Here’s a new one you may not have heard of before — ‘walking corpse syndrome’. It’s also known as the ‘Cotard delusion’, and sufferers are said to genuinely believe they are dead or that parts of their body no longer exist. Some sufferers even die from starvation because, as they believe they’re dead, they don’t feel the need to eat.
It’s said to be caused by a malfunction in a part of the brain called the fusiform gyrus, which recognises faces, and also in the amygdala — a set of neurons that processes your emotions.
17-year-old Haley Smith is a current case making headlines. This is how she explains it:
My parents had just divorced and I didn’t cope with it well. Then one day when I was sitting in English class I had this really weird sensation that I was dead and I couldn’t shake it. As I walked home I thought about visiting a graveyard, just to be close to others who were also dead. But because there wasn’t one nearby I went straight back to my house and tried to sleep it off.
On another occasion:
I was out shopping when the sudden feeling returned. My whole body went numb and I dropped all the dresses I was holding and ran out of the shop. I felt like I was going mad. I’d fantasise about having picnics in graveyards and I’d spend a lot of time watching horror films because seeing the zombies made me feel relaxed, like I was with family.
On the benefits of walking corpse syndrome:
I decided to eat whatever I wanted because I couldn’t put on weight if I was dead.
Recognising that she was suffering from ultra-rare delusions however, Haley eventually snapped out of it thanks to a therapist and watching Disney films:
Watching Disney films gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. ’The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Bambi — I watched them all. I asked my boyfriend Jeremy: “How can I be dead when Disney makes me feel this good?
Indeed. So what does the future hold now that she acknowledges she’s not a walking dead person?
(My boyfriend) helped me so much — as did Disney — and we’re hoping to get married soon and then get jobs in Disney World. Being a corpse was the most bizarre experience, but I’m so glad I managed to get out alive.
So are we Haley, so are we. Not that walking corpse syndrome sounds too bad in the first place. Like Haley said you’re dead so you can eat what you want and never put on weight, plus dead people don’t need to pay rent or have jobs. Can dead people get pregnant? Let’s hope she and her boyfriend were taking precautions either way.