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Depression Art: The Link Between Depression And Creativity

Art therapy is the practice of using creative techniques to treat psychological illnesses and improve mental wellness. The method of art therapy is based on the notion that artistic expression can promote recovery and mental health. Keep reading to learn more about art therapy and depression art.


By We Level Up FL Treatment Center | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: April 10, 2023

Depression Art: Art Therapy

Depression Anxiety Art: The labels “tortured artist” and “crazy artist” were coined due to the widespread belief that creativity and mental illness, such as sadness, go hand in hand. But does this notion have any reality, or is it merely a stereotype?

Depressive Art: This view is supported by the work of artists like the painter Vincent van Gogh, who famously hacked off his ear before killing himself in 1890, and the writer Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963. Both artists wrote about their mental illnesses.

Depression Art With Deep Meanings

In a letter to his brother Theo in 1888, Van Gogh provided these details: “I struggle to articulate exactly what’s wrong with me. Sometimes I experience severe anxiety attacks that seem to have no reason, or I experience mental exhaustion and emptiness. I occasionally get spells of depression and dreadful regret.

In her semi-autobiographical novel “The Bell Jar,” published in 1963, Plath discussed her mental illness and described herself as neurotic, unhappy, and suicidal. I didn’t know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anyone spoke to me or looked at me too closely, tears would come out of my eyes, sobs would fly out of my mouth, and I’d cry for a week, she wrote in the book.

Van Gogh and Plath were just two of many talented people who endured hardship. Additionally rumored to have experienced depression were Edvard Munch, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Frida Kahlo.

Researchers have tried to determine whether there is a demonstrable connection between mental problems and artistic skill because of the supposed existence of tortured artists, but the findings have mainly been inconclusive.

According to reports, some artists are more prone to mental illnesses than the general population. In contrast, others are less likely to experience mood disorders and psychological issues than non-creatives. Additionally, some mood disorders seem more strongly associated with creativity than others.

Art As Therapy: Mood Disorders and Artistic AbilityDepression In Art

A study titled “Creativity and Mood Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” was published in the Perspective on Psychological Science journal in 2017. The study examined whether mood disorders lead to creativity, if creativity leads to mood disorders, or whether an unknown factor causes mood disorders and creativity.

Christa L. Taylor, a researcher at the State University of New York in Albany, discovered that bipolar disorder, marked by manic and depressive episodes, was frequently linked to creativity. Contrarily, persistent depressive disorder (PDD), also known as dysthymia or low-grade depression, was unrelated to creativity.

Compared to major depressive disorder (MDD), PDD symptoms are less severe but often linger longer—up to five years on average. However, evidence indicates that folks with MDD are typically more creative than those with mild depression.

Although bipolar disorder and serious depression are linked to creativity, there is no proof having a mood disorder makes someone more talented in the arts.

Instead, the frenetic and high-pressure lifestyles of many artists may cause depression symptoms since such people frequently face demanding deadlines, high standards, harsh criticism, and extensive travel.

Depressed Art: Creativity and Mood DisordersDepression Vent Art

According to Taylor, “a number of symptoms of (hypo)manic episodes are also typical of intensive creative activity, such as ideational fluency and reduced need for food and sleep, and may mimic characteristics of flow, such as intense and concentrated concentration, distorted perception of time, etc.

Studies that use diagnostic standards to identify mood disorders in creative people risk confusing the symptoms of those disorders with the act of being creative.

Taylor’s evaluation ultimately left readers with more questions than it did answers. She said that her research should serve as a roadmap for future studies rather than being a conclusive study. Because of this, she said, asking “whether creativity is related to mood disorder is too vague to produce useful responses and may lead to erroneous or overgeneralized findings.”

Furthermore, earlier research did not ask more focused questions, which led to a “vague maybe” rather than an unequivocal “yes” to that issue. Nevertheless, a sizable study before Taylor’s assessment also suggests a connection between psychiatric illnesses and creativity.

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Depression Fact Sheet

Depression Overview

Depression is a group of illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder connected to mood elevation or depression.


Types of Depression

Clinical Depression: A mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.

Persistent depressive disorder: A mild but long-term form of depression.

Bipolar disorder: A disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.

