As I will be referencing various place-related syndromes in some of my pieces on mental health and travel, here’s a brief primer. More in-depth features on each specific syndrome will be written soon--please grant me a bit of writer’s asylum.
The big kahuna is Jerusalem Syndrome. The malady is reported to impact some pilgrims to the Holy City, and is characterized by religiously-themed obsessive ideas or delusions (thinking one is the Messiah or feeling the need to shout verses from the Bible), or by psychotic behaviors ranging from ritual bathing to compulsive fingernail and toenail cutting. Although it may affect those of any religion, Scandinavians and American Protestants seem particularly susceptible. Some psychologists say Jerusalem Syndrome is a unique illness, while others say it is merely a symptom of pre-existing mental conditions.
If you are on a tour of Jerusalem, beware of the following behaviors from members of your group, as cited by one Dr. Gregory Katz in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2000.
Stage 1- Afflicted tourist becomes nervous, agitated and tense.
Stage 2- Tourist splits away from the tour group.
Stage 3- An obsession with cleanliness.
Stage 4- Sufferer prepares a long white robe.
Stage 5- Person begins to sing psalms, Bible extracts or religious songs.
Stage 6- Person marches to a holy place in Jerusalem.
Stage 7- Person starts delivering sermons on any mount.
Meantime, Paris Syndrome is a transient condition, most often suffered by the Japanese, during visits to the City of Light. It was first widely reported in Nervure, a French psychiatric journal, in 2004. About 20 Japanese tourists a year are affected by the condition, which is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, anxiety and sweating, among others. According to the authors of the Nervure study, Japanese are particularly prone due to language barriers, culture clashes, travel exhaustion, and a pre-idealized image of Paris, to which the reality does not mesh.
Finally, Florence Syndrome, better known as Stendhal Syndrome, is a condition named after the 19th-century French author, who was overcome by the beauty and breadth of Renaissance masterpieces during a visit to Italy. Nowadays, what is considered a psychosomatic condition is marked by symptoms including rapid heartbeat, weak knees, dizziness, fainting, and confusion. It is said to happen when individuals are exposed to art that is profoundly alluring or uncommonly comely. But given that the affliction is primarily the bane of middle-aged British women, perhaps it is exposure to, ahem statuesque exposure, that sets off such carnal responses.