BY MARYGRACE TAYLOR
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Ever been struck by the urge to head straight to the local morgue and hang out with a bunch of dead bodies?
Yeah, neither have we. But a 53-year-old Filipina woman did after she had become convinced that she was a rotting corpse, according to a crazy new case report published in the journal Psychiatry.
Turns out she had Cotard’s syndrome, a rare neuropsychiatric illness that causes a person to believe that they or parts of their body have died.
Not every patient experiences the same morbid delusions. While the Filipina woman thought her flesh was rotting because she was totally dead, another man, whose case was published in The Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, was convinced that he no longer had a stomach. As a result, he felt like didn’t have to eat anymore.
Then there’s Graham, a 48-year-old man who believed his brain had died, since he no longer felt hungry, thirsty, or tired.
“But if you said, ‘Look, you’re able to talk to me, and you can see and hear,’ he’d say, ‘Well yeah, my mind must be alive, but my brain is dead.’ And you couldn’t get him past that delusion,” says Adam Zeman, Ph.D., a professor of cognitive and behavioral neurology at England’s University of Exeter Medical School who coauthored the case report on Graham.
Still, there’s one thing that most patients with Cotard’s share: The majority have depression or another serious psychiatric condition, like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, before their macabre misconceptions take hold.
“People with depression lose their normal sense of selves, and feel that all of their sensations have lost their edge,” Zeman says. “I think Cotard’s is an extreme form of that depersonalization.”
The good news is that some Cotard’s patients make a full recovery with the help of antidepressant and antipsychotic meds, Zeman says.