ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Psych Snippet: Stendhal Syndrom, Fictitious Disorder, and Ghost Sickness

Updated on July 9, 2020

An Overdose of Beauty: Stendhal Syndrome

In 1817, French author Marie-Henri Beyle, who penned his works under the name Stendhal, toured the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence. While there, he was overpowered by the structure’s brilliant splendor, apparently to the extent that he became physically ill. Almost 200 years later, Dr. Graziella Magherini witnessed Stendhal’s unexpected reaction in 106 foreign patients treated in Florence. Each instance, in which an individual was exposed to art, featured a sudden onset of physical and mental symptoms, which persisted between 2-8 days. The most common of said symptoms were excessive perspiration, weakness, confusion, chest pains, palpitations, anxiety, delusions, and dissociative experiences.

It is believed that having such a response to artwork, coined Stendhal syndrome by Dr. Magherini, is due to the traveler -usually European in origin- attempting to process a culture that varies significantly from his or her own. Similar conditions are Paris syndrome and Jerusalem syndrome. The former, defined in 1986 by psychiatrist Hiroaki Ota, is a comparable phenomenon, in which visitors to Paris presented symptoms akin to those afflicted with Stendhal syndrome. The latter, while sharing some characteristics with the aforementioned diagnoses, additionally involves delusions of grandeur and messianic ideations in persons touring the holy land.

Those afflicted by the syndrome generally recover on their own after several days.

Dying to be Sick: Factitious Disorder

Factitious disorder, a term that is often interchanged with Munchausen syndrome, refers to individuals who embellish or fabricate a medical condition, deliberately produce medical symptoms, and/ or self-induce an illness. It is not certain what prompts a person to assume the sick role; researchers believe that common causes are perhaps rooted in early-childhood illness, identifying with others who are ill, adolescent trauma, or the desire to receive care and attention.

An extension of this syndrome is factitious disorder imposed on another (FDIA), or Munchausen by proxy. The same methods used to falsely claim a personal illness or injury is instead projected upon others, generally those to whom they are closest. FDIA most often occurs in mothers, who inflict intentionally harm onto their children to satiate a need for attention or sympathy.

In direct contrast to the abstract motives of patients with factitious disorder or FDIA are malingerers, who feign illness as means to a discernable end, such as gaining disability benefits or receiving drugs. Malingerers may falsify all symptoms or simply exaggerate a pre-existing condition.

There is no definitive cure for factitious disorder, but psycotherapy is heavily relied upon, with an emphasis on cognitive-behavioral therapy.

A Variation of Mourning: Ghost Sickness

In Antiquity, the belief that human illnesses were caused by ghosts or evil forces was global. In response to this manner of thinking, people strived to satiate the dead. If unable to do so, a once-friendly spirit could become malevolent and inflict harm upon the living.

A contemporary continuation of this tradition can be found in many Native American cultures and is referred to as ghost sickness. While minute details may vary from tribe to tribe, the gist of the illness is solid: a person is harmed by a spirit, usually a family member, and experience a litany of manifestations thereafter. Symptoms include partial paralysis of the face, fatigue, lack of appetite, dizziness, nausea, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, nightmares, constant fear, and anxiety.

Ghost sickness is attributed to several causes, which vary between cultures. Some tribes, like the Navajo, believe that the attachment between the ghost and living, due to mourners maintaining a connection with those who have passed on by persistently thinking about them or attempting to contact them, is the catalyst. Others believe the illness is prompted by a flawed burial or having the funeral ceremony performed by the wrong person.

In order to avoid the possibility of contracting ghost sickness, some tribes, like the Apache, approached burial quickly, burning the possessions and home of the deceased. Family members would additionally relocate as to confuse the spirit, making it unable to find them. Yet, if such measures were unsuccessful, and an individual has been afflicted with the illness, there is still hope for recovery. Treatments, which are not usually provided by western medicine, include peyote ceremonies, evil chasing (burning safe and purifying the area in which the spirit resides), prayer, and other traditional practices.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)