APA Reference
Fender, C. (2010, April 26). Trading Creativity for Bipolar Medication, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Cristina Fender

January, 24 2022 at 10:35 am

Seriously, if you don't depend on your creativity to survive financially you shouldn't make such a blanket judgement. For someone like me who does depend on it and then finds herself jobless with no other options, it's devastating to sit there feeling better on certain areas, but heading towards being homeless.

September, 25 2020 at 10:12 am

ALL PSYCH MEDS remove creativity.
However, let me say this, if you're just an average everyday creative, nothing remarkable, no awards, no remarkable training, no brilliance, never been called a genius, never been 1st in leading a path and not one of the BiPolar's that actually move society forward (and you rare few know who you are), as history has shown us then please STAY ON YOUR MEDS. For the true creatives however you may consider some serious self-reflection.

August, 5 2019 at 5:23 pm

Hello - please can someone tell me if Olanzapine will take away my creativity

July, 16 2019 at 10:02 pm

I've been on Seroquel for a little over half a year now, and I've only recently noticed that I haven't had a creative thought since I first started my medication. I've been a writer my whole life, writing fiction stories. I was working on one before starting my meds and I haven't thought about it since then. When I do now, the slate is just blank. It's dull. I've tried sitting down and try to think of something, because I always could, my writers block issue was always not knowing how to execute my ideas, but that creative streak was always flowing. Now that it's stopped, I don't really know what to do. Writing has always been my life, how I express my mind to the world, and was always something I was passionate about. And yeah, my life is so much better not rapid-cycling all over the place and crying all the time. My boyfriend and I have a great relationship, I didn't end up losing my job and I'm now thriving, and I don't simply ghost my friends. Yeah, my life is better, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to feel like a part of me is now missing. Now matter how hard I try to think of ideas like I used to, I can't, like there's a wall keeping me from being able to access that part of my mind again. And I have considered not refilling my prescription so I can go back to the way things were, but I have to keep telling myself that's not worth it and I prefer how my life is now. So I'm just left in this lost place not knowing what to do, wondering if my creativity will ever come back or if it's gone unless I stop my meds altogether.

July, 17 2019 at 8:48 am

Hi Savanah,
I'm the author of "Breaking Bipolar" here at HealthyPlace and I wanted to respond.
I want you to know that you can be creative on medication. I'm on medication and I write for a living. It is possible.
That said, you may have to talk to your doctor about this issue and maybe alter your treatment if you think it's worth it. You may be able to reduce your Seroquel by a small amount and see a difference and still maintain stability. You may even decide to try a different antipsychotic to see if that works for you.
This all depends on your personal situation, though. You may find it's not worth it to disrupt your current treatment if it's working well for you.
As you said, though, it's _not_ worth stopping treatment. Treatment is saving your life. That doesn't mean that you can't consider altering it with your doctor's help, though.
Good luck.
- Natasha Tracy

February, 15 2019 at 11:58 pm

Lithium that I was on for maybe 5 years destroyed my creativity. It has never returned. Don’t have any motivation to create music or see new places or anything else. Ruined my life. After they put me on the lithium and my son saw the crying alternating with rage, he asked me if I was ever going to be happy again. These drugs truly are the chemical equivalent of the old “ice pick” lobotomies.

November, 14 2017 at 3:56 am

I've been taking a large cocktail of bipolar medications for a while. I found that when I went off my Lithium my creativity and "the idea person" in me returned. But I was still on other bipolar medications, including Seroquel XR and Geodon. Actually, the funny thing is is that since I went off of Geodon I've had writer's block after months of whipping out blog posts left and right. So in my case going off a bipolar medication has curbed my creativity. I don't exactly feel depressed. No. Maybe the autumn season has something to do with it, or the upcoming stress I'll be having. My Seroquel XR dose has gone up to 600 mg, but I'm not quick to blame that.

Suzanne Ramsay
August, 31 2017 at 9:30 am

I have been on lamotrigine and seroquel for over 2 yrs. The good highs are gone and I'm usually right in the middle and a few good days in the mix. My home-based job required a lot of creativity which now there's nothing left. My business is basically dead. I would like to reduce the lamotrigine but it doesn't take much for me to start having dark thoughts. I already feel guilty because I can't work and now the little amount I could earn every month is gone. I hope I'll be able to find something that will brighten my days.

