The Walking Dead Inside The Minds Of People With Cotard's Syndrome

The Walking Dead: Inside The Minds Of People With Cotard’s Syndrome

Have you ever heard of Cotard’s Syndrome? It is a rare and bizarre psychiatric disorder where the individual affected believes that they are dead, do not exist, or have lost their organs or bodily functions. The condition is also known as Cotard’s Delusion or Walking Corpse Syndrome.

Named after the French neurologist Jules Cotard, who first described the disorder in 1880, Cotard’s Syndrome is usually associated with severe depression and anxiety, and often affects individuals who have undergone significant emotional trauma or a life-changing event.

Jules Cotard (Cotard's Syndrome)
Jules Cotard

The exact cause of Cotard’s Syndrome is not well understood, but researchers believe that Cotard’s Syndrome may be related to a malfunction in the brain’s processing of information. Some studies have suggested that Cotard’s Syndrome may be linked to damage to the frontal and temporal regions of the brain, which are responsible for emotions, decision-making, and perception.

One of the most alarming aspects of Cotard’s Syndrome is that those who suffer from it often deny the severity of their symptoms and refuse to seek help. They may also have suicidal thoughts and may attempt to harm themselves, believing that they are already dead and therefore cannot be harmed.

In some cases, individuals with Cotard’s Syndrome may also experience hallucinations or delusions, such as believing that they are immortal or that they have lost their blood, organs, or body parts. They may also refuse to eat, drink, or take care of themselves, as they believe that they no longer need to do so.

Story Of Man With Cotard’s Syndrome

The New Scientist magazine has released an interesting article on a guy who had assumed he was dead for ten years. The remarkable aspect of this instance is that the patient’s “dead brain” beliefs were partially correct. Ten years ago, Graham awoke with a lifeless feeling. Graham had been depressed for quite some time prior to it so he threw an electrical device into the water of a bathtub in an attempt at suicide.

That morning, Graham understood that he had killed his brain when he tried to kill himself. He said that he felt like he just didn’t have any brains left. When he was in the hospital, he told the doctors that pills wouldn’t help because he burned his brain in the shower.

Graham didn’t care much about what the doctors said. They couldn’t get him to understand that if he could talk, breathe, eat, and move, that meant that his body was alive and his brain was working. He said that the doctors’ words just made him mad because he didn’t know what he could say or do without a brain.

Graham did show signs that his brain was hurt. He said, for example, that he has lost his ability to breathe. But, in theory, it could have been a different part of his depressed hallucinations. The man stopped enjoying the things he used to like to do.

He didn’t want to see people because he didn’t understand why he should. Nothing made him happy. He used to like his car a lot, but now he doesn’t care about it at all. Even his bad habits, like smoking, stopped being interesting to him. He could no longer enjoy the taste of smokes or doing this.

Graham was sent to two renowned neurologists, Adam Zeman of the University of Exeter (UK) and Stephen Laureys of the University of Liege (Belgium), since the local hospital’s doctors were at a loss.

Scientists using positron emission tomography (PET) were shocked to learn that Graham may have been correct. His brain’s metabolic activity was unusually low, particularly in the frontal and parietal lobes, giving his brain scan the appearance of a person in a vegetative state.

I have been administering PET for 15 years and have never met a person who would be on his feet, able to communicate, but had this anomaly. His brain worked as if he was under anesthesia or sleeping. As far as I know, this is quite a unique phenomenon for the brain of a person who is awake.

Stephen Laureys

His colleague Zeman, who also worked with Graham, thinks that the patient’s view of the world changed in a bad way because of the low metabolism.

We still do not know very much about the mind.

Stephen Laureys

First, Graham did not care about hearing the results of the scan. The thought of having anything done to his “empty shell” made him feel worse than death. He had to accept the reality that he would never be really dead.

The guy often visited the cemetery, and each time the police were called to bring him back. Graham believed he was destined for the afterlife. His teeth had already become completely black from lack of brushing. Doctors were stumped as to why all of the hair on his legs suddenly fell off.

Graham, though, began to feel better with time. A combination of medicine and psychotherapy was recommended after the results of the brain scan. Before, he needed constant care from his brothers and a caregiver, but today he can manage his own home and finances.

While he still wasn’t 100%, he reported feeling “much better” overall. I’m free to go out and do some errands. Graham said that he no longer thought that his brain was dead, but that sometimes the world seemed strange to him. He doesn’t worry about dying, but he feels lucky to still be living.

cotard's syndrome
Cotard’s Syndrome

In conclusion, Cotard’s Syndrome is a rare and puzzling psychiatric disorder that affects an individual’s perception of their own existence and can lead to severe depression and suicidal ideation. The case of Graham, who believed he was dead, highlights the complexity of this disorder and the challenges in diagnosing and treating it.

While more research is needed to fully understand Cotard’s Syndrome, it is clear that early intervention and a combination of medication and psychotherapy can lead to significant improvements in the individual’s quality of life.

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