The Mighty Logo

My Experience With This Little-Known Symptom of Psychosis

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I was always kind of interested in psychology and psychiatry, so, in my teenage years, I would check these videos and articles with lists of “bizarre,” “worse” and “scary” psychiatric disorders you could get.

Of course, most of it was about psychosis.

That’s why, when I was first diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, I was pretty scared. Even more so when my doctor told me I was experiencing Cotard’s syndrome, or Cotard’s delusion. It was one of the scariest and most bizarre disorders in many lists I had checked.

Maybe that’s why I was first in denial. Maybe it was just because of the nature of my illness, it’s hard to tell. But the truth is that it took a while to accept I had experienced what many would call “the walking corpse syndrome.”

It began with a feeling in my stomach and a smell, like I had eaten something rotten. Then, it spread to my abdomen, and I believed I could feel the movement of my bowels, a tingling beneath my skin. It was all rotten, that was my conclusion.

The smell only got worse. I had been depressed, and didn’t leave my bed often. Soon, all of my muscles were melting and decaying. I barely spoke. I feared other people would notice the rotten smell. This made everything worse. Nothing was worth it, because I was already decaying. I was already dead.

Cotard is experienced by some people with schizophrenia spectrum illnesses and psychotic depression, but the stigma around it, and psychosis in general, prevents us from talking about it. Psychosis is not a rare condition, but all the stories I had heard about it prevented me from identifying with that.

You are not a zombie if you experience Cotard. And, most importantly, you are not alone. Antipsychotics and therapy helped me overcome it, in a few months. And then, I could understand how much that reflected my depressed humor, how it was a way of my mind to deal with all those thoughts and feelings of death, typical of depression.

My journey with schizoaffective disorder is far from its end, and I am lucky I didn’t let that delusion convince me otherwise.

Getty image by SDI Productions

Originally published: July 30, 2022
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home