Genius or Psychosis


  • Author Dr. Bruce Wilson
  • Published April 25, 2021
  • Word count 455

Genius or Psychosis

Bruce Wilson, PhD

Our minds are a potential gateway to a plethora of creativity, innovation, and invention. Creative thought has always been purveyed as the ability to see something in a way that may not appear to be obvious: “thinking outside the box”. The mind is connecting concepts that are not perceived by most to be connected. Creativity at its highest level is sometimes labelled genius.


What is genius? Genius has been described as brilliant, exceptional, highly intellectual, a mastermind, or Einsteinian. Historically, we have observed creative genius in the arts, science, mathematics, philosophy, and more. Throughout time we have witnessed the influence of the creative genius. The genius brain will see, hear, believe, and perceive what is beyond the capacity of the rest of us. Some people believe that genius and psychosis are somehow closely related. That maybe the genius and all their talents are just a knife’s edge from the psychotic.


What is Psychosis? Psychosis is a condition that affects the way your brain processes information. It causes you to lose touch with reality. You might see, hear, or believe things that aren't real. Notice the similarities of perception between the genius and the psychotic. They may be similar without being the same. How can we understand this relationship between genius and psychosis more fully? Perhaps there is a touch of apophenia in both.


What is apophenia? Apophenia occurs when individuals find significance and hidden patterns in nearly everything. These individuals make connections between unrelated concepts. Klaus Conrad (1905-1961) recognized that apophenia can be normal or abnormal. In the abnormal example of apophenia Conrad diagnosed the beginning phases of delusion that might lead someone to be paranoid schizophrenic or psychotic. In the normal range Conrad connected apophenia to a night of merely dreaming during sleep. The similarities between normal and abnormal states of consciousness where apophenia is concerned appear to be apparent. Does this mean that genius and psychosis go together? Not really.

The high degree of similarity between genius and psychosis is contraindicated by the idea that highly creative individuals do not function with high levels of psychopathology. Usually, but not always, mental illness will preclude extremely high levels of functionality.

The high functioning creative genius requires synchronistic processing to reach their penultimate achievements. They differentiate themselves from the dysfunctional through their high levels of achievement. Their works are dissimilar from the norm, they demonstrate the act of being outliers in achievement through the mastery of their actions.

So, genius may look to be related to psychosis on the surface. However, apophenia helps us understand how this is only a surface resemblance. Apophenia helps us understand that under the surface we have to presume otherwise.


Dr. Bruce Wilson is a psychologist in private practice in Geelong, Australia. He enjoys sharing his ramblings with his friends and colleagues.

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