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Cotard's Syndrome

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Kelsey Brown

on 12 June 2013

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Transcript of Cotard's Syndrome

What is Cotard's Syndrome? Where does it come from? Why does it happen? What does it look like? Cotard's Syndrome is divided into three separate stages. In the first, Germination, the patient shows signs of depression and often hypochondrial symptoms as well. In the second stage, Blooming, Cotard's syndrome is easier to diagnose as the patient starts to experience the negation delirium. The third stage, Chronic, is characterized by constant self loathing and severe delusions that are all to real to the patient. The sense of reality is seriously skewed, and the patient's actions may defy logic. Cotard's is most often treated with drugs like antidepressants and other mood stabilizers which help the patient cope with the symptoms. Occasionally, Cotard's delusion will disappear on its own, proof of the elasticity of the brain. Cotard's syndrome, also known as the Cotard delusion and the walking dead syndrome, is a very rare neurological disorder that gives the sufferer the impression that they are dead, or that they no longer exist. Few cases have been recorded, but those that do tend to raise eyebrows and attract a lot of attention due to the undeniable strangeness of the disorder. Cotard's syndrome was first discovered in the year 1880 by a man named Jules Cotard. He diagnosed a woman he dubbed "Mademoiselle X" with it after she was convinced parts of her body did not exist, that she didn't need to eat, and that she was eternally damned and so could not die a natural death. However, this was also paired with the delusion that she was immortal, and she died from starvation soon after her refusal to eat. Cotard's syndrome is thought to be a similar neurological disorder to the Capras delusion by many respected neurologist, including the endearing V.S. Ramachandran. The Capgras delusion occurs because of a disconnect between the amygdola in the brain and the visual cortex, causing the patient to have no emotional response to anything familiar. The brain figures that the familiar object must then be an imposter, not the real thing. In Cotard's syndrome, the amygdola is not only disconnected from external familiar objects, but also from the very sufferer. Essentially, when they see themselves in the mirror, they feel... nothing. The brain tries to make sense of this the only way it can, and comes to the conclusion that you must not exist, or the closest thing to it. For many, this means death. A person with Cotard's syndrome doesn't usually appear to be any different than any other person on the outside. Their own perception of themselves, however, is very much different. Some patients believe they can smell "the scent of their own putrefying flesh". They do often exhibit some abnormal behavior, however. Common symptoms include a feeling of immortality, a closeness to either God or the Devil, a sense of distorted reality, or poor hygiene in some cases. Cotard's syndrome is also paired with other mental disorders with surprising regularity. Some of the disorders include manic depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or hypochondria (fear of getting sick). To be diagnosed with Cotards, however, le délire de négation, or the negation delirium must be present. Basically, this means the patient denies their existence or part of their existence (missing limbs) in some way. Are there varying degrees of the delusion? How about treatment? Cotard's Syndrome Case Studies Perhaps the most interesting case was with a man that not only had Cotard’s syndrome, but was diagnosed with clinical Lycanthropy as well. Clinical Lycanthropy may sound a bit far fetched, but it's a real disorder in which a person identifies himself as either a wolf or a dog human hybrid. He believed not only that he was dead, but that he and his wife had turned into a dog, and that his daughters had also transformed into sheep. He was also under the impression that his family was trying to poison him, but their attempts were futile because he was under the protection of God (delusions that have to do with God/other religious delusions seem common in Cotard’s cases). Another case surfaced in 1996, when a man got into a motorcycle accident. AFter the accident, he was sure he had died and tried to convince his mother. His mother brought him to Africa during this time, and due to the heat, he thought he was in hell. In 2008, a woman from New York thought she could smell her flesh rotting, so she asked her family to bring her to the morgue so she could be with dead people like her.
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