You are here: Dictionary / Nihilistic delusions by Thomas A. Ban

Nihilistic delusions

The denial of the existence of anything to which the patient’s attention is directed (Shorter 2005). Patients with nihilistic delusions deny their own existence and the existence of the world (Cotard 1974). The term “du délire n gations” was introduced in 1880 by Julius Cotard in his presentation to the Société médico-psychologique in Paris. It was first published in 1882 with the title “Du délire negations”, in Archives de Neurologie. The syndrome dominated by “nihilistic delusions” is referred to as Cotard’s syndrome (Shorter 2005).


Cotard J. Du délire negations. Archives de Neurologie 1882; 11:152-70.

Cotard J. Du délire negations. Archives de Neurologie 1882; 12:252-96.

Cotard J. Nihilistic delusions. Translated from the original French (published in Archives de Neurologie 1882; 11:152-70) by M. Rohde. In: Hirsch SR, Shepherd M, editors. Themes and Variations in European Psychiatry. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia; 1974, pp.353-74.

Shorter E. A Historical Dictionary of Psychiatry. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2005, pp. 63-64.


Thomas A. Ban
March 17, 2016