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Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 1996 Mar 30;116(9):1095-1101.

[Suicidal process and suicidal motives. Suicide illustrated by the art, life and illness of Vincent van Gogh].

[Article in Norwegian]

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Kontoret for katastrofepsykiatri, Universitetet i Oslo/Forsvarets sanitet, Oslo.


A suicide will naturally be a shock to the surroundings, unexpected and brutal as it is. Suicide survivors will often emphasize the unexpected. Nevertheless a suicide must be regarded as the end result of a long process. In this paper the extremely well-documented case of Vincent van Gogh is used to study suicidal processes and suicidal motives. In van Gogh's case, an early childhood trauma initiated a life-long suicidal process. His difficulties as regards attachment to and separation from his parents continued throughout his life and his emotional instability, intensity and lowered tolerance to frustration seem to portray a borderline personality. Vincent van Gogh's chronic suicidal ideation and behaviour led to a series of crises throughout his life, escalating during the last 18 months before his suicide in 1890. It is possible to identify at least three prominent suicidal motives in van Gogh's case. The first is unbearable emotional pain related to personal experience of loss which reactivated the childhood trauma. The second is introverted murderous rage arising from conflicts with other persons. The third motive described is the need for a cathartic release of energy and emotion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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