September, 6 2010 at 5:02 am

I too have been dealing with this problem for the past 8 months and I’m beginning to realize that they don’t know exactly what goes on the brain of a Bipolar sufferer and how exactly the medicine they prescribe works; consequently, I don’t count on the meds!. From the genetic point of view, however, it appears that the experience and environmental condition of our parent(s) and the way in which they lived and possibly dealt with it, may give us a clue on how we too can deal with it. And so, I wonder if you (and others) had a close look at the family history and background and, possibly, came up with any idea that can help us all…
I’m also curious, Sara, that when and how old were you when you first experienced the symptoms of BP, and how long after that you had to be hospitalized.
Good luck,

August, 10 2010 at 3:01 am

Oh, forgot to mention. Due to the nighttime anxiety I've been experiencing, today my doctor switched me to Seroquel XR. So far, tonight I haven't felt anxious yet, and I took it almost 2 hours ago. So that's good at least...

August, 10 2010 at 2:43 am

Hi Cristina,
Sorry, just noticed this thread after a few months. I haven't been doing too well.
I've been on all sorts of "mood stabilizers" and they all made me feel crappy. Seroquel is the only one I can tolerate for any length of time, but I don't really feel alive. Yet I felt worse on lithium and valproate, and lamotrigine didn't make me "stable" at all.
At this point, I feel like a lot of this drug stuff is garbage, that there's no such thing as "mood stabilization" but it's all just tranquillizing people and suppressing their motivation and emotions.
I'm trying the natural route now, along with Seroquel. Setraline (Zoloft) hasn't done anything, and I'm weaning off. I don't believe antidepressants "work". At the moment I'm doing an anti-candida program I ordered online, which involves a very specific diet (no sugar, no gluten, no dairy, lots of raw vegetables and homemade vegetable juice, some legumes, a few servings of complex carbs a day, and healthy nuts/seeds/oils), and am about to start some supplements to boost my immune system and help heal my gut, and eventually kill the candida and restore good gut flora. Also, I'm going to get back on an infrared sauna detox program that helped me once. I may also see a local naturopath who works with psychiatric patients, so I can get some testing for nutritional deficiencies, toxins, metabolic problems, etc.
Maybe this stuff won't make me healthy, but already on this diet I do feel more clear-headed and can concentrate better. Still feel blue, uninterested/uncreative when it comes to writing, and am like the only one who doesn't laugh at funny things. Basically, yeah, still anhedonia.
I'm sick of the med-go-round and just want to find a way to stay out of the hospital and still be me and alive. I could try another anti-psychotic, like Geodon or something, but I have a feeling it'll just be like Seroquel, or Risperdal (awful, awful drug for me), or Olanzapine. I don't believe these drugs even make scientific sense - they have no clue what's actually happening in my body.

