The Cotard delusion (also Walking Corpse Syndrome) is a rare mental illness, in which the afflicted person holds the delusion that he or she is dead, either figuratively or literally; yet said delusion of negation is not a symptom essential to the syndrome proper.
Although denial of self-existence is a symptom present in 69 percent of the cases of Cotard's syndrome, paradoxically, 55 percent of the patients might present delusions of immortality.
Named in 1880 after the neurologist Jules Cotard, who described the condition as"The Delirium of Negation", a psychiatric syndrome of varied severity.
A mild case is characterized by despair and self-loathing, and a severe case is characterized by intense delusions of negation and chronic psychiatric depression.
The patient afflicted with this mental illness usually denies their existence, or the existence of a certain body part, or the existence of a portion of their body. There may be stages in the progression from psychotic depression and of hypochondria to the delusions of negation with chronic psychiatric depression.
They may have general feelings of unreality or even believe they are dead or parts of their body are dead. They may believe they no longer need to eat or even attempt to remove dead body parts.
This may be related to situations like Capgras which results from a problems of delusional mis-identification due to damaged connections in the brain which attempts to relieve the stress and anxiety experienced in the mind because of the damage and disconnection with some form of rational explanation which is labeled by others as a delusion.
The fear and anxiety become so stressful that the rational mind will accept alternative explanations so that the mind finds comfort in the delusion. Similar conditions of undue stress are found with Alzheimer victims who are confronted with the knowledge that they do not recognize people they should know. Rather than just deny they know the individual they become distraught and agitated.
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