The Cure For Art

Simon Lewandowski

The Cure For Art1

As medical professionals, we take for granted that many traits which might be considered to be destructive to the well-being of an individual (and to his or her family and social relations) can be modified through a variety of therapies and treatments. Challenging behaviours at one time attributed to failures of character or some kind of moral weakness are now seen as treatable. Of these Aesthetic Production Compulsion Disorder (APCD) is among those least well-documented in medical literature. The irresponsible socialising of the disorder under the blanket term Art 2 which has allowed those suffering from this condition (both directly and indirectly) to continue their activities unchecked; I would suggest that the principal reason for this has been the vested interests of those who profit from the scandalous exhibition of such behaviour as some kind of popular "entertainment". This is akin to the public exhibition of the insane in 19th century asylums and its control a matter for the civil authorities so outside the scope of this paper, however, we can examine briefly some of the successful treatments which are available.

APCD is a mental disorder most commonly characterized by intrusive, repetitive thoughts resulting in compulsive behaviors and physical and mental acts that the person feels driven to perform, according to rules that must be applied rigidly. In severe cases, it affects a person's ability to function in every-day activities. Sometimes sufferers will indulge in extreme and damaging self-harm3 , rationalising this activity as in some way "creative" or "avant-garde" - a typical strategy for APCD sufferers in denial about their condition. The disorder is generally debilitating to the sufferer's quality of life. For people with severe APCD, it may take several hours a day to carry out the compulsive acts, making a normal life impossible for them.

APCD sufferers frequently self-medicate most commonly with alcohol or other drugs such as cocaine to reduce symptoms, without necessarily realising what it is that they are responding to, since, because of lack of awareness about the disorder they will almost certainly be undiagnosed and untreated. This can lead to alcoholism, drug addiction or, worse, an increase in APCD-related activity4 .

Once diagnosed, a person with the disorder may be treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. Research has shown cognitive behavior therapy, whether individually or in a group, should theoretically be effective in treating APCD. The cognitive and behavioral components seek to change thought patterns and physical reactions to potentially cultural situations situations. However, sufferers in groups are prone to constructing collective delusory systems which lead to an increased level of denial of their condition5 . Prescribed medications successfully tested under clinical conditions at ISIBC6 have included two classes of antidepressants: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These show considerable short-term effectiveness but, as the patient becomes accustomed to their changed mental state, they will frequently develop an altered but no less severe manifestation of the disorder which they will rationalise as in some way healthier - for instance that they are '...just painting for my own pleasure now...'7 or '...I like to keep my hand in but I don't let myself get too bothered by it anymore...'.8 This will almost inevitably develop into a full-blown return to the condition with increasing resistance ot treatment.

So far the most consistently effective treatment has been corpus callosotomy, a surgical procedure that disconnects the cerebral hemispheres, however this results in a degree of impairment for the subject which can make reintegration into normal society extremely difficult.

In general the remaining effective option is Hypnotherapy. This has now been tested at the ISIBC on a total of 100 APCD sufferers from various countries over the period July 2003 to August 2007. In a number of treatment sessions a deep trance state was induced in the subject and a variety of therapeutic approaches carried out. Guided imagery, a method by which the subject is given a new relaxing and beneficial experience, proved very useful, building as it did on subjects' often very sophisticated abilities to visualise and imagine. Parts therapy was also very effective - this is a method pioneered to identify conflicting parts that are damaging the well being of the sufferer, then helps those parts negotiate with each other through the therapist to bring about a resolution. Age regression was a successful therapy for some patients - by returning to an earlier ego-state they could regain qualities they once had, but have lost. Remembering an earlier, healthier, ego-state increased the patients' strength and confidence and their ability to construct a self which does not rely on the illusory status afforded by the results of their APCD to bolster their identity.

Dr. Mayakovsky treats subject LK, "performance artist", Leeds 2008

This programme of therapy is so far the first to systematically attempt to address the massive proliferation of this crippling disorder, and with the continuing sponsorship of the Huelsenbeck Foundation, we are able to offer a further, five-year residential programme of treatment free of charge to APCD sufferers. Testing for the disorder is the first stage of treatment and the ISIBC will run a series of diagnostic clinics in major centres of cultural activity.

Simon Lewandowski

December 14, 2008

The Institute for the Study of Intelligence and Behavioural Control, Zurich

What To Do If You Think You Are Suffering From Aesthetic Production Compulsion Disorder

Follow this link to fill in our online diagnostic questionaire - we will analyse the results and, if you show clear signs of APCD will contact you within 48 hours.


  1. Translation W.B.Harvey for /seconds.

  2. See alsofine art, visual art, cultural production.

  3. See for example Gina Pane, Chris Burden, Marina Abramovic

  4. Or creativity.

  5. See YBAs.

  6. The Institute for the Study of Intelligence and Behavioural Control, Zurich.

  7. Subject BR: "Conceptual Artist", New York. ISIBC treatment 2001.

  8. Subject PG: "Painter", Milan. ISIBC treatment 2003.