May, 11 2010 at 3:33 pm

I came across this posting by random today. I've been thinking about posting to a message board or somewhere about my problems, but I relate so much to what you say that I think this might be a place to start.
I, too, have lost creativity, motivation and interests. I used to like writing and go to university. Now my mind is blank a lot, and I feel emotionally unresponsive to many things. I feel like my thoughts are "shallow" and that I can't hold onto complex ideas.
I don't know whether it's my bipolar medication causing this or if it's depression. Two months ago I came out of the hospital for the ninth time in about 8 years, down from a manic episode.
Every time I have had a manic episode, I get placed on an antipsychotic. In my case, the only one that has been tolerable has been Seroquel, though I haven't tried some of the newer atypicals like ziprasidone and aripiprazole. Usually when the dose is high enough, within a few days I come down from the episode. All the grand ideas get suppressed and I feel my motivation and thoughts come to practically a standstill. I have a huge time even making simple decisions - it's like my willpower has been sucked out of me. Along with the grandiosity, I lose the creative motivation.
I have tried switching from Seroquel to valproate and lithium at different times, and I actually felt worse on the mood stabilizers. On valproate I was anguished and had to check myself into a Crisis Stabilization Unit. On lithium I felt even _more_ lethargic than I did now, and _more_ dulled.
My doctors have always said that it's the depression, not the drugs, that is making me feel so empty and disconnected and unmotivated.
I'm now trying an SSRI (sertraline) in addition to the Seroquel (275 mg) I'm on nightly. In the past I've tried Wellbutrin and lamotrigine, but they either weren't helpful or had side effects I couldn't tolerate. So far, the sertraline hasn't made a big enough difference to say my problems are resolved. Maybe a tiny bit more motivation at times, getting out a bit more, and not thinking about dying as much, but I still have major anhedonia, low motivation, lethargy, trouble thinking and remembering, hardly any reactions to things, and no personal or creative spark.
Before I was on psychiatric meds regularly, I had some interests, worked part-time for stretches of 6 to 8 months, and wrote now and then. I had some modest success as a playwright. In between all this I was hospitalized on and off, for mania, and had periods where I was depression and anxious too. Since being medicated regularly (3 or 4 years now) I have not regained my interests or even my sense of self, and I have not been able to work or volunteer for any real length of time. I'm not even interested in regular day-to-day stuff, so it's not like I'm more "functional" now. Basically, since I have very florid mania, I am under good control. Not inappropriate, not bothering anyone, blending into the scenery. At this point I do not feel I could risk going off meds, because I always end up making a fool out of myself, getting into conflict with my family and friends, and having another scary forced hospitalization where I spend all my time trying to contact lawyers about my rights being violated, before the antipsychotic kicks in again and I am subdued.
Sometimes I even start worrying that there is something else wrong with me, with my body or my brain, that by treating my behaviour and giving me the diagnosis the doctors aren't really addressing what's wrong with me, but the doctors are always sure I have bipolar disorder. I don't exactly relate to the "high" and "low" descriptions of the disease, and it's hard to explain why. Is it because when I'm manic I often say "I don't feel up" or "I don't feel like my thoughts are racing", even when it's clear that I have pressured speech? Is it that this lack of feeling and trouble thinking isn't perceived by me as being "down"?
I don't know what to do. I'm on government disability, haven't worked in years despite having two university degrees, and can't even so much as bother to make a meal or clean up most of the time. I sometimes go places and do things, but I feel like a piece of dead wood; music, movies, words in general, don't usually do much of anything for me. Most everything is boring and blah, and I feel my thoughts freeze up all the time. I stay in bed for 11 or 12 hours, but wake up repeatedly through the night anyways. I am lazy as all get-out, feel weak and heavy, and have to force myself to even go for walks or do housework, and often I can't even summon the thoughts or feeling together to motivate myself.
Sorry this is so long, but I hope someone reads it. Maybe you recognize yourself in it somewhere. I hope so.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Cristina Fender
May, 12 2010 at 1:39 am

I didn't have success with Seroquel. It doped me up too much and in fighting it, it caused me great anxiety. I wonder if it's the one causing you problems? It sounds like you need a new medicine to help you.
I wish you luck.

Augusta Wind
May, 3 2010 at 4:27 am

I have bipolar disorder and am a working professional musician. For four of the past six years I struggled with the numbness/greyness/apathy of bipolar meds. I have battled the tremors which made me think that my only solution might be to change careers. Luckily my therapist (NOT my "happy-pill doc") suggested to me that medication was to return my life to me, Not to take it away! I changed doctors and found a psychopharm who respected my need to work at my chosen career and together we have found a medication combination that has stabilized me without the debilitating side effects. This is a long and painful process but worth hanging in. I have now known recovery and the promise it offers. It may not last forever but for today, I am blessed with a symptom free life.
Best of luck to you and all of us!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 16 2019 at 5:24 pm

Hey what combination of medicine did you use?

April, 28 2010 at 11:51 am

I know a famous musician as such,and there are quite a few,as well, celebrities and a well know entrepreneur. Provigil seems to have some antidepressants qualities for us on the anhedonia side of this and lack of motivation.I have suffered as such and at one point laid down for 9 mos. with no desire for anything on the downside v .

April, 28 2010 at 10:00 am

i am a recovered alcohol and drug addict and i was off and on pysch drugs and therapy for 25 yrs. i would fight the choice of a label of mentally unstable and in need of help. well my friend my advice is to please give meds and therapy a good chance to see an effect. then keep giving them a chance, then keep doing therapy and meds still. i truly beleive that we ( the mental diagnost patients) are not the minority in the world. i have givin myself a fight to stay sober and stay on my meds with therapy and i am finally seeing that creative light again. i was just using it in the wrong places. so now instead of 110% spent creative measures at work, i am using it at home on my plant nursery. so just look around or right in front of you a little harder, you have it you just need to keep looking. how can you lose what you were born with. creativity is something you either have or you dont. good luck and dont stop looking.

April, 28 2010 at 7:43 am

i am moved that all of you chose to share your thoughts on this issue! i am a writer, and i too have felt my creativity go out the door, due to meds. i hate feeling like this! i want my creativity back! that would require going off my meds (lithium, seroquel, abilify and buspar), and i'm not willing to go down that road! been there, done that, no thanks.

