Official Review: The Creative Advantages of Schizophrenia

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Brendan Donaghy
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Official Review: The Creative Advantages of Schizophrenia

Post by Brendan Donaghy » 07 Oct 2019, 03:51

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "The Creative Advantages of Schizophrenia" by Paul Kiritsis.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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British poet John Dryden wrote the following lines in the seventeenth century: ‘Great wits are sure to madness near allied, and thin partitions do their bounds divide'. He was commenting on a phenomenon which had been recognized centuries before by Aristotle, who wondered why ‘melancholic’ individuals were so often involved in the expressive arts. In The Creative Advantages of Schizophrenia, author and clinical psychologist Paul Kiritsis explores this relationship between creativity and psychopathology, between The Muse and the Mad Hatter, to quote the book’s subtitle.

At one point, Kiritsis lists some of the eminent people who have suffered from schizophrenia. The list includes renowned scientists Descartes, Kepler, and Newton. Philosophers Kant and Swedenborg make the list, as do Leonardo da Vinci, writer Lewis Carroll and warrior Joan of Arc. In his doctoral dissertation, the author set out to corroborate the link between creativity and schizophrenia which had been postulated by other academics and clinicians. Chapter six details the results of his study. The other six chapters in this short book look at some of the wider issues thrown up by his work: how schizophrenia and schizophrenics are viewed by society; how the condition is treated; how creativity can be measured accurately; the clinical and social implications of the book’s conclusions. The book also contains over twenty art illustrations.

Given that the roots of this book are to be found in a doctoral dissertation, it is no surprise that this is, first and foremost, an academic book. There are ten pages of bibliography and every statement, claim, and assertion made by the author in the text is meticulously referenced. There are also details of clinical trials, discussions of the efficacy of various drug treatments, and references to different parts of the brain and its various functions.

While this book may not be targeted at a mainstream audience, there is still much that the layperson can enjoy. The author is also a poet and short-story writer. He deploys some of these skills to good effect, in that the non-technical side of this book is very readable. He highlights facts that most people will find interesting. For example, he tackles some of the myths that surround schizophrenia, particularly the fear that schizophrenia sufferers are all capable of psychotic violence. He points out that schizophrenics are much more likely to harm themselves than to harm other people.

I also appreciated his argument in favor of a more holistic approach to the treatment of mental health disorders. His view is that society has adopted a reductive, biomedical approach to schizophrenia. Drugs used in its treatment often succeed in ameliorating symptoms of the condition, but they do little to stop the downward trajectory of the patient. Additionally, they come with some significant side-effects. Kiritsis argues for recognition that schizophrenia is not simply a disease that can be medicated away. He argues in favor of alternatives, like cognitive behavioral therapy, in both the treatment and prevention of the worst effects of schizophrenia. The author believes that proper treatment of the condition would permit sufferers to retain the advantages of their Muse while keeping the more malign Mad Hatter elements under control.

I’m happy to award this book four out of four stars. It is well-researched and well-edited: I found only two minor errors or typographical mistakes. It is also surprisingly readable, allowing for the fact that it is an academic text. The book will appeal to clinicians and medical students. It may also be something that relatives and friends of schizophrenics might turn to in search of a greater understanding of the condition.

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The Creative Advantages of Schizophrenia
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Post by Letora » 12 Oct 2019, 05:59

Being the grandchild of a paranoid schizophrenic, this book caught my attention. I've always wanted to understand this disease. My grandmother was violent and multiple times harmed other people including my mother. I had little interaction with my grandmother because of this. She ended up permanently incarcerated. Does this book discuss the different types of schizophrenia?
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Post by MsH2k » 12 Oct 2019, 06:41

This is an interesting correlation. It’s good to hear that the information is presented in a readable manner. Thank you for your informative review.

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Post by Rachel Lea » 12 Oct 2019, 09:14

This sounds like a fascinating, well-written, and meticulously researched book. I definitely want to check this one out. Thanks for your review!
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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 12 Oct 2019, 10:37

Letora wrote:
12 Oct 2019, 05:59
Being the grandchild of a paranoid schizophrenic, this book caught my attention. I've always wanted to understand this disease. My grandmother was violent and multiple times harmed other people including my mother. I had little interaction with my grandmother because of this. She ended up permanently incarcerated. Does this book discuss the different types of schizophrenia?
The book certainly looks at the different stages of schizophrenia, together with the different types of symptoms experienced by those with the condition - i.e auditory verbal hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, etc. I don't think there was a separate section on paranoia. I read the book in hard copy form, so unfortunately I can't do a word search to tell you where and in what context it's mentioned.

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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 12 Oct 2019, 10:38

MsH2k wrote:
12 Oct 2019, 06:41
This is an interesting correlation. It’s good to hear that the information is presented in a readable manner. Thank you for your informative review.
Thank you for commenting!

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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 12 Oct 2019, 10:39

Rachel Lea wrote:
12 Oct 2019, 09:14
This sounds like a fascinating, well-written, and meticulously researched book. I definitely want to check this one out. Thanks for your review!
Thank you for taking the time to comment!

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Post by Cecilia_L » 12 Oct 2019, 15:26

I appreciate the author's careful research and meticulous documentation as described in your review, and I also agree with a more holistic approach. Thanks for the recommendation.

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Post by kandscreeley » 12 Oct 2019, 19:24

This one sounds too academic for me. Having said that, I agree that those that are more creative tend to have more mental illness. I always suspected that it was because artistic types feel more deeply than others. I would like to know what the author says, but I don't think I could sift through the academic nature.
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Post by esp1975 » 12 Oct 2019, 20:19

This does sound really interesting. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a really great tool and can be used in so many ways. And given that so many people who suffer from mental disorders choose not to take medication because the side effects do things like rob them of their creativity, I think it's great that this book is exploring other avenues for treatment.

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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 13 Oct 2019, 11:36

Cecilia_L wrote:
12 Oct 2019, 15:26
I appreciate the author's careful research and meticulous documentation as described in your review, and I also agree with a more holistic approach. Thanks for the recommendation.
Thanks for commenting, it's much appreciated!

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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 13 Oct 2019, 11:41

kandscreeley wrote:
12 Oct 2019, 19:24
This one sounds too academic for me. Having said that, I agree that those that are more creative tend to have more mental illness. I always suspected that it was because artistic types feel more deeply than others. I would like to know what the author says, but I don't think I could sift through the academic nature.
I think what he's saying, in a very few words, is that the same parts and processes of the brain responsible for exceptional creativity, can also lead to conditions like schizophrenia under certain conditions. But yeah, it's an academic book, no doubt about it. Many thanks!

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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 13 Oct 2019, 11:45

esp1975 wrote:
12 Oct 2019, 20:19
This does sound really interesting. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a really great tool and can be used in so many ways. And given that so many people who suffer from mental disorders choose not to take medication because the side effects do things like rob them of their creativity, I think it's great that this book is exploring other avenues for treatment.
You're absolutely right, as the author makes the point that many people come off their meds because they feel that they are being drugged up to the point where they can't function. Not a great choice to have to make. Thanks for commenting!

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Post by Bhaskins » 16 Oct 2019, 07:49

This sounds well written and researched. I work as a therapist and wish more people would seek to understand mental health.
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Post by rumik » 16 Oct 2019, 19:35

I do believe cognitive behavioral therapy is a better choice than simply prescribing people medicine and nothing else. This sounds like a really informative book. Thanks for the review!

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