History has given us many creative individuals who have portrayed hints of misery, depression, and text book crazy thoughts. Newton, for example, was a genius, but also tended to have episodes of depression, to a point where he had a mental breakdown.
Studies have discovered that creative people score better on tests related to neuroticism as compared to people who are not employed in creative fields. According to a daydreaming psychologist, Jonathon Smallwood, people who have various negative thoughts are also the people who have a very active medial prefrontal cortex, even if they are just resting. This is the area of the brain which is linked to assessing threats. The simplest conclusion derived from this is that creative minds overuse an internal threat generator in their heads. Creative people could be idly sitting on a chair, lounging alone at home, laying down on their bed, or in any other situation that qualifies as a neutral setting, and their brains will be sending them signals as if they are under threat.
Creating Problems that Don’t Exist
The self-generated thoughts can make people miserable. Neurotic people are prone to processing anxiety and fear which lead to creating problems that don’t exist; it only leads to them being overly stressed. However, on the flip side, self-created thoughts lead to minds being able to delay gratification and practicing good planning skills. Therefore, neurotic people are constantly on the verge of feeling miserable for no reason, but also being badass at coming up with creative solutions for problems, probably solutions that nobody else can think of. The term ‘Mad Genius’ sort of fits here.
Creative people have a default mode network. This is the circuit that becomes activated when these people are not doing anything. The medial prefrontal cortex is part of this system. The problem with this is that it can take over, with the mind dwelling over problems and over thinking. But, this anxiety induced behavior can have its own benefits as well. Usually, these people think about all this so much that they inevitably come up with either a solution, or a way around the whole thing.
Although these patterns and theories persist, there really is no proof of the same mental processes mimicking every creative genius and neurotic person. This is because there is no way to really measure creativity in a lab setting. The few tests that are present are the ones that lay down an object on a table and ask the participants to list all the uses of that object that they can think of. That being said, a lot of popular and globally acclaimed geniuses have reported neurotic thinking in some period of their life.