We’ve all heard the comedic trope of the guy who thinks he’s Jesus.… Or maybe a woman who suddenly believes she’s the Virgin Mary while traipsing Jaffa Road in short shorts and high heels. Well, those guys likely have a serious case of Jerusalem Syndrome.
Jerusalem syndrome can be any form of psychotic state manifested by a visitor to the holy city.
The research on this syndrome notes that it’s most common among zealots from ultra-religious families, but sometimes it happens to regular tourists with no history of mental illness or religious fervor.
When it was much more common, about 50 years ago, there was an entire psychiatric hospital in Jerusalem designated specifically for tourists who became afflicted with this syndrome.
Stand-up comedian and actor, Marc Maron used The Jerusalem Syndrome for his first book title. Unfortunately, he regrets the title. Since not many people know about this syndrome, people assumed it was a religious book. Thus it sold fewer copies than if he’d chosen a pithier, secular title.
Fantasy in Florence: Stendhal Syndrome
Stendhal Syndrome, also known as Florence Syndrome, involves an overwhelming feeling sparked by art appreciation gone horribly awry.
As the name indicates, this syndrome often overcomes tourists in Florence, Italy, which is packed with remarkable art. Many who fall under the spell of Stendhal may faint or feel like they are flying simply because they viewed a religious painting or sculpture. Their hearts race, they sweat and get stomach cramps, and they may experience the highs of euphoria or the lows of deep depressive states. Some think they are invincible while others feel they are a persecuted victim.
An example, cited in the New York Times is Lucy, 22 years old.
A student named Lucy visits Florence, Italy, and is so taken with the sacred art she sees that she imagines seeing angels and hallucinates an entirely false (but much more romantic) history in which she is a reincarnation of an old Umbrian nun.
Certain people are more vulnerable to this sort of swooning, and being away from home and out of their element only adds to their susceptibility. Plus, the stakes are high since some people wait a lifetime to come to museums like the Medici Chapel and the Uffizi Gallery
Luckily, this syndrome usually passes after a few days. In fact, one expert in this particular disorder suggests that it can likely be avoided altogether by simply not squeezing too many museum visits into a short period of time.
That’s not an easy feat in Florence, though. It may even be harder than dealing with angel hallucinations.
A Fancy for France: Paris Syndrome
If Paris Syndrome is 100% real, I’m pitching an idea for Cinnamon Roll Syndrome. Every time I smell cinnamon rolls (mainly in airports) their heavenly aroma calls to me like a romantic spring in Paris. But then my chewy gooey roll’s flavor never delivers the glorious experience the scent advertised. Sigh. Well, this is basically what happens when you come down with Paris Syndrome, which is a form of extreme disappointment.
Of course, Paris is perfect in postcards and movies. But, in reality, cities can be crowded and hard to navigate. Certainly no vacation can salve the stab wounds of pricey tiny meals, claustrophobic hotel rooms, or stepping in dog poo eight times a day, for Parisian instance. (The French’s opinion on picking up after your pooch is “Pas vu, pas pris,” meaning not seen, not caught.)