If you thought that walking corpses are only part of zombie fiction, you are mistaken. There is a real (and terrifying) disorder where the inflicted believe that they have turned into living zombies. In Cotard’s Delusion, also known as “Walking Corpse Syndrome,” patients have a fixed and unshakable belief that they are dead (figuratively or literally), do not exist, are putrefying, or all their blood or organs had been removed.
It is a very rare neuropsychiatric condition with symptoms that can range from mild to severe. It is most often come across in persons with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and psycho-organic syndromes, including typhoid fever, temporal lobe epilepsy, brain tumors and brain injuries. However, the delusion of death is not a symptom that is essential to the syndrome. Statistical analysis of a 100-patient cohort indicated that the denial of self-existence is a symptom present in 69 percent of the cases of Cotard’s syndrome; yet, paradoxically, 55 percent of the patients might present delusions of immortality.
Cotard’s Syndrome (CS) is named after the 19th-century French neurologist Jules Cotard who first described the condition in 1880, coining it ‘negation delirium.’ In its milder form characteristics of CS include despair and self-loathing, to intense delusions and chronic depression at a higher severity. The original case described by Cotard was of a patient called ‘Mademoiselle X’ in his notes, who claimed to have had no brain, nerves, chest, stomach, or intestines. Despite this predicament, she also believed that she was eternal and would life forever. As a result, she did not see the need to eat and died of starvation.
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