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Walking Corpse Syndrome

What is Walking corpse syndrome?

It is a very rare neuropsychiatric disorder that affects a person’s normal thought patterns and causes them to believe that they are slowly decomposing, they are dead, or their organs and blood have been removed. It is also referred to as Cotard delusion and Walking dead syndrome. It is named after a French neurologist Jules Cotard in 1880. This syndrome is another type of delusional psychosis like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In some rare cases, people with walking corpse syndrome even think they are immortal and even claim they can even smell the rotting flesh.

Many people who are self-proclaimed zombies or vampires have walking corpse syndrome and have serious delusion about what or who they are. The notion that they are part of the undead underground is perpetrated through various sources like groups and cults. Both of these can be found around the world. According to studies done it appears that walking corpse syndrome is more prevalent in people who are older and have depression. It also appears that it affects women more than men. The prognosis of recovering from walking corpse syndrome depends on how severe the disorder is and what treatments are used to manage the syndrome.

Stages of Walking dead syndrome

  • First stage – this is called the germination stage, which includes symptoms of hypochondria and psychotic depression. Hypochondria is where a person worries about having a serious illness despite the absence of having an actual medical condition. Psychotic depression is where a person has a major depressive episode along with psychotic symptoms like hallucinations or delusions. They also suffer from extreme worry about being unwell.
  • Second stage – this is called the blooming stage and where you will see the delusions of negation and total development of walking corpse syndrome
  • Third stage – this is the chronic stage where the person experiences chronic psychiatric depression and severe delusions


This is a syndrome that has various symptoms associated with it. Some of these many symptoms can include:

  • The main one is that they have a feeling of being dead and will make different references to the illnesses and diseases that could have caused them to be this way. They actually believe they are dead
  • It causes the person to withdraw from other people
  • Neglecting their physical health and personal hygiene
  • The inability to make sense of external reality giving them a distorted view of the outside world and is normally found in a psychotic person who also has schizophrenia.
  • In the initial stages having a vague feeling of anxiety followed by the belief they are dead
  • Clinical features such as feeling of guilt, insensitivity to pain, depression, and negativity.
  • Feeling they are paralyzed
  • Having smell or auditory based hallucinations


Many of the cases of walking corpse syndrome can be attributed to various brain trauma incidents as this syndrome is based from the sections of their brain that control the emotions and face recognition that go along with walking corpse syndrome. These sections of the brain are:

Fusiform gyrus – this is the area of your brain that recognizes faces
Amygdala – these are a set of neurons that are almond-shaped and processes your emotions.

It makes them believe that they are really not in the world of the living because they have no feelings or recognition for any person around them. Many do not even recognize their own face. There is an indication that the occurrence of having walking corpse syndrome is associated with lesions in their parietal lobe, which is above your visual processing center (occipital lobe) and behind the front of your brain (frontal lobe) in the right hemisphere of your brain.

It can also be caused by an adverse physiological response to the medication acyclovir, which is an antiviral medication that is used for patients who have kidney failure. They are unable to excrete a metabolite of acyclovir called CMMG. It accumulates in their blood and causes the symptoms of walking corpse syndrome.

Although these might not actually cause walking corpse syndrome it does make them at risk for developing the syndrome if they have:

  • Brain atrophy
  • Seizure disorders
  • Brain tumors
  • Strokes
  • Migraine headaches
  • Parkinson’s disease


Walking corpse syndrome is diagnosed based on the person’s symptoms. Physicians will generally run tests to rule out other medical conditions and diagnose associated diseases. The physician may order blood tests, MRI’s, EEG, or CT scan.


There are a few treatments that any medical professional may attempt to cure a person of this syndrome but there is no true cure. Some physicians may prescribe antidepressant and antipsychotic medications along with mood stabilizer as they do seem to have some effect. Physicians may even try electroconvulsive shock treatment, which is when an electrical current is passed through their brain and intentionally triggers a brief seizure. It is done by placing electrodes on their head, administering small impulses. This treatment appears to cause a change in their brain chemistry to quickly reverse their symptoms of walking dead syndrome. It appears that using medications in combination with electroconvulsive shock therapy are more effective than using medications by themselves.

For some with walking dead syndrome attending therapy sessions with a trained therapist can help them to try to work the delusional thoughts out of their brain. The therapist will try to extract information they need to help them with getting rid of their delusional thoughts of being one of the undead.


Some who are suffering from walking corpse syndrome have died of starvation because they denied themselves food because they thought they were dead and did not need food to survive. People who have walking corpse syndrome also have the tendency to harm themselves or attempt suicide.

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