Psychologists at King’s College London in the U.K. say they’ve developed a theory that may explain why neuroticism can lead to unhappiness or negativity, but also creativity, in an opinion paper published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences this week.
Neuroticism is characterized by anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy, frustration, jealousy and loneliness. Researchers suggest that the part of the brain known to create these thoughts is also a culprit for imagination-related thought.
In other words, the greater your over-thinking and worrying tendencies, the more active your imagination or creativity may be. However, the over-thinkers and worriers in the world who are also neurotic are also more likely to experience a psychiatric disorder in their lifetime.
“We’re still a long way off from fully explaining neuroticism, and we’re not offering all of the answers, but we hope that our new theory will help people make sense of their own experiences, and show that although being highly neurotic is by definition unpleasant, it also has creative benefits,” Adam Perkins, a personality researcher at King’s College London, said in a press release. “Hopefully our theory will also stimulate new research as it provides us with a straightforward unifying framework to tie together the creative aspects of neuroticism with its emotional aspects.”