Cotard’s illusion or undead syndrome

Cotard’s illusion or undead syndrome. Cotard syndrome or believing yourself a living dead is a rare psychiatric syndrome that carries depression, suicidal tendencies, and other symptoms.


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  • 1 Description
  • 2 Features
  • 3 Main symptoms of Cotard Syndrome:
  • 4 Causes
  • 5 Treatment
  • 6 Sources


Cotard syndrome or believing yourself a living dead is a strange psychiatric syndrome that brings depression, suicidal tendencies and other symptoms, discovered by the French neurologist Jules Cotard, it is really old, since the first descriptions of its symptoms date from 1880. Known in French as le délire de négation, Cotard syndrome affects patients in such a way that it makes them believe they are dead, although cases where they only think that their organs are rotten have also been described. Similar cases had been found before Cotard described it, although not described in as much detail as Jules Cotard did.


The most striking feature of Cotard syndrome is that patients who suffer from it have the belief that they are dead, that they have no nerves, no blood or brain or other organs, they believe that they are rotting, they even say they smell how their meat rots. They are perceived as undead or zombies. Other times they think they are immortal even if they are only skin and bones. They believe they are undead. Those afflicted with this syndrome have nihilistic delirium or denial. They begin by denying the existence of the outside, and then go on to deny their own existence. They isolate themselves from the world.

Cotard Syndrome main symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Belief that your body does not exist. It is a delusion the patient thinks he is living something real when it only occurs in his imagination
  • Belief they are running out of blood.
  • Negative thoughts
  • Belief that they are already dead- With olfactory delusions they even smell that they are rotting
  • Belief that worms are under your skin
  • Belief that they are immortal
  • Belief they are breaking down
  • Belief that they have no internal organs.
  • Analgesia or absence of pain
  • Self-mutilation


What causes Cotard syndrome is unknown with certainty, although it appears related to depression and schizophrenia. It usually appears suddenly. Various levels of Cotard syndrome have been described, from partial syndrome to complete syndrome. Some researchers have seen with neuroimaging techniques, some injuries that affect visual processing. TEC (Electro Convulsive Therapy) therapy usually produces improvements in all patients by increasing blood flow in areas of the brain such as the frontal cortex, the basal ganglia, or the thalamus. The scientific literature has related the existence of Cotard syndrome with problems in the amygdala and other [limbic] structures of the brain (responsible for emotional responses), in addition to other areas such as the parietal lobe.


There are cases in which, through pharmacological treatment, symptoms have been reduced, thanks to the use of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. Without a doubt, Cotard syndrome is one of these diseases in which reality overcomes fiction.


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