Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Alive Who Think They Are Dead

The Cotard delusion (also Cotard's Syndrome and Walking Corpse Syndrome) is a rare mental illness in which the afflicted person holds the delusion that he or she is dead.The patients might also present delusions of immortality.First reported in the 1700s, the disorder is still largely a mystery today. The underlying cause isn’t understood; it’s been linked to bipolar disorder, depression and/or schizophrenia depending on the patient’s age.As a mental illness, Cotard's Syndrome also includes the patient's delusion that he or she does not exist as a person; that he or she is putrefying; and the delusion either of having lost blood or internal organs, or both. In 1788, Charles Bonnet reported one of the earliest recorded cases of Cotard’s Delusion. An elderly woman demanded that her daughters, friends, and maid treat her like she was dead.

jules cotard
Jules Cotard
Some 100 years later, French neurologist Jules Cotard saw a patient with an unusual complaint. Mademoiselle X, as Cotard called her in his notes, claimed to have “no brain, no nerves, no chest, no stomach and no intestines.” Despite this predicament, she also believed that she “was eternal and would live for ever.” Since she was immortal, and didn’t have any innards anyway, she didn’t see a need to eat, and soon died of starvation. Cotard’s description of the woman’s condition spread widely and was very influential, and the disorder was eventually named after him.The delusion of negation is the central symptom in Cotard's syndrome. The patient afflicted with this mental illness usually denies his or her existence, or the existence of a certain body part, or the existence of a portion of his or her body.

Nine years ago, Graham woke up and discovered he was dead.For Graham, it was his brain that was dead, and he believed that he had killed it. Suffering from severe depression, he had tried to commit suicide by taking an electrical appliance with him into the bath .According to him "When I was in 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."

Visiting a graveyard was "the closest I could get to death", Graham says

The cotard's syndrome can be succesfully treated through pharmacological treatments using antidepressant, antipsychotic, and mood stabilizing drugs; likewise, with the despressed patient, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is more effective than pharmacotherapy.

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