April, 28 2010 at 4:42 am

I too have lost creativity. I just don't have any interest in the hobbies or past times that I once enjoyed. It may be that I'm not on the right combinations of meds. But after years of trying I'm beginning to lose hope. I try to approach this change as an opportunity to allow something else to come into my life - something new. Hopefully a new chapter will begin because I don't know how much longer I can stand this one.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Cristina Fender
April, 28 2010 at 12:50 pm

You can't lose hope. A miracle will happen someday and there will be a cure for what ails us. I want to see that day.

April, 26 2010 at 2:11 pm

I have been there, at the point where you choose medication and normality (or to some extent normality as some of the symptoms persist and return) or extreme creativity (for me it was my dancing). And it is a tough choice, but for me I chose a bit of normality.
I miss and I grieved my creativity - and I questioned my choice but ultimatly when I compared the pros and the cons the medication won out because for me unmedicated bipolar life was going to cost me my children and my husband and after that it would have pushed me to homelessness, because my life runs out-of-control when I'm not medicated. With time, months, I have started to yern my dance studio - now I am starting to build up the guts to try dancing again.
If you need to choose medications then I wish you luck - life can be pretty good on meds and hopefully your writters block will ease

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Cristina Fender
April, 27 2010 at 11:27 pm

I agree that I must choose the medications. My children and my husband come first.
But, I will suffer the essence of myself. And, that, I will have to learn to live with.

David Stein
April, 26 2010 at 12:44 pm

When I first started taking medication for my Bipolar Disorder, I feared that I would loose my ability to write. I had read numerous horror stories about people who became fed up with their meds, quit to gain some sort of clarity and then either end up committing suicide or end up in a mental hospital. The greatest example of this is David Foster Wallace. (
Honestly in my case I have yet to see any decrease in my "creative powers." Then again, for the last 4 years I had been abusing alcohol, weed and pain killers (I quit last June), which kept me in a constant haze. So when I finally cleaned myself up and was put onto medication for Bipolar Disorder, the "side-affects" seemed minuscule compared to the ongoing haze I had put myself through. In fact, I have seen an exponential increase in productivity and recently I got myself admitted to a Masters program in Religion.
I guess everyone responds differently to the medications and I hope they balance out for you. Thank you for putting up your thoughts.

April, 26 2010 at 6:18 am

Last night 60 Minutes did a piece about college students using Ritalin or Adderal to heighten their abilities to perform better, and it also posed the question whether this is right or wrong. I am now taking Provigil and it was one of the drugs reviewed. Maybe I'm on the cutting edge? Hmm.
When I read your post about how the medications you take have affected your creativity and looking at the medications and how they work for or against us. You're onto something!
Which medications affect us the most? Is it the anitpsychotics or mood stabilizers? I know that Seroquel has been a heavy hitter in my medication lineup, and I used to blame lithium for dulling my senses and abilities.
Is it related that when I'm manic I feel like I'm in touch with the real essence of things, that my intellectual powers have been increased so much? Is it heady narcissism and driven by the other side of my psyche that has said I can't for so many years?
For me I think you made a good point in saying that we do respond and experience side effects but they pass in time. I like thinking both you and I will be "back to normal."
When "normal" hits, I wonder if I'll know?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Cristina Fender
April, 27 2010 at 11:43 pm

Medications can affect us in all kinds of ways. I think it's the mood stabilizers that are stifling our creative juices. But, a bipolar, can't really function well without it. I don't really accredit my narcissism when I'm manic, because I haven't been manic in a while.
I hope that it will pass, like mood swings, and I'll be back to normal. I think I'll know when normal hits!

April, 26 2010 at 5:35 am

I think this is one of my husband's greatest concerns - that he'll be losing his creativity if he's more medicated (he's taking medication now).
May I ask what medication you're taking?
I wish my husband could see that he could have a fuller, more meaningful life if he found the right med-mix.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Cristina Fender
April, 27 2010 at 11:46 pm

I'm taking Lithium and Geodon. But, keep in mind that everything works differently for everyone.

April, 26 2010 at 3:55 am

I hope it does return for you. I've been a graphic designer for 10 years. Since I was diagnosed and started on Lamictal, I definitely "feel" less creative. It's been more than 2 years now. I don't feel less passionate about life, in general. I just don't enjoy art and design anymore as something I want to do 40 hours every single week from now until I'm 65. I just don't "care" about it anymore.
I truly do hope you keep/regain your spark.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Cristina Fender
April, 27 2010 at 5:54 am

I hope I regain my spark, too. Only time will tell.

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