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Pauline O’Callaghan – Stendhal’s Syndrome


THE LETTER 31 (Summer 2004) pages 43-51


The name ‘Stendhal’s Syndrome’ was first given by the psychiatrist Graziella Magherini in about 1988 to a strange illness which seems to afflict a proportion of visitors to Florence. Tourists arrive at the psychiatric unit of Santa Maria hospital in Florence suffering from symptoms ranging from a strong sense of unease to an acute psychical breakdown. It would appear that the sight of the artistic masterpieces of the city, as well as the overwhelming sense of the passage of time in the buildings and streets, provokes these disturbing symptoms, which may include dizziness, panic attacks, paranoia, confusion, and often cause a profound shaking of the patient’s sense of personal identity. These episodes are usually of short duration, and benign.

Stendhal’s Syndrome

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