Hypergraphia: Compulsive Writing

For many, writing is something that just needs to happen. It is as necessary as breathing, or drinking water.

And for some, writing is a compulsion.

Hypergraphia is characterized by “an intense desire to write.” However, the difference between the condition and the state of mind depends on what your brain is doing.

It is suspected that hypergraphia is due to temporal lobe epilepsy and possible chemical changes in the brain. It has been associated with Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and Hypomania.

However, this desire to write does not dictate the style or organization of what the patient will produce. Many patients will write one word over and over again, or just write and write and write to purge themselves of an inexplicable need to do so.

For Alice Flaherty, hypergraphia is a blessing and a curse. In 1998, she delivered stillborn twins- boys that would never grow to be boys. She became manic, writing and writing and writing poetry, work that was long winded and metaphorical.

The worst subsided, but her Bipolar Disorder did not. The miracle is that she was able to pair her Hyopgraphia with her medical genius. (Flaherty has undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard, as well as earning her PhD in Neuroscience at M.I.T.)

“What made me empathic was my depressions. People’s emotions were pounding me in the face. The mania is like wasps under the skin, like my head’s going to explode with ideas. But the depressions help the doctor aspect of me.”

She writes because she has to. She publishes because she can. She revealed in a New York Times article that she writes during manias, edits during depressions, and in between she explores her dualities as both a doctor and a patient.

Through her depressions, Alice Flaherty reaches a deep and intimate understanding with her patients. Through her mania, she produces writing that inspires and informs the world. Through her vigilance in balancing the two, she is inspired from somewhere deep within her brain to continue an exploration of the brain itself.





One thought on “Hypergraphia: Compulsive Writing

  1. Allison Miehl March 5, 2015 / 5:35 pm

    This is fascinating! I’ve always loved writing, but I can’t imagine is being a compulsion. The way Flaherty utilizes her compulsion to connect with her patients and inform the world is also really cool. It sounds like she has really found a way to manage her mental illness through writing and even help others. Thanks for sharing!!


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