What is Cotard's Syndrome?

mental illness
Mental illness can sometimes rip your world in two. With therapy, the pieces can start to come together.

Ever have those days where you feel like a zombie? Feel dead tired and out of it? Cotard’s may be the diagnosis for you! Named after Jules Cotard, a French neurologist who first described the condition, Cotard’s Syndrome (or Cotard’s Delusion or Walking Corpse Syndrome) is a rare mental disorder where sufferers imagine that they are decomposing, dead or non-existent. [source: Pubmed]

Like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, Cotard’s is another form of delusional psychosis, the only self-certifiable form of its kind. Those with this condition often describe a loss of blood, organs and/or body parts.


In one reported case, a 20-year-old male diagnosed with bipolar disorder described his feelings of distorted reality while on a treatment of lithium carbonate 800 mg/day (“My liver and stomach are being destroyed," and, "My heart doesn't beat," and, "I don't have muscles.") [source: Psychiatry Online].


So how does one lose touch with their body to that extreme? This distorted reality is caused by a malfunction in an area of the brain called the fusiform gyrus, which recognizes faces, and also in the amygdala, an almond-shaped set of neurons that processes your emotions. The combination is a lack of recognition when viewing familiar faces (even the face of the sufferer), leaving the person feeling disconnected with reality. [source: Scientific American]


A cure to Cotard’s Syndrome is currently unknown as scientists are still in uncharted territory when it comes to finding a treatment for the cause. Instead, focus lies primarily in treating the symptoms rather than the cause. Common treatments include anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, as well as the controversial electroconvulsive therapy.


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Other Great Links:


  • Psychiatry Online http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=100699
  • Pubmed http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12011289
  • Scientific American http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/disease-prone/2012/01/31/no-seriously-im-dead/