Kevin W. Miller
Central Carolina Community College
The purpose of this paper is to explore the bipolar disease that plagued one of the most influential composers of all time. This paper will explore the causes of his depression and mood swings as well as his deviant behavior and also give a detailed view of his past and early family life that contributed to his disease. I will also explain from one of the theoretical perspectives how his difficulty developed. I will then use the DSM-5 to diagnose the patient and subsequently recommend treatment. I will also go in depth as to how I believe he would of responded to treatment and what his prognosis would be.
Beethoven displayed several deviant behaviors of bipolar disorder. He was the type of man who wore his emotions on his sleeve. He suffered from severe episodes of depression sometimes accompanied by suicidal thoughts. He would also have episodes of extreme happiness and elation with floods of ideas. Sometimes he would have fits of anger often coming to blows with other people namely his brother Carl. He had many affairs although he was never married. He also developed a love for wine which he used to numb the depression he felt and ultimately led to his premature death at age 56. He also was known for his unkempt appearance and poor hygiene. Beethoven was a man who was prone to extreme opposites in behavior. He would be completely depressed and drowning his sorrows in alcohol one minute and filled with elation and happiness the next or could be throwing chairs in fits of anger in another minute. He was a man of very unstable moods.
Patient History Beethoven was born to an abusive father who tried to exploit him as a child prodigy. Beethoven’s musical talents were evident from a young age. His family life was in turmoil as his family constantly moved around. He traveled to Vienna in hopes of studying with Mozart but learned that his mother had become very ill and he returned home where she died shortly after which caused his father to delve deeper into alcoholism. Beethoven was then responsible for the care of his younger brothers. He also began to lose his hearing which only furthered his depression and caused him to drink more heavily and to become withdrawn. He continued to draw fame for his composing but his mental and physical health began to deteriorate. The pressures of supporting his family following the loss of his mother caused him to go into deep periods of depression. He loved music and was passionate to become the next great composer. But his troubled life at home and mental condition almost prevented that from happening.
Theoretical Speculation I believe that the behavioral model played a huge role in Beethoven’s condition. The behavioral model states that organisms respond to their environment. This is certainly true of Beethoven. He was the child of an abusive and alcoholic father. He responded the only way he knew which was with fits of anger. He also began to lose his hearing in his 20’s and by age 40 was almost completely deaf. This must have made life for a composer miserable. I think that he medicated with the only medicine of the time which was alcohol. His mania and love for music was the only thing that kept him going. His tragic life, death of his mother, his abusive alcoholic father, and the loss of his hearing only served to heighten his bipolar condition. He himself became an alcoholic and that only made things worse for him. I believe it was the world around him and his response to it that caused his disease to become worse.
The DSM-V lists two types of Bipolar disorders. Beethoven would classify as Bipolar II since he was not in constant full mania. Back then it would have been almost impossible to treat but now it is relatively easy to live with bipolar disease with the right medicine and therapy. The first step for treating Beethoven would be to have