What is it?
Cotard delusion is a rare neuropsychiatric disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that he or she is dead, does not exist, is putrefying or has lost their blood or internal organs. In rare cases, it can also include delusions of immortality (mutually excluding the possibility of such a condition of death as an oblivion, unless regarded as just oneself to another or others)..
The syndrome is named after Jules Cotard (1840–1889), a French neurologist who first described the condition, which he called le délire de négation ("negation delirium"), in a lecture in Paris in 1880. He described the syndrome as having degrees of severity that ranged from mild to severe. Despair and self-loathing characterize a mild state.
In this lecture, Cotard described a patient with the pseudonym of Mademoiselle X, who denied the existence of God, the Devil, several parts of her body, and her need to eat. She believed that she was eternally damned and could no longer die a natural death; then later, she died of starvation.
Signs and Symptoms
- Feelings of unreality
- Visual recognition difficulty
- Suicidal thoughts
- Negative thoughts
- Belief that their body doesn't exist
- Belief they are already dead
- Belief they are immortal
- Belief they have no blood
- Belief their body is rotting
- Belief they have no internal organs
Treatment should follow a thorough diagnostic work-up of the underlying disorder. There are several reports of successful pharmacological treatment. As well monotherapeutic as combination strategies are reported. Antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilisers are used. Many report positive effect with electroconvulsive therapy, mostly in combination with pharmacotherapy. An overall prognosis seems to be mostly determined by the treatment options and prognosis of the underlying disorder.
Since Walking Corpse Syndrome is so rare psychologists and psychiatrists know little about it. Further research in this area can better determine if the therapy used today is the most effective treatment available. Although Electroconvulsive therapy seems to help it can also damage patients. This kindof treatment leads to memory loss in some cases severe memory loss. Although rare this strange disorder is very real to those who have it.