I have been out of Steemit for a while because of my final examinations. I must say I missed the stem community and writing stem articles; which is quite obvious because I’m sitting here in my room and typing this post in between my exams schedule (I’ll be gone again but not for long). Well, that’s enough about my boring self and schedule; let’s head to the juicy stuff. I love gruesome movies, I really do and I get really excited when I’m writing about a syndrome or disorder that spells ”Freaky”. You can read my post about the vampire syndrome
After reading both this article and the vampire syndrome’s you’d pick the most freaky; Cotard’s syndrome to me is the most freaky I mean we are talking about a syndrome that makes you act like a walking corpse and I mean you literally behave and believe you’re a Walking Corpse. In simple terms, you actually believe you’re a zombie, well a zombie that won’t rip my throat off.
The first time a case of Cotard’s Syndrome was recorded was in 1788 when Charles Bonnet a Genevan naturalist recorded a case of an aged woman who was working in the kitchen and suddenly felt numb in one part of her body which eventually resulted in paralysis that cost her, her mobility and her voice. Well, she was immobile and dumb forever; She recovered but with a strong delusion that she’s dead and should be treated as such.
Yeah, I know, this is really strange; she went as far as ordering her family members and her maids to dress her as though she was dead, put her in a coffin and mourn her. After much disturbance and trouble from her, they had to do as she said until she slept off. They didn’t know the exact cause of this delusions and feeling that Grandma/Mum had but they just had to use something that they thought would help the strange condition; Opium treatment was used and luckily for them, the delusions went away but sadly came back every few months after.
Cotard’s Syndrome is named after Jules Cotard, a French neurologist being the first to describe the mental condition. He talked about a 43-year-old woman who believed that some organs in her body were missing and that she could pass as existing as just skin and bones. She claimed to have eternal life and didn’t want to eat any human food of any kind; she doubted the existence of God and the devil (an even her own self). Cotard described her as Mademoiselle X and the condition as “The Delirium of Negation”- a mental condition where patients believe that things if not everything is not in existence including one’s self. Many other cases of Cotard have been reported after this period up to our recent times.
What Exactly is the Walking Dead Syndrome?
Cotard’s Syndrome is a form of delusional psychosis where the victim feels or beliefs that he/she has dead organs, rotting or their entire self is dead or non-existent. It has other fancy names like walking corpse syndrome, nihilistic delusions and the walking dead syndrome. This syndrome has been known to appear in patients with an already existing mental disorder especially schizophrenia but it could appear independently as a result of the body’s reaction to the wrong usage of anti-viral drugs. Cotard’s syndrome can be divided into progressive three stages; the germination stage, the blooming stage and the chronic stage.
The germination stage is when the psychotic depression sets in and the victim may also experience hypochondria syndrome. The next stage is the blooming stage where the syndrome begins to manifests and the victims experience nihilistic delusion. The final stage which is the chronic stage is where things get completely out of hand; sufferers view of the world becomes different as they experience chronic depression and delusions. In the final stage, their reality is somewhat replaced with a delusional reality where to them the actual reality doesn’t make any sense or doesn’t exist.
Cotard’s syndrome is also classified as the psychotic depression Type, Type I and Type II. Individuals with melancholia and syndromes are nihilistic delusion fall into the psychotic depression type. Type I comprises of individuals with no depression and it’s a more delusional than effective type. Type II is a more serious one comprising of individuals with depression, anxiety and crazy hallucinations.
How does Cotard’s syndrome arise and what are it’s symptoms?
Neural misfiring in the fusiform face area, in the fusiform gyrus (orange), might be a cause of the Cotard delusion
The fact that someone would just wake up one day and believe that he or she is dead is really marvelling. This condition is believed to arise when the fusiform gyrus area of the brain stops functioning properly. The fusiform gyrus area of the brain is responsible for the recognition of faces and amygdala is responsible for processing emotions. When the fusiform guru's area of the brain and amygdala becomes faulty reality, emotions and level of social anxiety become distorted; which is seen as a manifestation in some symptoms of the Cotard’s syndrome.
