Walking corpse syndrome- Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Walking corpse syndrome, or better known as Cotard’s syndrome or Cotard delusion, is a rare kind of syndrome that involves suicidal thoughts and depression. It also includes the patients believing that they are no longer alive or that they do not have a body of their own, hence they think they are already dead. Oftentimes patients believe that the bodies they have are already rotting away or there is no longer any internal organs within it or no longer have any blood running in their veins. There are also times that they think they are immortal. The condition of the syndrome itself may be traces to mental or neurological origins.

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Cotard delusion is named after a French neurologist Jules Cotard who first noted the syndrome when he called it “negation delirium” during a lecture in Paris in the year 1880. Jules described that the syndrome ranges in degrees of severity from mild to serious ones. The manifestations of the mild forms are self-loathing and despair. In this lecture he described one patient who insisted that there is no such thing as God and the Devil. She also believed that some of her body parts do not exist and that she does not need to eat. Eventually, she believed she was perpetually damned and that she would never die through natural means. Mademoiselle X ultimately died of starvation.


One can determine that a person is having a walking corpse syndrome when they witness a person having:

• The belief that they are no longer alive

• The belief of their body no longer existing

• The belief of being an immortal

• The belief of no longer having any blood within them

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• The belief of their body rotting away

• Thoughts of negativity

• Thoughts of suicide

• Depression

Cotard delusion has been connected to other disorders of the body particularly the bipolar and schizophrenic disorder. Both are mental illnesses, although that aside, these disorders tend to happen when one has undergone a problem associated with the brain such as an injury whether direct or indirect. The Cotard’s syndrome has been proven to be very dangerous since it makes the patients think that they are immortal and to prove it, they would attempt to do something that will prove their immortality, such as jumping from the roof of a very tall building or doing other serious and even fatal bodily harm.


Cotard delusion is very rare indeed that is why there is no specific treatment for it. There have been numbers of psychiatrists who have tried antipsychotic therapy yet it yielded no positive results. However, there are a few cases wherein the medical practitioners used electroconvulsive therapy – a kind of therapy that uses electrodes which are attached on top of the head of the patient. In the process, electricity is sent to the brain which results to seizure. This method is used in very acute cases of depression. Oftentimes electroconvulsive therapy is combined with pharmacotherapy.

Since then there have been reports that there were a number of successful treatments of walking corpse syndrome wherein they used different strategies in dealing with very depressed patients. Mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and antidepressants are used in this method.

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