Comedians light up our moods. With their humor and gesture, they take the audience in any emotional state to the state of happiness and euphoria. But, it is strange how comedians are also the people who go through an emotional roller coaster ride and are often prone to mental illness. Robin Williams, Spike Milligan, and Richard Pryor were some of the legends who succumbed to mental illness and death, eventually.
Various studies have been conducted in this regard and they reveal the science behind this unexpected phenomena.
The Strange Link Between Comedians And Mental Illness
There have been studies done on the connection between comedians and mania. Mania is usually a condition characterized by people talking at a faster rate, switching from one topic to another which are absolutely unrelated, laughing, having unrealistic thoughts, and eating and sleeping little.
Upon careful observation, one can make out that comedians do unbelievably similar acts during their show. They talk fast, switch between topics, laugh, and make you think the impossible. Doing this repeatedly, gradually builds maniac traits in them without their notice.
2. Bipolar Disorder And Schizophrenia
A comedian’s talent to amuse people comes from having a unique and unusual personality and displaying characters that are highly psychotic in nature. While maniac thinking (discussed above) is associated with bipolar disorder, thinking out-of-the-box is strongly linked to schizophrenia.
In a study conducted, 404 male and 119 female comedians were made to fill in a short online version of the Oxford-Liverpool Inventory of Feelings and Experiences (O-LIFE). This test is designed to measure psychotic traits in healthy people and measures the following 4 aspects.
- Unusual experiences (belief in telepathy and paranormal events)
- Introvertive Anhedonia (reduced ability to feel social and physical pleasure, including an avoidance of intimacy)
- Cognitive disorganization (distractibility and difficulty in focusing thoughts)
- Extraverted impulsiveness (tendency towards impulsive, antisocial behavior)
The results showed that comedians scored significantly higher on all four types of psychotic personality traits than the general group. They strikingly scored high in both introverted anhedonia and extraverted impulsiveness.1
3. Depression And Anxiety
A recent study showed a greater probability of a comedian having a distressed childhood or a nerve-wracking life event compared to people in other professions. They usually use comedy as a tool to hide their sadness or lift their spirits. It is their own style of facing the demons and coming out strong every time.
However, some comedians revealed how after trying successfully for 9 times, they failed the 10th time in overcoming anxiety and depression; as those thoughts are deeply engraved in their minds.
Owing to the pressure of performing better, handling fame and criticism, and rising above their own standards, many comedians tend to take the path of addiction. Alcohol and drugs give the necessary high when they can no longer handle their thoughts and emotions. These further worsen the situation of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.
Unlike the popular belief that comedians are carefree and fearless, they actually are subjected to various fears. The fear of failure, a not-so-applauding response from the audience, being mundane, and lacking creativity put excessive pressure on them. This again sets the loop of thinking out-of-the-box, pushing them further towards schizophrenic behavior.
While comedy and comedians do so much to our lives, little do we know about their mental health. The key to this is to talk openly and treat mental illness equivalent to other physical illnesses which are freely discussed. As not all wounds are visible, walking gently into other lives does the trick!
|↑1||Ando, Victoria, Gordon Claridge, and Ken Clark. “Psychotic traits in comedians.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 204, no. 5 (2014): 341-345.|