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Letter to the Editor   |    
Creativity and Affective Illness
NORBERT HIRSCHHORN, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2002;159:677-677. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.159.4.677

To the Editor: Dr. McDermott provided a provocative analysis to suggest that Dickinson had bipolar, seasonal affective disorder, using the educated judgment of a leading Dickinson analyst of the months or seasons when specific poems were written. The author properly indicated the limitations of both that analysis and the conclusions that may be drawn from those data. There is one point of certain error, however. When in 1883 and 1884 Dickinson’s physician O.F. Bigelow diagnosed “nervous prostration,” he was not referring to an affective disorder, as Dr. McDermott suggested, but to an episode of severe headache with vomiting and, in 1884, spells of unconsciousness. This illness was quite likely due to acute, severe hypertension, which led to her demise in 1886 (1).

Hirschhorn N, Longsworth P: “Medicine posthumous”: a new look at Emily Dickinson’s medical conditions. New England Quarterly  1996; 49:299-316
 
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References

Hirschhorn N, Longsworth P: “Medicine posthumous”: a new look at Emily Dickinson’s medical conditions. New England Quarterly  1996; 49:299-316
 
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