Health

Friday 25 July 2014

Comics more likely to have psychotic traits, study finds

Actor Stephen Fry
Actor Stephen Fry

COMEDIANS are no strangers to mental health issues, with stars from Stephen Fry to Ruby Wax talking openly about their suffering. Now a study has found that those working in comedy may be more disposed to "high levels of psychotic personality traits".

An "unusual personality structure" with traits such as those similar to bipolar could be the secret to making people laugh, according to research published today in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

The report used statistical data gathered from more than 500 comedians who completed a specially devised questionnaire.

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

As well as Fry, the report references Spike Milligan, Paul Merton and David Walliams among those who have talked openly about their mental health problems.

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."

Juliette Burton, a stand-up comedian who has tackled her mental health issues on stage, said: "These findings make sense to me. Quite a few I know have experience with mental health issues."

Ms Burton was once sectioned under the mental health act, and she said knows other performers who have suffered depression and had been in rehab. "If you do have issues, then comedy is often the way of getting you through; if you can laugh through the dark times," she said.

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 comedians who participated in the report were recruited from comedy clubs, agencies, associations and societies largely in the UK, US and Australia.

Irish Independent

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