Van Gogh’s mental health problems have been the subject of an investigation by a large number of specialists. Is it possible that a long-standing mystery in the field of art history may, at last, have been resolved? The psychotic break was “actually an alcohol withdrawal delirium” shortly before Van Gogh cut off his ear, according to this study.
According to a recent study, Vincent van Gogh suffered from mental illness, sleep deprivation, and malnutrition. However, an alcohol addiction finally drove him to extremes, as evidenced by the fact that he severed his ear during a psychotic episode brought on by alcohol withdrawal.
According to the findings of a study that was recently published in the International Journal of Bipolar Disorders by a group of researchers led by the psychiatrist Willem A. Nolen of the University Medical Center Groningen, “those who consume large amounts of alcohol… run the risk of brain function impairment.”
In addition, cutting back suddenly after drinking an excessive amount of alcohol can cause withdrawal symptoms, including delirium. The infamous act of self-mutilation that Van Gogh committed has, over the years, been the focus of persistent fascination as well as the topic of considerable controversy.
Some people believe that he cut himself out of desperation after learning that his friend Paul Gauguin had decided to abandon their planned artist colony in Arles. Other people believe that he did it because he was distraught after learning that his brother was engaged. Still, other people believe that he did it to silence intolerable hallucinations.
The subject of the mental health of the Dutch artist was the impetus for its exhibition, “On the Verge of Insanity,” which was held in 2016 at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Even a living bioengineered copy of the severed organ was constructed by the German artist Diemut Strebe using genetic samples from the artist’s great-great-great nephew.
Now, according to this study, shortly before Van Gogh cut off his ear, “he presumably quit drinking abruptly,” and the psychotic break was “really an alcohol withdrawal delirium.”
It is clear from reading Van Gogh’s letters that the artist struggled with alcoholism and that he made unsuccessful attempts to control his excessive drinking, which is indicative of alcohol dependence.
While he was
residing in Arles, he produced a piece of writing in which he stated that “the only thing that comforts and distracts—in my case—as in others, is to stun oneself by having a stiff drink.” “If the tempest within roars too loudly, I drink an excessive amount of glasses to startle myself,” she said.
In an email provided to Artnet News, a representative of the Van Gogh Museum voiced the institution’s concern regarding the book by saying, “The medical diagnosis of historical people is full of difficulties, and our Van Gogh experts are still hesitant when it comes to reaching strong judgments.”
They pointed out that the new study “repeats and combines theses that in themselves are not wholly new.” These theses were discussed in the museum’s 2016 show, and the authors of the current study are aware of this.
According to the findings of the study, the letters written by Van Gogh do not necessarily provide an accurate picture of his mental condition. “Although include a lot of information, we must remember that he didn’t write them to his physicians,” the authors said, “we must remember that he didn’t write them to his doctors because he wanted to inform them, to reassure them, or to get something done.”
However, the letters were still used by the study diagnosticians to complete the four personality disorder questionnaires. According to what they discovered, “the combination of the different features convincingly indicates a severe borderline personality disorder.”
In addition, the signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may explain Van Gogh’s possible temporal lobe epilepsy, which was identified during Van Gogh’s lifetime by his physician, Théophile Peyron.
According to the findings of the investigation, the artist’s mental health is in a very precarious state, and his psychotic episode was caused by several different circumstances. Van Gogh’s brother Theo wrote about the artist’s conflicting personalities, describing “the one fabulously endowed, sensitive and gentle, and the other self-loving and unfeeling.” This lends credence to the theory that Van Gogh suffered from bipolar disorder.
A symposium held in 2016 at the Van Gogh Museum brought together 35 experts, but none of them was able to definitively pin down the source of Van Gogh’s mental illness. This is because the intricate state of Van Gogh’s psyche has been difficult to crack in the past.
“There have been thousands of medical papers about Van Gogh’s mental condition, but it has proven to be remarkably difficult to determine the cause of his problems,” said Martin Bailey, a Van Gogh expert at the Art Newspaper, in an email to Artnet News. Bailey is quoted as saying that “it has proven to be remarkably difficult to determine the cause of his problems.”
This most recent publication, which was written by some well-regarded experts, is without a doubt significant and was founded on a thorough investigation of the artist’s symptoms. However, it is quite improbable that this will be the final word on such a difficult topic.
A recent study says that Vincent van Gogh had a mental illness, didn’t get enough sleep, and was malnourished. But his alcoholism finally pushed him to the edge, as shown by the fact that he cut off his own ear during a psychotic episode caused by alcohol withdrawal.
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