Science What Happens If You Have Walking Corpse Syndrome?  

Laura Allan
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Have you ever had that weird moment where you wonder if you're dreaming, or worse, dead? Imagine having that all the time. Such is the reality for people who have walking corpse syndrome, or as its known medically, the Cotard delusion. This might sound like some sort of condition where you shuffle around like a zombie, but it's so much more complex and terrifying than that. In truth, what walking corpse syndrome is like is nothing short of a nightmare. 

So, what is walking corpse syndrome? To put it simply, it's when you become convinced that you're dead, do not exist, are rotting, or are missing your organs. While the symptoms of walking corpse syndrome vary from person to person, one thing seems to remain the same: your body won't feel right, and that's going to be pretty frightening.

Despite how morbid this sounds, walking corpse syndrome facts are pretty fascinating albeit sometimes a little hard to wrap your head around. That is, of course, assuming you're alive. 

You'll Honestly Believe You're Dead

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This is probably the most well-known symptom of walking corpse syndrome, and it's also the most frightening. You won't necessarily think you've become a zombie, but you will believe you're not alive anymore. Once you stop recognizing that you are who you're used to being, you may begin to feel you're no longer truly alive. You may believe your body is rotting around you, or your organs are no longer working. You may believe you have no blood or no heart, and you may feel as though you've been dead for some time. 

Not every person with the delusion believes they are dead, some believe they've stopped existing. More than just being a ghost, these individuals have this sense that their soul, body, and entire existence has ceased. They feel as though they're just going through the motions. In some instances, people also believe their limbs or vital organs are missing, even when they can physically see them.

You May Believe You're Immortal

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Believing you are dead seems as though you're being hyper-aware of your own mortality. But, paradoxically, more than half of people with the delusion also believe they are immortal. This actually makes some sense: if you believed you were dead, but also found you were still able to walk around, wouldn't you start to question your ability to "die" like other people?

Like a mummy risen from the grave, you may feel even in death, your body is unable to be harmed or destroyed.

You May Want to Be Close to Other Dead People

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Once you've come to the conclusion that you are dead, being with the living isn't going to seem like much fun. So, if you're lonely, where would you go for company? People with walking corpse syndrome tend to crave the company of other dead people.

One Alabama girl with the disorder is reported as saying: "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." 

Your Brain Will Stop Recognizing Faces

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Facial recognition is a key function of the brain. And because Cotard delusion is the brain sending false signals to itself, those with the disorder will start losing the ability to recognize faces.  The fusiform gyrus is the part of the brain that picks out a face, assigns identity, and notes faces as familiar. As Cotard delusion worsens, this part of you just stops working. You won't recognize faces the same way, which may make you feel detached from people with whom you were once close. Perhaps most terrifying of all, you won't recognize yourself. 

Recognizing your own face creates a sense of self. With the Cotard delusion, you won't know yourself when you look in the mirror. You won't look right to yourself, and you probably will feel that something is distinctly wrong. You'll lose a sense that you are you, or that you exist as you used to