Young Woman Who Thought She Was 'Dead' Actually Had Rare Disorder

There seems to be a disorder for every possible thing you can imagine: Remember the girl who suffered from trichophagia and had a nine-pound hairball in her stomach from compulsively eating her own hair? Or there's sexsomnia, in which someone will commit sex acts while sleeping and not remember them? But this has got to be the most jaw-dropping illness yet. It's called Cotard’s Syndrome, and those who suffer from it think they are dead.


How, you have to wonder, could anyone who is alive think he or she is dead? I mean, wouldn't just the fact that you're thinking you're dead mean you're not dead? Apparently it is not that simple.

Cotard’s Syndrome, otherwise known as "Walking Corpse Syndrome" is extremely rare but was first identifed in 1880. It's similar to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in that it is a delusional psychosis. However, whereas people with schizophrenia generally do not know what they have, people with Cotard's Syndrome will say they are dead -- making their diagnosis rather easy. Some people with this syndrome will stop eating because, after all, dead people don't need food -- making the syndrome somewhat self-fulfilling.

Then there is 17-year-old Haley Smith of Alabama, who has decided to speak out about the condition she lived with for three years in order to bring attention to it and help others.

Smith told the Daily Mail Online:

One day when I was sitting in an English class I had this really weird sensation that I was dead and I couldn’t shake it.

She went to a graveyard to be close to others "like her," but then went home and slept off the sensation. However, within a few days, it returned. She says:

I'd fantasise about having picnics in graveyards and I’d spend a lot of time watching horror films because seeing the zombies made me feel relaxed, like I was with family.

Eventually she decided to embrace her newfound "deadness," and began eating whatever she wanted since, well, the dead can't gain weight.

It took her a couple of years to get up the nerve to tell her father what was happening, and he suggested a psychiatrist. Soon, Smith began to realize that others had this illness.

While there is no one definitive cure for Cotard's, Smith credits her eventual recovery to counseling, the support of her boyfriend, and Disney movies. She says watching movies like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin made her feel so good that she thought she couldn't be dead.

Cotard's Syndrome is caused by a malfunction in an areas of the brain called the fusiform gyrus, which is responsible for recognizing faces, and the amygdala, which regulates emotions.

It just goes to show you that every single tiny thing we think or feel is traced back to bundles of nerves in the brain, and if the tiniest thing goes haywire, you might suddenly have a big problem -- like even not feeling like you're alive.

Symptoms of Cotard's Syndrome include:

- Feeling a loss of organs, body parts, or blood

- Feeling that hygiene or eating or other daily functions are no longer needed

- Belief that the body is rotting

- Belief that the body isn't working

- Belief of being immortal

- Negative, suicidal thoughts and depression

Have you ever heard of this or experienced it?

Image via Andrew/Flickr

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