Bipolar II disorder:  A type of bipolar disorder characterized by depressive and hypomanic episodes.

Postpartum depression: Depression that occurs after childbirth.

Depression Treatments

  • Support group: A place where those pursuing the same disease or objective, such as weight loss or depression, can receive counseling and exchange experiences.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: A conversation treatment that aims to change the negative attitudes, actions, and feelings connected to psychiatric discomfort.
  • Counseling psychology: A subfield of psychology that handles issues with the self that are connected to work, school, family, and social life.
  • Anger management: To reduce destructive emotional outbursts, practice mindfulness, coping skills, and trigger avoidance.
  • Psychoeducation: Mental health education that also helps individuals feel supported, validated, and empowered
  • Family therapy: psychological counseling that improves family communication and conflict resolution.

Depression Statistics

One of the most prevalent mental diseases in the US is major depression. Some people with serious depression may experience substantial impairments that impede their capacity to engage in meaningful life activities.


21 million

An estimated 21.0 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 8.4% of all U.S. adults.

Source: National Institute on Mental Health

10.5%

The prevalence of major depressive episodes was higher among adult females (10.5%) than males (6.2%).

Source: National Institute on Mental Health

17.0%

The prevalence of adults with a major depressive episode was highest among individuals aged 18-25 (17.0%).

Source: National Institute of Mental Health


Expressive Arts Therapy: The Benefits of Art on Mental Health (Art And Depression)

According to studies, writing about upsetting previous experiences can even momentarily strengthen one's immune system.
According to studies, writing about upsetting previous experiences can even momentarily strengthen one’s immune system.

The Benefits of Art Therapy ProgramsArt Therapy For Anxiety and Depression

On the other hand, persons in mental anguish can benefit from creative outlets, and art therapy is becoming more and more common among trauma victims. According to studies, writing about upsetting previous experiences can even momentarily strengthen one’s immune system.

People with mental problems may naturally turn to art to help them manage or heal since creativity may be therapeutic. Taylor also suggests that the disorderly behavior of artists is a result of the nature of creation.

What Is Art Therapy? Art For Depression and Other Disorders (Art Depression)

Art therapy is the practice of using creative techniques to treat psychological illnesses and improve mental wellness. The practice of art therapy is based on the notion that artistic expression can promote recovery and mental health.

People have relied on the arts for self-expression, communication, and healing for thousands of years. But it wasn’t until the 1940s that art therapy began to evolve into a formalized program.

People with mental illness frequently used drawings and other artistic works to express themselves, encouraging many doctors to consider using art as a therapeutic technique. Since then, art has become a significant component of the therapeutic community and is utilized in several evaluation and treatment methods.

Types of Art Therapy For Depression (Art Therapy Certification)

Art therapy is not the only creative art used to treat mental illness. Other types of creative therapies include:

  • Dance therapy.
  • Drama therapy.
  • Expressive therapy.
  • Music therapy.
  • Writing therapy.

Art Therapy Activities For Anxiety: Art Therapy Ideas & Techniques

The purpose of art therapy is to use the creative process to support individuals as they explore their self-expression and discover new avenues for self-understanding and coping mechanisms.

People can explore their emotions, grow in self-awareness, learn to manage stress, increase their self-esteem, and improve their social skills by making or appreciating art.

Among the methods applied in art therapy are:

  • Collage.
  • Coloring.
  • Doodling and scribbling.
  • Drawing.
  • Finger painting.
  • Painting.
  • Photography.
  • Sculpting.
  • Working with clay.

Clients may evaluate their work and the emotions it evokes as they develop it. People can look for themes and conflicts influencing their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors by studying the themes and conflicts in their art.

Ryan Zofay forming a circle and hugging friends.

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What Art Therapy Can Help With

A variety of mental diseases and psychological suffering can be treated through art therapy. It may frequently be used with other psychotherapy methods like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or group therapy.

The following are a few conditions that art therapy may be used to treat:

Benefits of Art TherapyAnxiety Depression Art

No of your level of artistic ability or experience, a 2016 study in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association found that engaging in creative activities for less than an hour can lower stress and improve mental health.

With clients ranging from young children to elderly individuals, an art therapist may employ several artistic techniques, such as collage, painting, sculpting, and drawing.

