According to research published in
Medical Humanities, it is likely that Frédéric Chopin suffered from epilepsy.
The article, authored by Spanish doctors Manuel Vázquez Caruncho and Franciso Brañas Fernández, examines the documented symptoms experienced by the Polish composer – in particular, his visual hallucinations – and concludes that the most likely cause was temporal lobe epilepsy (sometimes referred to as Psychomotor epilepsy).
Chopin’s mistress of ten years, the author George Sand, documented Chopin’s frequent hallucinations in her memoirs. In a letter to Sand’s daughter, the composer himself described the occasion in 1848 when he stood up and left the stage during one of his performances. According to the document, he could see “cursed creatures” emerging from the piano.
While speculation has long suggested that Chopin suffered from depression or bipolar disorder, and that the cause of his lifelong respiratory problems was cystic fibrosis, the cause of his hallucinations has never been clear. Although it is impossible to be certain of this latest diagnosis, Caruncho and Fernández say they are confident that theirs is the most probable explanation.