Florence, Italy is home to some of the world's most beautiful art and architecture. And for some, being in the presence of so much genius is simply too much. In the face of breathtaking beauty, these people become dizzy and confused. They complain of suffering from depression and a loss of identity. Stendhal Syndrome is named for a novelist who was hospitalized for a month after experiencing these symptoms at Santa Croce. Stendhal's is just for the tourists -- locals seem to be immune.
Jerusalem Syndrome Treatments
When people exhibit signs of Jerusalem Syndrome, authorities know to bring them to Kfar Shaul, a psychiatric hospital. Doctors don't tell "King David" that he isn't King David -- it doesn't help to invalidate the patient's notion of himself and his mission. Doctors sometimes give patients mild antipsychotic medications or tranquilizers.
The best way to help, say the doctors at Kfar Shaul, is to get the patients out of the city and to their families. Once the people are out of Jerusalem and around their families and people who know them, they return to normal. They walk right back into their lives, and not a trace of mental illness seems to follow them. The whole process of Jerusalem Syndrome, from start to finish, takes from five to seven days. It's as if it never happened.
Many people who get Jerusalem Syndrome don't get treated at all. In a year, maybe 100 strangely behaving tourists are referred to Kfar Shaul, but only 40 or so are deemed in need of admission.
Because of people like David Koresh and Michael Rohan -- a Christian tourist said to have Jerusalem Syndrome who tried to burn down the al-Aksa Mosque -- Israeli authorities take Jerusalem Syndrome seriously. Before the year 2000 hit, Israeli doctors and authorities and even the FBI were worried about millennial violence that might take place in Jerusalem. They feared that apocalyptic cults and dangerous charismatic leaders would commit terrorist acts in an attempt to bring about Armageddon -- and take impressionable tourists along for the ride. Fortunately, there was no rise in people admitted to Kfar Shaul for Jerusalem Syndrome.
For more information about Jerusalem Syndrome and related topics, check out the links on the next page.