An American teenager from Alabama who lived for three years believing she was a zombie says she was able to return from this walking dead state by watching Disney movies.
Seventeen-year-old Haley Smith says she’s gone public with her bizarre story to help others who might be suffering from what she had – an extremely rare disease called Cotard’s Syndrome, also known as Cotard Delusion or Walking Corpse Syndrome.
Haley noticed feeling very strange three years ago after her parents divorced.
… one day when I was sitting in an 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 … I’d fantasize 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.
She slept during the day, stayed awake at night and truly believed she was dead. After two years, Haley finally saw a psychiatrist who determined she was suffering from Cotard’s Syndrome, a form of delusional psychosis caused by a malfunction in the fusiform gyrus part of the brain which recognizes faces and in the amygdala which processes emotions.
Named for French neurologist Jules Cotard, cases of the syndrome are rare and unusual. One sufferer slept in a coffin covered with a shroud. Another believed she no longer had internal organs and died of starvation. The belief that internal organs and even the brain are missing is a common symptom of the disease.
Cotard’s Syndrome has been treated successfully with antidepressant, anti-psychotic, and mood stabilizing drugs. Severe cases may also respond to electroconvulsive therapy. Haley Smith says she was able to recover by talking to a therapist and watching Disney movies.
Watching Disney films gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Bambi – I watched them all … How can I be dead when Disney makes me feel this good?
She probably feels even better knowing Disney won’t send her a bill.