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Cotard's syndrome, popularly known as "walking corpse syndrome", is a very rare psychological disorder in which a person believes they are dead, that parts of their body have disappeared or that their organs are rotting. For this reason, this syndrome represents a high risk of self-harm or suicide.
The causes of Cotard syndrome are not known exactly, but the syndrome tends to be associated with other psychological disorders, such as personality changes, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and cases of prolonged depression.
Although this syndrome has no cure, treatment must be done to reduce psychological changes and improve the person's quality of life. Thus, the treatment must be individualized and indicated by the psychiatrist.
Some symptoms that help identify this disorder are:
- Believe one is dead;
- Show anxiety often;
- Feeling that the organs of the body are rotting;
- Feeling that one cannot die, because one has already died;
- Get away from the group of friends and family;
- Being a very negative person;
- Having insensitivity to pain;
- Suffering constant hallucinations;
- Being suicidal.
In addition to these signs, those who suffer from this syndrome may also report that they smell rotting flesh coming out of their body, due to the idea that their organs are rotting. In some cases, patients may also not recognize themselves in the mirror, or be able to identify family members or friends, for example.
How the treatment is done
The treatment of Cotard's syndrome can vary greatly from one person to another, as it is usually necessary to treat the psychological problem that causes the symptoms of the syndrome.
However, most of the time, treatment involves cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy sessions, in addition to taking some medications such as antipsychotics, antidepressants and/or anxiolytics. It is also very important that the person is monitored regularly, due to the risk of self-harm and suicide.
In more severe cases, such as psychotic depression or melancholia, the doctor may also recommend electroconvulsive therapy sessions, which consist of applying electric shocks to the brain to stimulate certain regions and more easily control the symptoms of syndrome. After these sessions, treatment with medication and psychotherapy is usually also done.