Comedians are more likely to suffer from mental health issues

Published 2014/01/16 by Dr. Dannii Cohen

HartWalliamsComedians may be more prone to conditions similar to bipolar disorder which could be the secret to being funny, the British Journal of Psychiatry has found this because they may be more disposed to “high levels of psychotic personality traits”.

Research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that an “unusual personality structure” with traits similar to bipolar disorder could be the secret to being funny.

The researchers said the belief that creativity is associated with madness has increasingly been researched by psychologists and psychiatrists, yet added: “comedy and humour have been largely neglected”, the Independent reported.

Comedians such as Stephen Fry, Miranda Hart, David Walliams, Spike Milligan, Ruby Wax and Paul Merton have all talked openly about their experiences with mental health problems, the report said.

Gordon Claridge, retired professor of the University of Oxford’s department of experimental psychology who authored the report with undergraduate Victoria Ando, said: “Obviously not all comedians are like this, but the trend does seem these personality traits are more common. It is that idea of the sad clown.”

Those with bipolar disorder can be prone to comedy as it mimics the comic’s ability to combine “ideas or categories of thought to form new and original connections”.

The questionnaire measured four personality aspects: unusual experiences – such as belief in telepathy and paranormal events – difficulty in focusing thoughts or distractibility, an avoidance of intimacy, and a tendency towards impulsive and anti-social behaviour.

The comedians scored particularly high on personality traits such as being unsociable and depressive as well as more extrovert manic-like traits.

The research found stand-up comedians were different from other stage performers such as actors, because they were more introverted. “These personality profiles could explain how each relates to their respective audiences and what motivates them to do so,” it said.

A total of 404 men and 119 women took part in the survey and were recruited from comedy clubs, agencies, associations and societies largely in the UK, US and Australia.

By Keith Perry for Daily Telegraph

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