The Psychosis Must Go On


Comedians score high on scales of psychotic traits, according to research published today in British Journal of Psychiatry. “The creative elements needed to produce humor are strikingly similar to those characterizing the cognitive style of people with psychosis – both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” said one author. “Manic thinking – which is common in people with bipolar disorder – may help people combine ideas to form new, original and humorous connections.”

Abstract →

Ando, V., Claridge, G.; Psychotic Traits in Comedians. British Journal of Psychiatry. Online January 16, 2014. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.113.134569

Of further interest:
Comedians have ‘high levels of psychotic traits’ (BBC)
If psychosis underpins comedy, that doesn’t mean it’s in the genes (The Guardian)
So comedians are prone to psychosis? Comedy is more complex than that (The Guardian)
Successful comedians display symptoms of psychosis, study says (The Guardian)

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Actually I think even mainstream medicine realizes laughter is massively healing. Lowers blood pressure, reduces pain and the whole nine yards. Certainly, the observation that comedy is a way to deal with pain is centuries old … Trouble is, you can’t patent it and charge $500 per month.

    What if, instead of concluding that “comedians are likely to be mentally ill” they acknowledged that most “psychotic” styles of thought are at least close cousins of highly creative and adaptive styles of thought? Things our civilization actually needs, in some form?

    Loose associations and racing thoughts … where would we be without those? Dead, most likely, or still hanging out in caves living the Nasty, Brutish and Short Life.

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  2. This supports the fairly obvious notion that different personality traits have different social survival value and that we need a range of such personalities for a successful society and a successful species. The problem is more that creativity and “loose associations” are less accepted and more criticized in our society than any time in the history of the world. Drones aren’t allowed to be creative. So we pathologize divergent thinking and drug our most creative folks into submission. And some escape by becoming writers or comedians. Lucky for them!

    —- Steve

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