In this article, we will talk about artist’s block depression. We will get to know about this phenomenon, possible causes for artist’s block depression, some symptoms to notice. We will also come to know about ways to overcome artist’s block depression.
What is Artist’s block depression?
Artist’s block commonly referred to as creative blocks is usually a temporary inability to explore, understand and display one’s creative talents. Those in creative professions, for example, writers, painters, poets, musicians, etc are prone to report about creative blocks.
A mental block is often a temporary state of being but even short-lived blocks can cause deep discomfort for the person. Facing a creative block can affect various aspects of a person’s life including mental health, financial status, family life, and job performance/ security. When it comes to the mental health of the person, they may face periods of deep intense sadness, anger outbursts, confusion, and difficulty in solving their problems which could all snowball into a depression.
Depression may make them feel like the block is meant to last forever and there is no scope of improvement or hope for them to flourish. There could be feelings of helplessness caused because of confusion, guilt for not being able to produce content, anger towards themselves and others because nobody understands their state of mind. This state of mind and mood can severely hamper a person’s sense of self and self-esteem.
Artists use their work as a means of not just earning a livelihood but also for self-expression and reflection. A creative block could even prohibit them from creating things to express what they are feeling as well.
Artists may also be dependent on substances to power through long periods of time to finish a project or they may be even using substances to numb their levels of rationality in order to create content. Substance abuse and addiction can be closely linked to depression as well. Using substances to help them through periods of creative blocks can itself lead to further trouble for the person.
An artist with an existing mental health condition when faced with a creative block may find it even more difficult to cope with their condition.
Major life changes like marriage, divorce, child-birth, loss of a loved one, new job, underappreciation of their talent could all lead to stress and may pose as an obstruction to the person’s internal creative flow.
An artist’s job involves huge amounts of time spent in their own heads- fetching for ideas, facing pressures to think out of the box, and the wish to keep out-doing their own expectations with each project.
One key aspect to bring to our attention when it comes to an artist’s way of thinking is how they tend to ruminate their thoughts a lot. Artistic genius way of thinking by itself involves using their minds a lot to produce outstanding content. To connect small details of everything, to create something meaningful which the common public may not think about, and to keep getting back to thoughts they once had all lead to the churning of thoughts over and over again. It involves thinking about the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Humans find special bonds in shared suffering, more than joy. Art is very often borne out of a person’s pain. The process of self-reflection is not easy. It compels one to sit with their thoughts however disturbing they may be and try to figure out how to make gold out of their pain, what is the purpose of the difficult experience, what could be done differently. This type of thinking, very often, leads to rumination. This can also become a pattern of thinking, especially for artists, because from reflection they create art which is then the source of income or solace for them.
In general, people with depression have negative patterns of ruminative thinking which they find difficult to break. Artists become more exposed or vulnerable to depression because they are subjected to deep self-reflection and ruminative thinking to meet professional demands. For creatives, that depressive state tends to be long-lasting and more intense, because the depth of their thoughts is much and their innate desire to simply keep thinking about it is huge too.
The help of a mental health professional may be required for the person to access their internal creativity efficiently once again and have a clear mindset to work too.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
What does artist’s block depression look like?
The symptoms of depression look different for each individual depending on various factors like personality, coping techniques employed, the intensity of the situational pain, etc.
Some symptoms to notice are:
- Inability to concentrate and pay attention;
- diminished self-esteem and self-confidence;
- feeling guilty and unworthy (even in a mild type of episode);
- pessimistic views of the future;
- thoughts of self-harm or suicide;
- disturbances in sleep;
- poor appetite.
Apart from these signs, ask yourself some questions. Notice how you feel within your body, are there any physical aches and discomforts, how is your gut doing, do you get headaches often now, do you snap out on your friends and relatives without any particular valid reason, are you crying but are confused why, etc.