The ability to express themselves creatively can be helpful for clients who have dealt with psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, domestic violence, and emotional trauma.

The following are some scenarios where art therapy might be used:

  • Adults experiencing severe stress.
  • Children experiencing behavioral or social problems at school or home.
  • Children or adults who have experienced a traumatic event.
  • Children with learning disabilities.
  • Individuals living with a brain injury.
  • People undergoing mental health problems.

Effectiveness of Depression Mental Health Art

While research suggests that art therapy may be helpful, some results on its efficacy are contradictory. Further investigation is required to determine how and when art therapy may be most useful because studies are frequently limited in scope and inconclusive.

  • Art therapy has been shown in trials of traumatized individuals to lessen depressive symptoms and trauma symptoms considerably.
  • According to a review of the efficacy of art therapy, the practice improved the quality of life and reduced the number of psychological symptoms in cancer patients receiving medical treatment.
  • According to one study, art therapy improved self-esteem and decreased depression in elderly residents in nursing homes.

Art Therapy Prompts: Anxiety Art Therapy Worksheets

Art Therapy Activity

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Art Trauma Therapy

A distinctive method of psychotherapy is called Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). The distinguishing feature of ART is that the ART Therapist helps the client choose positive images to replace the negative ones responsible for the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. And it’s finished swiftly, frequently in a single session! The triggers will no longer exist once the negative images have been swapped out for positive ones. The frequent intrusive thoughts and nightmares will stop.

ART is also unusual in combining tried-and-true therapies like Gestalt, Psychodynamic Therapy, and Guided Imagery with the huge power of eye movements to enable voluntary changes in the client’s thinking. The eye movements included in the ART protocol, along with other ART improvements, speed up and improve the effectiveness of these treatments.

A distinctive method of psychotherapy is called Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART).
A distinctive method of psychotherapy is called Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART).

In addition to Post Traumatic Stress, these therapies can effectively treat other mental health issues when paired with ART’s eye movements and other advancements. OCD, eating disorders, generalized anxiety, and generalized depressive disorders are among the conditions that ART can treat. ART not only addresses the traumas frequently connected to dyslexia but also goes above and above to enhance reading! (A more detailed list of the problems that ART has handled is provided below.)

There is research to support the therapeutic and relaxing effects of eye movements. They have been demonstrated to cause theta waves in the brain. Research has linked theta waves to creativity, intuition, and daydreaming. These brain waves are frequently seen while people are in deep meditation.

5 Benefits Of Art Therapy Depression (Art About Depression)

1. Art Therapy Can Aid with Emotional Expression (Anxiety Art Therapy)

Art therapy can be a terrific outlet if you struggle to communicate your emotions. It can be challenging to put your feelings into words, but you can express yourself via art in a natural way. Discussing your art with your therapist or choosing to keep your work to yourself could be beneficial. Art therapy is a fantastic technique to express your emotions in either case.

2. Art Therapy Can Help With Self Discovery (Bipolar Depression Art)

Through art therapy, you might discover things about yourself that you never knew before. As you create artwork and reflect on your work, you might see patterns in your thoughts and emotions. This can be extremely helpful in understanding your depression and what triggers your symptoms.

3. Art Therapy Can Help Reduce Stress

Creating art can be a great way to relax and de-stress. When you’re focused on creating something, it can help take your mind off of your worries and concerns. Art therapy can also help you learn how to manage your stress levels better.

4. Art Therapy Can Lift Your Spirit

The process of making art can lift your spirits. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps control our mood and promote happiness, and studies have shown that art therapy can raise levels of this chemical. Additionally, anxiety and depression symptoms might be lessened with art therapy.

5. Art Therapy Can Help You Connect With Others

You might feel alone and lonely if you’re dealing with depression. You can connect with others going through similar problems through art therapy. This can be helpful in two ways: first, it can make you aware that you’re not struggling alone, and second, it can provide you access to a network of people who can support you and relate to what you’re going through.

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Renowned Artists Who Struggled With Depression (Depression Dark Surreal Art)

Throughout his life, Van Gogh battled bipolar disorder, sadness, and anxiety.
Depressing Art: Throughout his life, Van Gogh battled bipolar disorder, sadness, and anxiety.

