I am a professional mathematician, and I regularly meet other mathematicians.
I have come to wonder if there is something like a slight neurosis, specific to this activity.
To be more precise, let me grossly describe the mathematician's activity:
The mathematician tries to solve a problem. This problem is usually sufficiently hard to not be solvable without an intense concentration. There are two types of concentration here:
- A local type: the intensity in the moment (i.e., all the thoughts are focused on this single problem).
- A global type: the commitment in time (i.e., work on this problem for months, even years).
Usually, the local concentration can be sufficiently intense so that the mathematician loses the feeling of hunger, thirst or sleep. In this state, there is usually no room for a healthy relationship with others.
It is almost as if the mathematician has a state near that of autism (see Asperger syndrome).
The global concentration permits one to develop in the time a more and more intense concentration on the problem. The mathematician is committed "body and soul" into solving the problem and could neglect all other aspects of his life like social relationships, married life, children...
It is almost as if the mathematician has become more and more autistic.
So ok, autism is a severe neurosis and it's usually irreversible. It's the reason why I speak about a slight neurosis specific to mathematicians, because it's usually reversible...
In light of what I wrote:
Is the mathematician's activity psychologically healthy ?