When you've spent your evening watching back-to-back Walking Dead episodes and you crawl into bed only to hear a weird sound that's probably a branch but sounds a LOT like the shattered fingernails of a rotted human hand scraping mindlessly against your front door, it's soothing to remind yourself that there's no such thing as zombies. Right? ... Right?
WRONG! Sort of. Apparently there's an extremely rare psychiatric condition called Cotard’s Syndrome, or Walking Corpse Syndrome, where people become convinced that they've lost organs or body parts, or that they're an animated corpse. A U.K. man identified as Graham has described his experience with the condition, and it sounds just as creepy as any zombie movie I've ever seen.
Graham developed Cotard’s Syndrome nine years ago, after a bout with severe depression led him to a suicide attempt. He tried to electrocute himself by submerging an electrical device in a bathtub, and afterwards he believed his brain had died from the incident. In an interview with New Scientist, Graham said,
It's really hard to explain. I just felt like my brain didn't exist any more. I kept on telling the doctors that the tablets weren't going to do me any good because I didn't have a brain. I'd fried it in the bath. (...) All the things I was interested in went away. I lost my sense of smell and my sense of taste. There was no point in eating because I was dead. It was a waste of time speaking as I never had anything to say.
It sounds similar to extreme clinical depression, but Graham's symptoms went even further: when doctors scanned his brain, they found that activity levels in the frontal and parietal regions were so low, they were consistent with somebody in a vegetative state.
Graham was so convinced that he was a zombie, he started hanging around cemeteries to be closer to death. His teeth turned black because he saw no point in brushing them. He had no interest in anything, and felt trapped in a limbo state, neither alive nor fully dead:
I had no other option other than to accept the fact that I had no way to actually die. It was a nightmare.
Eventually, with psychotherapy and drugs, Graham began recovering. He's not back to normal yet, but he can now leave the house and "feels a lot better" than he did before.
Cotard’s Syndrome is among the most rare diseases in the world. While it certainly sounds bizarre, it's also extremely dangerous: people have starved while neglecting their "dead" bodies, or burned themselves with acid. I can imagine how some cases might lead a person to cause harm to someone else while in the grip of delusions and chronic depression.
The only thing that seems worse than actually being a zombie is thinking you're a zombie, because in the first case you're truly damned to a hellish existence of shambling around moaning and trying to gnaw on human flesh until a merciful headshot comes your way, but in the second you're actually totally fine, except of course for your malfunctioning brain. It sounds horrendous, and I'm glad for Graham's sake that he got the treatment he needed to start living life again.
Have you heard of this freaky medical syndrome before?
Image via Zombie Silhouettes