Presentation Title

Disproving Munchausen Syndrome diagnosis for Frida Kahlo

Faculty Mentor

Gabriela Muller

Start Date

18-11-2017 9:15 AM

End Date

18-11-2017 9:30 AM

Location

9-251

Session

Interdisciplinary 2

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

25 Word Description:

In her biography, the art historian Hayden Herrera suggests that Kahlo had Munchausen Syndrome; however, analysis of Kahlo’s medical records and paintings disproves this assertion.

250 Word Abstract:

In her biography, Hayden Herrera uses only one doctor’s opinion to suggest Kahlo had Munchausen Syndrome, a psychological disorder that causes the sufferer to seek unnecessary medical procedures. However, deeper analysis of Kahlo’s medical records and paintings disproves this assertion. The paintings Henry Ford Hospital (1932), My Birth (1932), The Broken Column (1944), Without Hope (1945), and Tree of Hope (1946) are analyzed to help disprove the diagnosis.

Kahlo contracted polio as a child, which left her in chronic pain (Herrera 14). Kahlo later suffered sever injuries in a trolley car accident that caused life-long pain and multiple surgeries (Herrera 49).

Kahlo’s paintings reflect her life of suffering. My Birth and Henry Ford Hospital both deal with the psychological pain of her miscarriages and her physical pain of bearing a child (Kettenmann 37, Chicago and Borzello 224). The Broken Column and Tree of Hope show the realty of her surgeries and painful interventions (Chicago and Borzello 242, 241). Without Hope shows the immense struggle of eating that comes with chronic pain (Herrera 348).

Labeling Kahlo with Munchausen’s damages her artistic image and implies that her paintings are exaggerated to be a ploy for attention. With this presentation, I hope to demonstrate that Kahlo’s paintings are an accurate depiction of her suffering. Additionally, like Kahlo, many others with chronic pain disorders are misdiagnosed with Munchausen’s. According to Glick et al., ”may be the physician’s attempt to hide his/her unfamiliarity” with a complex disorder (3). Hopefully, my presentation will also discourage doctors from assigning this diagnosis without just cause.

Summary of research results to be presented

In Herrera’s biography, Kahlo’s thoracic surgeon is cited as evidence for the Munchausen’s. Current medical standards dictate that Munchausen’s diagnosis should involve a pain doctor and a psychiatrist (Glick et al. 1-5). The surgeon was not qualified to make the diagnosis.

Analysis of Kahlo’s medical history and paintings further disproves the Munchausen’s diagnosis. Kahlo’s polio and sever physical trauma (Herrera 14, 49), which both caused life-long pain, make the Munchausen’s invalid because it can only be diagnosed if all other medical conditions have been ruled out (Glick et al. 1-5).

Kahlo’s paintings vividly reflect her life of suffering. Henry Ford Hospital deals with both the physical and emotional pain of her miscarriages (Kettenmann 37). My Birth illustrates Kahlo’s fear of the physical pain to carry a baby to term. The Broken Column shows the hidden realty and pain of Kahlo’s fractured spine (Chicago and Borzello 242). Tree of Hope depicts the horrors of her many surgeries, each one leaving her scared. Without Hope shows the immense struggle of eating that comes with chronic pain (Herrera 348).

Through knowledge of her medical conditions and her art, one can see that Kahlo’s paintings represent her painful reality, not the delusions of mental illness. The research provides evidence that neither the thoracic surgeon nor Kahlo’s biographer had sufficient evidence to make this diagnosis. To ignore her complicated medical history and misinterpret the reality revealed in her work dishonors and discredits her enormous achievements despite intense suffering throughout her life.

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Nov 18th, 9:15 AM Nov 18th, 9:30 AM

Disproving Munchausen Syndrome diagnosis for Frida Kahlo

9-251

25 Word Description:

In her biography, the art historian Hayden Herrera suggests that Kahlo had Munchausen Syndrome; however, analysis of Kahlo’s medical records and paintings disproves this assertion.

250 Word Abstract:

In her biography, Hayden Herrera uses only one doctor’s opinion to suggest Kahlo had Munchausen Syndrome, a psychological disorder that causes the sufferer to seek unnecessary medical procedures. However, deeper analysis of Kahlo’s medical records and paintings disproves this assertion. The paintings Henry Ford Hospital (1932), My Birth (1932), The Broken Column (1944), Without Hope (1945), and Tree of Hope (1946) are analyzed to help disprove the diagnosis.

Kahlo contracted polio as a child, which left her in chronic pain (Herrera 14). Kahlo later suffered sever injuries in a trolley car accident that caused life-long pain and multiple surgeries (Herrera 49).

Kahlo’s paintings reflect her life of suffering. My Birth and Henry Ford Hospital both deal with the psychological pain of her miscarriages and her physical pain of bearing a child (Kettenmann 37, Chicago and Borzello 224). The Broken Column and Tree of Hope show the realty of her surgeries and painful interventions (Chicago and Borzello 242, 241). Without Hope shows the immense struggle of eating that comes with chronic pain (Herrera 348).

Labeling Kahlo with Munchausen’s damages her artistic image and implies that her paintings are exaggerated to be a ploy for attention. With this presentation, I hope to demonstrate that Kahlo’s paintings are an accurate depiction of her suffering. Additionally, like Kahlo, many others with chronic pain disorders are misdiagnosed with Munchausen’s. According to Glick et al., ”may be the physician’s attempt to hide his/her unfamiliarity” with a complex disorder (3). Hopefully, my presentation will also discourage doctors from assigning this diagnosis without just cause.