Reasons why artist’s face a creative block
Creative blocks may occur as a result of:
- Deep grief caused by the death of a loved one or the end of a meaningful relationship
- A lack of financial resources
- Some researches state an issue with the frontal lobe of the brain that causes a creative block
- The depletion of all creative energy after a fully immersed period of creating
- Self-doubt, related to ability and talent
- An overactive negative inner critic
- Fear of imperfection
- The overpowering need for perfection
- A strong need for approval from others/superiors
- Facing repeated rejection for their current work
- Anxiety regarding the outcome of a project or task
- The dependence on alcohol or psychoactive substances to be creative
- The onset of an illness or medical condition
- A sudden loss of meaning and purpose in one’s work
- Negative self-talk
Ways to overcome artist’s block depression
Take a break
When you start creating a lot of content there will come a point of time when you become utterly exhausted. This exhaustion leads to mental fatigue too which could lead to depression. The first thing to do in this situation is to take a step back. Take a break from creating. It is okay to do nothing for a while and just take care of the minimal needs you have to survive.
Channel your creativity to other mediums of art and expression
For example, if you have reached an art block in drawing take a break from your pencil and probably take up a sewing thread and needle. Or if you are a musician facing an art block, try dramatization or scriptwriting instead. Basically, engage yourself and try to learn something new that you have no experience doing.
Have a schedule for daily chores
People with depression have a tough time even getting out of bed and eating food, bathing, going grocery shopping, etc. In such cases, it is good to have a schedule that gives some structure to your day. It becomes easier to follow a routine than have no idea how to push through the day.
Have a schedule for artwork
When you are working for some organization or have projects which are in collaboration with other artists, it might be difficult to take breaks from creating. In such a situation, have a schedule for your work. Artists tend to have loose boundaries about their times of creating content. It will help to have a clear schedule when you will be working and when you won’t. The schedule could be as detailed as you want it to be, clearly stating the dates and hours when you would be working.
Often with depression, in spite of taking efforts, progress may be slow or unnoticeable. Or after feeling good for a while the feelings may reemerge again intensely making one feel like they did not make any progress at all. But, value the little signs of progress as those are the ones most important in the road to recovery. Appreciate every little achievement or appreciation received from someone.
Try self-help techniques but if it does not seem to be helping much seek professional help
Trying to help your own self is great. But often in severe cases of depression, it seems very unrealistic to read tricks out of a self-help book and apply them to your life. When nothing on your own seems to be working it is important to seek professional help.
Seek social support by joining a support group
Feeling understood means a lot to people when they are in a deep pit of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Support groups exist for a number of causes like depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. support groups are beneficial for people because the feeling of belongingness and oneness in suffering boosts confidence in recovery. People can seek inspiration from other fellow creators and survivors of art blocks.
Consult a psychiatrist
A psychiatrist can prescribe medication, for example, antidepressants based on the severity of the condition of the person. Antidepressants are an important part of recovery and going to a professional should not be delayed.
Consulting a counselor/ psychotherapist is essential in mental health issues. This, most often, goes hand in hand with medication based on the severity of depression.
A counselor can bring in newer ways of perception, help the person to emote better while engaging in healthy boundary-making. The counselor can also help the person eradicate irrational thoughts and beliefs that inhibit the person’s well-being. The counselor and the client, together, also work on and construct healthier coping mechanisms against stressors for the client.
Improve lifestyle choices and work towards good health
During the job search, one can easily neglect their health. Health is a concept with many interlinkages and it is also all-encompassing. One can’t expect to have good mental health if their physical health is deteriorating and vice-versa. Exercising, healthy eating habits, good sound sleep, and practicing mindfulness, along with any medication/therapy if need be, can help attain victory over any condition, including depression.
In this article, we talked about artist’s block depression. We got to know about this phenomenon, possible causes for artist’s block depression, some symptoms to notice. We also have come to know about ways to overcome artist’s block depression.
What we recommend for Depression
If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.
Frequently Asked Questions: Artist’s block depression
How does art relieve stress?
Art allows a space with the freedom to express and often the result of creating art the end result is something beautiful. Art allows space for self-reflection and provides insights. It is like a gift of wisdom for you, from you. Some psychologists state that creating art often leads the person to be in a state of flow where one becomes deeply engrossed in an activity. In the state of flow, art creation can be as beneficial as meditation that can improve performance and lower stress levels.