I watched a movie once where a girl was a zombie, but didn’t know it. That’s, like, the opposite of today’s weird disease, which is a condition that makes someone think they are dead or that their insides are rotting. It’s called Cotard’s Syndrome, named after the guy who discovered it. Jules Cotard was a French neurologist lectured about the syndrome, le délire de négation, which was characterized by depression and despondency, for sure, but in more extreme cases the patient would doubt their very existence – be it physical or spiritual. Most felt that some part or all of their body was putrefying or dead, and most had a very weak grasp on the here and now.
Even though the dapper fellow above is, well, a fellow, most of the afflicted are women. Cotard, in his lectures, would tell about Mademoiselle X, who believed that she was damned for all eternity and was therefore unable to die naturally. Because of this, she saw no need to eat, and eventually died of starvation. She also professed that neither God nor the devil existed (pretty radical for the mid-to-late 1800′s) and was convinced that she was missing whole parts of her body.
I could go into the medical mumbo jumbo, but in a nutshell Cotard’s is related to the thing in the brain that recognizes things. There is another illness called Capgras’s syndrome, and with that one people can’t recognize faces. With Cotard’s, people can’t recognize their own existence and worth.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t a fad disease that died out at the turn of the 20th century. The International Journal of Mental Health Systems released an article out of Kashmir, India in January of 2008 that told of a 29-year-old pregnant woman who believed that her heart was “altogether absent” and that her liver was “putrefying.” The doctors and researchers who published the article commented on how rare it was for such a young woman to be afflicted with Cotard’s. The illness usually presents in older women who are prone to schizophrenia.
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