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Psychiatr Danub. 2018 Nov;30(Suppl 7):563-566.

Tertiary Syphilis (General Paralysis of the Insane) and Bipolar Disorder; the role of these two disorders in the life of famous composers.

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Clare College Cambridge, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK,


Syphilis is a complex disease, which can lead to General Paralysis of the Insane if left untreated. Before antibiotics this was the natural progression of the disease, with many people being admitted to mental asylums with the diagnosis of GPI, and going on to die there. Diagnoses however, were difficult, as it was difficult to distinguish between GPI and other mental conditions such as bipolar disorder. We can use the works of the classical composers Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann and Smetana, who all suffered from mental illness, to gain an insight into what it is like to live with these conditions. All these are potential cases of GPI, highlighting how a sexually transmitted disease can end the life of such talented and influential people. With antibiotic resistance becoming a growing concern, it is key that we continue to recognise and treat syphilis in an appropriate manner, so as to limit the future of this disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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