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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Hypergraphia is an overwhelming urge to write. It is not itself a disorder, but can be associated with temporal lobe changes in epilepsy and mania in the context of bipolar disorder. Neurologist Alice Weaver Flaherty, in her book The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain, describes its relationship to writer's block and to compulsive reading or hyperlexia.


Several different regions of the brain govern the act of writing. The physical movement of the hand is controlled by the cerebral cortex which comprises part of the outer layer of the brain. The drive to write, on the other hand, is controlled by the limbic system, a ring-shaped cluster of cells deeply buried in the cortex which governs emotion, affiliated instincts and inspiration and is said to regulate the human being's need for communication. Words and ideas are cognized and understood by the temporal lobes behind the ears, and these temporal lobes are connected to the limbic system. Ideas are organized and edited in the frontal lobe of the brain. Temporal lobe lesions cause temporal lobe epilepsy, however it is also known to run in families. Hypergraphia is not a frequent manifestation of temporal lobe epilepsy.

As of current, hypergraphia is understood to be triggered by changes in brainwave activity in the temporal lobe.

It is also associated with bipolar disorder. Manic and depressive episodes have been reported to intensify hypergraphia symptoms. Additionally schizophrenics and people with frontotemporal dementia also experience a compulsive drive to write.

Famous cases

Hypergraphia was one of the central issues in the mysterious story of Virginia Ridley, a Georgia woman who also suffered from agoraphobia and epilepsy and remained secluded in her home for twenty-seven years. When her husband, Alvin Ridley, was accused of holding his wife in the home for almost three decades and killing her, her ten thousand-plus page hypergraphic journal was central at the 1999 trial and in the ultimate acquittal of Mr. Ridley. Her writings literally answered every question raised about the mysterious woman in the small town of Ringgold, Georgia, when prosecutors had assumed that she had been held against her will and murdered.

Both Vincent van Gogh and Fyodor Dostoevsky are reported to have been affected by Hypergraphia. [1] The fearsomely prolific American composer Alan Hovhaness may have been affected by hypergraphia. He claimed to have thrown over 1,000 of his early compositions into the fireplace in the 1940s whilst still a young man, and even at the time of his death, in 2000, had penned at least 400 more, of which at least 300 are published.

Lewis Carroll, the esteemed author of "Alice in Wonderland" is said to have had hypergraphia; in his lifetime he wrote over 98,000 letters varying in format. The letters were written backwards, in rebus, and in different patterns, such as the "Mouse Tail" in the former book. Some examples of his letters can be found here. [2]

The Reverend Robert Shields maintained a diary chronicling every 5 minutes of his life from 1972 until a stroke disabled him in 1997. The resulting work filled 94 boxes and contained approximately 37.5 million words.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hypergraphia" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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