“Vincent van Gogh got psychoses when he stopped drinking alcohol abruptly.”

Vincent van Gogh suffered from psychosis after he cut off his left ear and had to get rid of the booze. This concludes researchers at the UMCG in Groningen. The painter would have been through a so-called alcohol withdrawal dealer twice, after he had had to stop drinking alcohol abruptly because of his hospitalization.

The researchers from Groningen did psychiatric research on the painter, who committed suicide in July 1890. Before that, they interviewed art historians who know the painter well from his letters and information from the doctors who treated him, writes RTV Noord.

The study shows that the painter of, among others, The Starry Night and The Potato Eaters had various psychiatric disorders. In his letters Van Gogh mentioned several times symptoms that fit a bipolar mood disorder, combined with a personality disorder, probably borderline.


These disorders worsened by his alcohol addiction and malnutrition. When Van Gogh also had an argument with fellow painter Paul Gauguin, he cut off his ear in December 1888. The new theory of the UMCG researchers is that he went through a short psychosis twice because of the withdrawal symptoms of the drink.

His condition worsened further and Van Gogh went through some severe depressive periods, of which certainly one with psychotic characteristics. In the end, he couldnt recover, which probably led to his suicide.

Since the death of Van Gogh, many different theories have been put forward about the diseases he suffered from. In the new study, published in the International Journal of Bipolar Disorders, researchers negate a number of them. For example, it is not obvious that he was schizophrenic and they rule out that he suffered from a rare metabolic disorder or a gas poisoning by carbon monoxide from lamps. It remains unclear whether Van Gogh suffered from epilepsy.

The scientists also keep a blow on the arm when it comes to the other diseases. We were unable to interview the patient ourselves, which means that every conclusion should be made with caution, says emeritus professor of psychiatry Willem Nolen. Van Gogh wrote his letters to acquaintances, for example, to reassure them or to get something done. It may therefore be that he is weakening or, on the contrary, thickened certain things, said the research director.