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The 'Troubled' Artist

How Art Can Affect Your Mental Health

Photo by Samantha Hurley from Burst 

Through the years, art has had a tendancy to connect itself to mental health. There is a cliche concept of the 'troubled artist.' Hearing of Van Gogh slicing off his own ear, such stories can stick like glue to the whole profession. In general, there can be assumptions of art linking to mental illness. Though, searching for evidence, there honestly is little to no concrete proof of art being a source mental illness. With that being said, I'd like to address how mental health can be intertwined with art, from my experience.

Art is not a source of mental illness, though it can exacerbate it, or aid in bettering mental health.

The Good

As I seek help from a specialist, one of the largest issues that has come up for me is how to express emotion, especially those which aren't as pretty. As I kept wondering how I seemed to have a better handle on them at a younger age, I came to one large realization, it's because I expressed them through art. (Also, I was an angst ridden teenager who could get away with a lot more). For me, it was largely piano and charcoal.

At times, it can be hard to address how one feels in general. Is it frustration? Stress? Anxiety? What is the actual emotion that is wrecking havoc on your system?

Just scribbling, or hitting those ivories can be a process of addressing an emotion. It becomes therapeutic, allowing to address a feeling and express it without releasing it on those around you. There becomes an avenue where those emotions can just be felt without judgment, or needing to make them bad or good. Emotions are not villains, they are responses.

Beyond just venting, each upward evolutionary step of your art boosts your dopamine (and all that good stuff), to help create more positivity and productivity. It is measurable. One could draw a cat every year, and if they draw enough, they will see a difference each year. That is wonderful for you mental well-being.

Validation for others seeing that work can equally gift you with those positive, natural chemicals. Though it can be dangerous, places like instagram and social media platforms can be great for when you don't have that source in your immediate vicinity.  

Art can be great for helping ride through emotions, and develop healthy habits in self development.

The Bad

Art can be very consuming. And, when you get into a piece, it can take a long time to create. Depending on what fueled that piece, it will let you stew in something a little longer than you should.

Instead of addressing an emotion, and letting it pass through the medium and out of your system, it can easily just fuel is further.

Art is easily used as a crutch for anxieties and other issues. I would personally use it as an excuse to avoid my social anxieties. Having a sketchbook in front of me at all time, and a pencil in hand allowed me to socialize through it, and also ignore because of it. As much as it is admirable to have such a dedication to productivity, social connections are paramount for the health of the human species. Even if it can be very hard, it is necessary. Humans genetically need kinship.

At my worst, my obsession with creating art made my anxiety for leaving the house amplify an obscene amount. It also facilitated an act that appeared productive to excuse my disorder. With pencil in hand, I'd make excuses to draw for a little longer to avoid basic tasks.

Art can easily facilitate and further establish mental illness.

Conclusion 

Art is not innately a source of mental illness. I do strongly believe it can affect mental health, but it tends to just highlight what is already there. For me, being obsessed with all forms of art expression, I believe most people can have their life ameliorated by it. You don't have to be obsessive about it, or even good at it to have it better your mental state. It's about letting yourself feel and express. With the internet creating some swamps of judgment on select opinions, and forcing others to be crowned as 'what you should believe,' art can be a silent and personal expression that can just be your own.

Has art affected your mental health?
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The 'Troubled' Artist
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