If it’s not too late to join the discussion
I can only speak for the contemporary art scene, which is the one I’m part of and not for theatre or other subdomains of the creative field. I see two main directions in the discussion so far.
First, there’s the question of creativity and anxiety being intertwined, and how to identify the moment when this anxiety crosses over to a dangerous zone for the artist; also, if this link is a given, how would we go about trying to keep an artist in the safety zone without hindering the creative dimension. Going back to what has been noted so far, the idea of the artist as troubled soul is rooted in the romantic definition of the artist, which I think has long been overcome within contemporary art (and made room for other sources of angst). Nevertheless, apart from this dated, unhealthy perspective, there might be an actual connection between the artistic predisposition and emotional volatility. I haven’t read any studies on this topic, though I suppose this is a strong area of research and only after making sense of the results we might be able to think of strategies for improvement. These might be seen as issues concerning the psychology of arts, which I’m not at all familiar with.
Then, there is the layer of high (or higher?) anxiety levels within the art world as a result of the pressures of the specific field. Here I’m referring to aspects that could be integrated within the sociology of arts (which I have more understanding of) like rampant competition, status issues (the art world is strongly hierarchical), precarious living/working conditions, high levels of uncertainty (not only of day to day life but the artist’s own sense of identity as an artist), market/ commercialization contamination and so on.
At one point in his article The Curatorial Muse, Michael J. Kowalski writes: “It is acknowledged, though not often discussed in polite company until the third drink, that the arts are defined by the same Darwinian savagery as any another profession. It is also acknowledged that the aspiration of art to beauty and truth is a pious fiction, but in the best possible sense of the word. Finally, and crucially, it’s acknowledged that these two characteristics of art are seriously and permanently at odds with one another”. - (http://www.contempaesthetics.org)
One important idea here is to note that these are not concerning artists only, but art workers in general. It’s difficult for me to say if the levels of anxiety are higher in art that in other professions. A good point was made earlier that these might be found in any other field. My impression is, though, that fields in which creativity is profoundly linked with identity will always make for a more stressful environment. And for those that already identify with the psichological pressures of creativity, this later layer might be just too much to handle.
Just a few more personal notes: in my discussions with artists I found that many drop out from University because they can’t take the pressure. It might be helpful to note that the myth of the emergent artist will bring the issues I identified before as pertaining to the sociology of art very early on in an artist’s life – from the first years of university. This young age, one that is related to learning, experimenting, trial and error, finding one’s path etc., has become a battlefield for launching careers. (My one experience brings this even earlier in life, being a child and a teenager trying to become a professional musician. I am one of those who could not handle the difficulties of a musical career at such an early stage in my life and lacking a good support system, so I quit. At present I work as a passionate art professional - curating, arts management, teaching, cultural PR - and I find the field highly demanding, but I feel I have more resources in myself to work my way through, than I did when I was a young musician.)
Another key point in artists’ lives that my friends who are painters pointed out to me is finishing their studies and trying to make a living through their art and not make compromises. The attention to each decision is overwhelming for most young artists: they need to make a living but most of the times their options put them in a compromising position they know they might not recover from, the art world being so much about reputation management and legitimation. Whenever I think of the contemporary art world I have in my mind the picture of a chess board. One needs to learn the rules of the game by playing, and you only get one round.
The other day I was listening to Sarah Thornton, a sociologist of art who was pointing out that ever since Duchamp, the freedom of the artist to fashion herself as an artist is a demigod position that puts a lot of pressure especially on artists finishing studies, whom are very much aware of the responsibility of designating themselves as artists. Many would not use the word artist, Thornton notes, and when asked what they do, they say “I do work…”
Of course, older age comes with its own anxieties within the arts, namely the obsession with youth…
But to conclude, I’d say that once clarified what aspects you guys are more interested in working with, there would be specific/ specialized ways to enable care and help. It might be that it is not even relevant if the creative field is more prone to anxiety than others, but wanting to reduce these big emotional costs would require a particular approach, one that suits the idiosyncrasies of the field. I’d be very interested to contribute within my own area of knowledge and experience - I say there’s a strong need for open care structures here.