The brain of patients suffering from Cotard’s syndrome show very relatively low metabolic activity that can be equated to a vegetative state and also damages in the parietal lobe of the brain is usually noticed. The early symptoms of Cotard’s are characterized by a feeling of anxiety within a time period of weeks to years. This anxiety usually grows into nihilism which I explained earlier as the denial of the existence of everything even one’s self. You know it gets really freaky when one denies his/her existence but still wants to commit suicide in a bid to show other people that they are dead and won’t die anyway if they try to do something that leads to the death of a living person.
Let me chip in a story of a man who had this symptom but recovered and told his story. Graham was a man in his 40’s who suffered from severe depression and tried to shock himself to death buy carrying an electric appliance into the bathroom to kill himself but that didn’t turn out well. Eight months after the incidence in the bathroom he believed his brain was dead and that he doesn’t have a brain anymore as he claimed to have fried it using the electric appliance. He complained to the doctors and tried to let them understand that he doesn’t have a brain and he’s so surprised why he is able to communicate and stay alive without a brain.
In his words
”When I was in the hospital I kept on telling them that the tablets weren’t going to do me any good ’cause my brain was dead. I lost my sense of smell and taste. I didn’t need to eat, or speak, or do anything. I ended up spending time in the graveyard because that was the closest I could get to death.” source
This is what sufferers go through and try to kill themselves. Most patients with Cotard’s syndrome tend to die of starvation or suicide but Graham was only a survivor because he had family and caters who made sure he had something to eat as he was undergoing treatment. Other symptoms include hypochondria, hallucinations and guilt (just like in the case of Mademoiselle X who believe she could not die a natural death because she was cursed and condemned to eternal damnation).
How is this condition diagnosed and treated or managed?
This syndrome is not recognized as a disease in many health organizations and it is classified under delusions that has to do with our senses and bodily functions. There are no standard characteristic criteria used in the diagnosis of this illness. It is usually accompanied by other mental disorders and is usually diagnosed after thorough testing and analyzing of the individual’s condition before concluding on the case
The main objective of treating someone with this condition is making them realize that they are still alive. Well, this could prove very hard when using ordinary talks for conviction. What tends to bring people back from almost dead to alive? Yeah, Electricity. Electroconvulsive therapy is a very effective way of making them feel alive again (Nigerians would say “reset their brains” lol ). Electroconvulsive therapy is a shock treatment that is used to relieve individuals of mental disorders by inducing seizures in their body from time to time using electricity.
Pharmacological treatment is also administered to patients with this syndrome although the electroconvulsive therapy is more effective. This treatment becomes valid when individuals realize that they are alive and are not missing any organ or have any dead organ; that is when they finally recognize Reality. This would make them to start socializing and eating well as they would see the need to do things other living humans.
The Cotard’s syndrome or walking dead syndrome is a real thing. If we ever encounter anyone with this syndrome we should take them to the hospital as soon as possible and not make fun of them. I know it’s kind of unbelievable to meet a person with this condition and actually understand how they feel or what could be going on with them. People with this condition are more vulnerable to death than the normal human that’s why they need extra care and attention to help them go through this phase of their lives alive.
Further reading and References
Cotard's Syndrome: A Review (PDF)-Retrieved Jul 09 2018
Berrios G.E. & Luque R. (1995) Cotard's delusion or syndrome? Comprehensive Psychiatry, 36, 218-223.
Berrios G.E. & Luque R. (1995) Cotard Syndrome: clinical analysis of 100 cases. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 91, 185-188.
Berrios G.E. & Luque R. (1999) Cotard's 'On hypochondriacal delusions in a severe form of anxious melancholia'.
History of Psychiatry, 10, 269-278.
Cohen, D. & Consoli, A. (2006).
Production of supernatural beliefs during Cotard's syndrome, a rare psychotic depression. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 29, 468-470.
Debruyne H, Portzky M, Peremans, K. & Audenaert K (2011). Cotard’s syndrome. Mind and Brain, 2, 67-72
Reif A, Murach WM, Pfuhlmann B. Delusional paralysis: an unusualvariant of Cotard’s syndrome. Psychopathology. 2003;36:218, 220.
Enoch D, Trethowan W. Cotard’s syndrome. In: Uncommon Psychiatric
Syndromes. 3rd ed. Oxford: Butterworth & Heinemann; 1991:162- 183.