Cotard’s Delusion: What Is “Walking Corpse Syndrome?”

What Is Cotard’s Delusion?

walking corpse syndrome

Cotard’s Delusion is an incredibly rare mental illness in which in the patient believes that they are not alive. Some patients with Cotard’s Delusion feel that they do not exist at all, while others feel that parts of their body do not exist, but their mind does. They feel very removed from the world, to such an extent that they truly believe they are no longer in it. Also known as “Walking Corpse Syndrome,” Cotard’s Delusion is intricately linked with other mental illnesses. A recent study of 100 individuals with Cotard’s found that 89% of them had been previously diagnosed with depression.

Causes

Cotard’s Delusion is believed to stem from problems in the¬†amygdala and fusiform gyrus in the brain. The amygdala is the area of the brain that is responsible for emotions, while the fusiform gyrus helps with facial recognition. When these two areas are not functioning properly, they can distort the individual’s perception of reality and make them believe that they are no longer living. Cotard’s Delusion can also be linked to the following mental illnesses and conditions:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Hypochondria
  • Epilepsy
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Dementia
  • Brain Tumors
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Stroke
  • Brain Atrophy

Types

There is only one type of Cotard’s Delusion.

Symptoms

  • Denial of existence
  • Insisting that one has died
  • Having an elaborate story of one’s own death
  • Smelling rotting flesh
  • Denial of a body part’s existence
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling of guilt
  • Insensitivity to pain
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Lack of interest in social life
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Hallucinations
  • Distorted perception

Diagnosis

If a primary care physician suspects that you or someone you know has Cotard’s Delusion, they will refer you to a psychiatrist to have a thorough psychiatric evaluation. They may also refer you to a neurologist to rule out certain neurological conditions.

Treatment

The most common and effective treatment for Cotard’s Delusion is a combination of medication and electroconvulsive therapy. Medications may include anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and anti-convulsants. Electroconvulsive therapy involves placing electrodes on the patient’s scalp and sending small electrical impulses to the brain to reset certain areas.

walking corpse syndrome

Electroconvulsive therapy is the most common treatment for Cotard’s Delusion.

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