Synesthesia And Creativity: Is There A Connection?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 26, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Tasting words, seeing numbers as colors, and feeling sounds are all examples of experiences individuals with synesthesia—a phenomenon that can affect how one perceives sensory input—may experience. 

Because synesthesia can impact how the senses activate, resulting in unique ways of experiencing the world, it can be natural to wonder whether this phenomenon is associated with heightened creativity. To understand what synesthesia is, it may be helpful to further explore how it manifests and what recent research says about the link between synesthesia and creativity. 

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What is synesthesia?

Synesthesia is a condition in which an experience related to one of the five senses also produces a simultaneous sensory reaction in a separate, unrelated sense. Experts estimate that at least 4% of the population has some form of synesthesia.

Individuals with synesthesia (sometimes referred to as “synesthetes”) might perceive specific associations between disparate stimuli—for example, colors and sounds, flavors and words, or sounds and physical sensations. Synesthesia may take various forms, with different individuals potentially experiencing different forms of the phenomenon. 

Types of synesthesia

Researchers can identify at least 60 forms of synesthesia, and some suggest there may be over 150 different forms. A few of the most common forms of synesthesia include the following. 

Auditory-tactile synesthesia

Auditory-tactile synesthesia occurs when an individual experiences a specific tactile sensation in response to a particular sound—for example, they might experience tingles, warmth, or chills upon hearing the sound of a specific instrument. 

Grapheme-color synesthesia

This type of synesthesia occurs when synesthetes create meaningful associations between certain letters or numbers and specific colors. For example, someone might see the number seven as blue. 


Chromesthesia occurs when an individual associates sounds with colors. This type of synesthesia could manifest in a range of ways. For instance, someone might perceive the color green in response to the sound of a door closing.

Lexical gustatory synesthesia

Words may be associated with different flavors for those with lexical gustatory synesthesia. For example, the word “pinecone” might cause the individual to perceive the taste of bacon.

Mirror-touch synesthesia

Those with mirror-touch synesthesia may witness a physical sensation in someone else and experience it in their own body. For example, they might experience the feeling of someone touching their hair when watching someone else having their hair touched.


Synesthesia and creativity according to research

The phenomenon of synesthesia has sometimes been associated with the creative arts, such as music, visual art, and writing. However, some people may wonder whether this assumption is based on science. 

Research on the connection between synesthesia and creativity is ongoing. A study published in the British Journal of Psychology in 2015 conducted a comparison of creativity, personality, cognition, and mental imagery in synesthetes versus controls. The researchers found that individuals with synesthesia scored higher on some measures of creativity, personality traits of absorption and openness, and cognitive abilities of verbal comprehension and mental imagery, and they concluded that these differences “represent a broad pattern of associations with synesthesia.” However, they also note that these enhanced abilities “cannot be attributed directly to synesthesia without further evidence.” Instead, these abilities may have developed because of other experiences or factors. 

In addition, a 2022 study published in The Journal of Creative Behavior examined synesthetes’ involvement in the artistic domains of visual arts, performing arts, literature, and music and found a higher participation in art for synesthetes. They discovered synesthetes were “more interested, more active, and higher performing” in art and concluded that “synesthetes have a more pronounced affinity for art” compared to non-synesthete controls. 

Note that research on the exact connections between synesthesia and measurements of creativity is still taking place. However, those with synesthesia may have an affinity for creative activities due to their unique ways of perceiving the world and receiving sensory input. For this reason, in some cases, synesthesia is considered a form of neurodivergence. 

Exploring synesthesia through therapy

Synesthesia is not considered a mental illness or a mental health disorder, nor is it considered directly harmful to one’s physical or mental health. In addition, some people with synesthesia may find it beneficial.

However, it can be possible for some people with synesthesia to experience loneliness or isolation because of experiencing the world differently from others. They may perceive themselves as different or misunderstood at times. In some cases, individuals with certain types of synesthesia may also experience physical discomfort or other potentially distressing sensations because of their sensory experiences. 

Various resources are available that may be helpful for those who are experiencing challenges related to synesthesia or its effects. One such resource is therapy. A licensed therapist can offer a safe space to discuss one’s experiences, develop possible strategies for managing uncomfortable symptoms, or offer advice for navigating the world as a person with synesthesia. 

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Alternative support options

Those whose synesthesia affects their every day lives may find that they would benefit from additional support beyond what they can receive in a single weekly or biweekly therapy session. In these cases, online therapy through platforms like BetterHelp may be a helpful option, with the ability to message your therapist outside of scheduled therapy sessions. Your therapist responds to your messages when they are available. Online platforms also allow clients to choose a session time and choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions. 

The effectiveness of online therapy has been demonstrated in a significant body of research, including in treating loneliness, which some individuals with synesthesia may experience. For instance, a 2021 study concluded that internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) “can be an efficacious option for alleviating loneliness.”


Synesthesia is a condition in which specific sensory experiences may be coupled with other, unrelated sensory perceptions. It may take various forms, such as lexical-gustatory synesthesia, auditory-tactile synesthesia, chromesthesia, and grapheme-color synesthesia. Research into the relationship between synesthesia and creativity is ongoing, with some studies indicating that there may be a link between synesthesia and creative pursuits. 

Synesthesia is not considered a mental illness or mental health condition, nor is it considered directly harmful to physical or psychological health. However, those with synesthesia may experience indirect effects on their mental or emotional well-being—such as feelings of isolation or potentially distressing physical symptoms—due to their unique perceptions. In these cases, in-person or online therapy may be a helpful resource.

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