Walking Corpse Syndrome. Can The Living Be Dead?

Walking dead
Source: Freepik

We live in a world that breathes on a precept of infinite possibilities. So, if a person comes up to you claiming that he is a living dead, don’t shun him right away. He just might be telling the truth.

A 65 year old retired teacher developed symptoms of mood deterioration, anxiety, anhedonia, ideas of worthlessness and severe feelings of guilt and sin. He had been smoking for 30 years and had a history of one and a half years of mental illness. Apparently, he was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) but things were going to escalate real quick.

A Living Dead in The Making!

Soon after, he plunged into a delusional triad of catastrophe, nihilism and persecution. He would say that everything had come to an end including himself. He would report not being able to feel the weight of his organs. He would literally feel dead surrounded by dark just like they do in the afterlife.

The man thought that he was dead and would decline to eat. This resulted in a loss of a significant amount of weight. He also attempted suicide multiple times and it was during one of his takes that he found his way to the hospital.

Was The Man Truly Dead?

He didn’t need to be dead for he was much more miserable (experiencing a living hell). His medical examinations revealed the presence of hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, neuropathies, chronic otitis media and benign prostatic hypertrophy. On psychiatric evaluation, he scored 34 on Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS).

The man was diagnosed having “Walking Corpse Syndrome” also called Cotard’s syndrome. It is a psychiatric condition in which a person is deluded to an extent that he deems himself dead and denies his existence. As one would expect, it is a very rare condition and only a few cases are known. Since the patients consider themselves “walking deads”, they embrace their newly found immortality by refusing to eat at all which is perhaps the most serious consequence of this condition.

Back to Life or Yet Another Lost Soul?

Fortunately for this man, death had to wait for its natural course. He was given multiple treatments to bring him back to life. His depression was treated with bilateral modified electroconvulsive treatment (ECT). He received a total of 9 ECTs. His nutritional deficiencies were managed and he was kept on escitalopram (15mg/day) and olanzapine (10mg/day).

The patient managed to rise back from the ashes in just seven weeks. His HDRS score dropped down to 1 and he was free to live his life again (a happy ending after all).


1- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4271387/


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