Vincent Van Gogh – Art Depicting Depression

One of the most famous painters of all time, this artist is also one of the most well-known individuals who struggle with mental illness. Throughout his life, Van Gogh battled bipolar disorder, sadness, and anxiety. He overcame his mental health issues and produced some of the most famous works of art in history, including At Eternity’s Gate and The Starry Night.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Although this American artist is best renowned for her floral paintings, sadness and anxiety were significant issues for her. “I found I could convey things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way- things I had no words for,” O’Keeffe famously said. Her work is a stunning illustration of the ability of art to express ideas that language cannot.

Frida Kahlo: Depression Arts

The self-portraits this celebrated Mexican artist created frequently showed the sorrow and suffering she had to undergo throughout her life. Polio, spinal damage, and persistent discomfort plagued Kahlo. She used her art to cope with her emotional and physical suffering.

Depression Drawings With Deep Meaning

Here’s a list of different depressing drawings or drawings of depression that might be very graphic and disturbing for some people; please proceed with caution.

Dark Depressing Art (Dark Depression Art): Depression Drawing

Deep Depressing Drawings: Depressing Drawings Easy
Deep Depressing Drawings: Depressing Drawings Easy

Depressed Anime Drawings: Depression Anime Drawing – Depression Art Anime

Depressed Girl Drawing: Drawings About Depression - Abstract Depression Art
Depressed Girl Drawing: Drawings About Depression – Abstract Depression Art

Easy Depressed Drawings: Drawing Depression

Deep Depression Drawings: Sad Depressing Drawings - Major Depressive Disorder Art
Deep Depression Drawings: Sad Depressing Drawings – Major Depressive Disorder Art

Depression Creepy Stuff To Drawing: Depression Deep Emotional Drawings

Broken Depressing Sad Drawings: Mental Health Depression Art & Postpartum Depression Art
Broken Depressing Sad Drawings: Mental Health Depression Art & Postpartum Depression Art

Depressing Sad Drawings Easy (Depression Drawings Easy): Sad Depression Drawings

Depression Sad Drawings Easy - Depression Anger Drawing
Depression Sad Drawings Easy – Depression Anger Drawing

Easy Depressing Drawings: Easy Depression Drawings

Drawing Of Depression: Depressed Drawings Easy - Drawings For Depression
Drawing Of Depression: Depressed Drawings Easy – Drawings For Depression

Depressing Things To Draw (Depression Things To Draw): Depression Drawing IdeasDrawings That Represent Depression

Things To Draw When Depressed - Depression Sad Drawings: Darkness Depression Drawings With Deep Meaning
Things To Draw When Depressed – Depression Sad Drawings: Darkness Depression Drawings With Deep Meaning

How To Draw Depression As A Drawing

Depression Drawing: Sad Depressed Drawings - Depression Mental Illness Drawings
Depression Drawing: Sad Depressed Drawings – Depression Mental Illness Drawings

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We Level Up Dual Diagnosis TreatmentDrawings Depression

The definition of dual diagnosis (also referred to as co-occurring disorders) can differ between institutions. However, it is generally described as the specific treatment of someone diagnosed with a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder simultaneously. Treating dual-diagnosis clients is a critical aspect of our inpatient treatment experience because co-occurring disorders are strongly correlated with instances of substance abuse.

Creating a treatment plan that addresses the physical aspects of withdrawal, the psychological connection with drug use, and managing underlying mental health disorders is part of setting clients up for success.  A thorough mental health analysis identifies possibilities for treatment.  Meeting with mental health counselors and medical care providers means access to behavioral therapy and medication treatment. At our dual diagnosis treatment center, We Level Up can implement the highest quality of care. 

We recognize the fragile complexities of how mental and substance abuse disorders can influence others and sometimes result in a vicious cycle of addiction.  That’s why we offer specialized treatment in dual-diagnosis cases to provide the most excellent chance of true healing and long-lasting recovery.

Accepting that you may be living with a mental illness can be challenging. However, treating the presenting substance abuse case can be magnitudes easier once properly diagnosed and treated. Only a properly trained medical professional can diagnose these underlying conditions.  If you believe you are suffering from a disorder alongside addiction, we urge you to seek a qualified treatment center to begin your journey to recovery. Call We Level Up today.

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