What is Jerusalem syndrome?

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Jerusalem syndrome is a group of mental phenomena involving the presence of religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions, or other psychosis-like experiences that are triggered by a visit to the city of Jerusalem1. It is not endemic to one single religion or denomination but has affected Jews, Christians, and Muslims of many different backgrounds1. The syndrome is not listed as a recognized condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or the International Classification of Diseases1. The most well-known manifestation of Jerusalem syndrome is the phenomenon whereby a person who seems previously balanced and devoid of any signs of psychopathology becomes psychotic after arriving in Jerusalem1. The psychosis is characterized by an intense religious theme and typically resolves to full recovery after a few weeks or after being removed from the area1. Symptoms of Jerusalem syndrome can include dizzy spells, palpitations, hallucinations, disorientation, loss of identity, and physical exhaustion2. In some cases, individuals may come to believe they are a religious figure themselves, such as John the Baptist, Jesus, Samson, or the Virgin Mary2. The syndrome was first clinically described in the 1930s by Jerusalem psychiatrist Heinz Hermann, one of the founders of modern psychiatric research in Israel1. However, the existence of a specific syndrome emerging in tourists with no previous psychiatric history has been disputed. Some researchers argue that nearly all of the tourists who demonstrated the described behaviors were mentally ill prior to their arrival in Jerusalem1. The Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre in Jerusalem treats the majority of patients with the disorder. Between 1980 and 1993, there were 1,200 tourists admitted to the hospital with symptoms of the condition. However, the number of cases has reportedly dropped off to just a handful each year2.
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