People with Cotard's syndrome actually believe they're dead.
What did you dress up as for Halloween? A witch? A mermaid? How about a zombie? With films like 28 Days Later and Zombieland, as well as the TV show The Walking Dead, there's no question that our obsession with zombies has grown exponentially over the last decade.
We know zombies aren't real, but people who suffer from Cotard's syndrome do. People with this mental illness, also referred to as "Walking Corpse Syndrome," actually believe they're dead. The disease is named after Jules Cotard, a French neurologist who first diagnosed a case where a female patient believed she was dead.
As creepy as it sounds, this disease is real. Multiple patients have reported believing that their brain is dead, their organs are rotting, or that their heart doesn't beat. It may sound freaky, but it's also incredibly deadly if not treated. Because patients don't believe they're alive, they abstain from necessary means to survive, like eating, sleeping, and having good hygiene.
Michael Birnbaum, MD, says, "I've worked with patients who felt that they were already dead, that they were living either in heaven or hell and were convinced that their body wasn't actually working anymore. And I've had other patients who came in feeling as though their insides had already died, that their livers weren't working and that they were rotting from the inside."
Talk about having the ultimate spooky illness! But what causes these delusions of feeling like a zombie with rotting insides and a dead brain, sans a thirst for human flesh?
Birnbaum says that this illness is due to two psychotic conditions.
"Cotard's is often associated with schizophrenia, where individuals are struggling with psychotic experiences, like hearing things that other people don't hear and having unusual beliefs. You can also see [Cotard's syndrome] in individuals with severe forms of depression. Anybody suffering with a severely depressed mood can become psychotic as well."
The illness is curable with the proper treatment, which Birnbaum says includes mainly emotional support that encourages the patient to have hope in spite of their obstacles, as well as medication.
Enjoy that tidbit of information while you recover from Halloween weekend.