Don Quixote's Psychosis

We all know Don Quixote, the chivalrous Spanish nobleman who fought windmills. He appears in a two books by Miguel Cervantes, entitled 'El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha' (or 'The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha') and published in 1605 and 1615.

A little known fact is that the personal name of Don Quixote was Alonso Quixano. Don Quixote was the name he invents after falling into madness ('insanity').

Alonso Quijano read many chivalric books and the stories, as we are told, caused his madness. But reading does not cause madness. But hunger does.

The appearance of Don Quixote does offer some clues. His 'squire' Sancho Panza describes him as follows: 'Don Quijote is the worst-looking man he has ever seen, thin from hunger and missing most of his teeth'.

Besides Sancho Panza's description, we find the following descriptions of him in the text: 'His age was about 50, with a solid (recio) complexion, his flesh shriveled (seco), a gaunt face' (Part I, Chapter 1) and 'He was tall, a shrunken (seco) face, long, wrinkled arms and legs, half bald, his nose like that of an eagle, but curved, and with a large and droopy moustache' (Part II, Chapter 14).

So, can hunger result in illusions, hallucinations and even psychosis? It does and modern science now can help to diagnose Don Quixote's psychological problems[1][2][3].

[1] Mittal, Khan: Starvation causes acute psychosis due to anterior thalamic infarction in Southern Medical Journal – 2010
[2] Morylowska-Topolska et al: Schizophrenia and anorexia nervosa - reciprocal relationships. A literature review in Psychiatria Polska – 2017
[3] Koven, Abry: The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment - 2015

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