• gerard van weyenbergh

Why did Van Gogh cut off his ear?

December 23, 1888. Vincent Van Gogh receives a letter that will deeply upset him. His brother Theo tells him that he is going to get engaged. On the same day, he argues violently with his painter friend Paul Gauguin. The latter decides to leave Arles and goes back to Paris. Van Gogh feels more alone than ever. Already suffering from visual and auditory hallucinations, the painter cuts his left ear in still mysterious conditions.

If some people speak of an argument that would have gone wrong with Gauguin, it would seem that the reality is very different. Researchers at the University Medical Center in Groningen, the Netherlands, believe they have found the correct explanation after analyzing the painter's correspondence (he wrote more than 800 letters to his family) and thousands of documents. This latest research would lift the veil on the painter's mental state, reveals Futura Sciences.

A psychiatric disorder added to withdrawal and malnutrition.

According to the researchers, Vincent Van Gogh suffered from a severe "borderline" personality disorder. This disorder would be based on the anxiety of loss of an object and would result in constant internal insecurity and attitudes of continuous testing of the entourage. Interpersonal relationships are incredibly unstable and intense and can go from idealizing to devaluing others. The person's reactions to these disorders are often impulsive or even aggressive and can lead to self-harm or suicide attempts. An addiction would have aggravated this psychiatric pathology to alcohol, the withdrawal of which, coupled with a state of malnutrition, would have resulted in an attack of delirium. The painter would then have cut off his ear during a psychotic episode.

"Subsequently, he would have developed two delusions probably related to alcohol withdrawal. A worsening of his mental condition with severe depressive episodes from which he did not fully recover, which would have ultimately led to his suicide," reports Futura Sciences.

The method is not entirely exact, knowing that it is based only on written historical documents. "In these letters, Vincent described what he was going through, including his mental problems. We consider that Van Gogh did not write his letters for his doctors. He wrote to his brother Theo and other relatives, to inform or reassure them," they say in the study.

If the researchers favor a severe "borderline" personality disorder, the diagnosis is not definitive. Before this study, other historians or researchers spoke of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or temporal lobe epilepsy.

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