Schizophrenia is the most debilitating form of a mental disorder that exists on a sort of spectrum, the least potent version of which can result in a uniquely beautiful mind. Schizophrenia has a significant genetic component; when relatives of those suffering from schizophrenia inherit some but not all relevant genes, they are classified as having this lesser form of schizophrenia, which is called schizotypy. Individuals can have low and high levels of schizotypy (depending on the proportion of relevant genes inherited), but no one with schizotypy suffers the debilitating hallucinations associated with schizophrenia. General symptoms include extreme attention to detail, and difficulty ignoring extraneous details. People with schizotypy may exhibit strange behavior or beliefs as well.
So where does “beautiful” fit into all of this? Well, research shows that schizotypy is strongly associated with artistic abilities; the higher the level of schizotypy, the more creative an individual tends to be. Scott Kaufman, a psychologist and writer for Scientific American, states:
“It seems that the key to creative cognition is opening up the flood gates and letting in as much information as possible…because you never know: sometimes the most bizarre associations can turn into the most productively creative ideas.”
I think the phenomenon of schizotypy can teach us a lot. You may notice that I used the word “disorder” in the beginning of this post, in describing schizophrenia. This word is troubling to me, because it has an extremely negative connotation. The word itself implies that there is something inherently wrong in any given bodily or mental structure. Of course there are drawbacks to every set of unusual symptoms we call a “disorder,” but there are benefits in those packages as well.
For example, people with Down’s syndrome are highly emotionally intelligent, unfailingly kind (something we could all learn from here in the Northeast), and are often passionate performers, whether in acting, public speaking, or any other form. Those who are autistic are often very gifted with numbers, and are strong visual learners whose insightful visions can and have illuminated many previously obscure elements of life on Earth.
It is certainly difficult to see past the drawbacks of “disorders,” but it is important to remember that every single person alive today has a range of problems and a set of activities they have difficulty completing. The only difference is that a person with a “disorder” is able to trace his or her problems back to a specific point in the brain, genes, or body.
The reason I find schizotypy so beautiful is that it isolates a group of positive elements of schizophrenia; when these elements are found in an individual, they shine through as the brightest part of that person’s being. If such a horrific and debilitating mental state as schizophrenia can come with such strong positive qualities, many other “disorders” must as well.
Next time you come across someone with a different set of abilities from yourself, try to look past the drawbacks to uncover the talents that individual holds. What you find may surprise you.
**If anyone would like to read more about the link between mental disorders and creative genius, read this article.