Stendhal Syndrome

By | June 10, 2022

Stendhal syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that occurs in the context of cultural overstimulation. This short-term illness is characterized mainly by disorders of perception and thinking. These reactions were increasingly documented in people who had experienced a great abundance of art and culture in a small space. In their own words, they fell into a real rapture at the sight of this beauty.

What is Stendhal Syndrome?

Stendhal syndrome is described as a violent physical reaction that occurs in the face of cultural sensory overload. This psychosomatic disorder is named after the French writer Marie-Henri Beyle, who published his works under the pseudonym Stendhal. For comprehensive guide to meningioma, please visit

In his book “Naples and Florence” he described the physical reactions and feelings he experienced when he visited the Tuscan metropolis. Seeing the historical cities and their works of art, he fell into “true rapture and ecstasy” and felt “like a lover”.

This is not just literary exaggeration by a writer, however, for similar reactions to cultural overload have been reliably described in various medical journals since the late 1800s.


The Stendhal syndrome occurs in temporal connection with a cultural sensory overload. This psychosomatic disorder is increasingly observed in people who are downright overwhelmed by historical art treasures, buildings and monuments and who react with severe physical symptoms.

The main cause is a high level of art in a small space, which triggers psychosomatic shocks. However, this physical overreaction can also afflict people at the sight of beautiful landscapes and breathtaking nature.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Stendhal syndrome is manifested by impaired perception, hallucinations, panic attacks, tachycardia, dizziness and confusion. Some patients report a feeling of insignificance in the face of historical cultural and artistic treasures. The sight of these art-historical works can also have the opposite effect, because some of those affected reported a feeling of their own omnipotence.

At the same time, some patients feel a kind of guilt over this unexpected state of exhaustion. The Stendhal Syndrome is mainly known to tourists in Italy, who are downright overwhelmed by the wealth of art and culture. Several dozen cases are documented every year.

However, tourist syndromes are not only described in Italy, but also in Paris or Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, concerned tourists reported divine revivals in view of the city’s historical significance, while sensitive Japanese collapsed in Paris, reporting a deficit between romantic imagination and reality.

Diagnosis & course of disease

Stendhal syndrome was first described in 1979 by Italian psychologist Graziella Magherini. During her research she discovered the descriptions of the French writer Marie-Henry-Beyle, who was known as Stendhal. She documented one hundred cases of this cultural overstimulation and named this psychosomatic disorder after the French writer.

The Stendhal syndrome was scientifically recognized for the first time in 1982. The scientists found that this cultural sensory overload primarily afflicts German and Anglo-Saxon tourists in the Italian cultural metropolises with a high abundance of art in a small area, while the Italians are less impressed.

The medics concluded that the classic Stendhal patient is a solo traveler, female, and between 26 and 40 years old. A risk group with an increased potential for suffering are also tourists who do not plan their visits specifically and do not take advantage of professional guidance. Some physicians evaluate this physical reaction to external overstimulation as neuroticism and not as an independent syndrome.

People who are prone to neuroticism respond more strongly to negative or positive feelings than less sensitive people. They are unable to adequately control their emotions and are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses. While those not prone to neuroticism can be deeply moved by the sight of breathtaking art and beauty.

According to the doctors, however, there is no external sensory overload that triggers Stendhal’s syndrome. This also requires a highly sensitive disposition. This psychosomatic disorder occurs only during a very brief period of cultural sensory overload. Hallucinations, dizziness, tachycardia and impaired perception subside after a short time without leaving any long-term physical or psychological damage.


Due to Stendhal syndrome, patients suffer from a number of different psychological and physical complaints. As a rule, this leads to disturbances of perception and consciousness. People may lose consciousness or go into a coma. Likewise, many patients suffer from hallucinations and cannot distinguish them from reality.

Confusion or inner restlessness can also occur and have a very negative effect on the quality of life of those affected. Many patients sometimes suffer from dizziness and vomiting or nausea. Permanent tiredness and exhaustion can also occur here, so that those affected are also significantly restricted in their everyday life.

Stendhal syndrome can lead to outbursts of anger, in which patients cannot easily control their emotions. This can lead to social discomfort and tension. Treatment of Stendhal’s syndrome is usually only with the help of medication or through various therapies. There are no complications. However, a positive course of the disease cannot be guaranteed in every case. However, the life expectancy of the patient is not affected by the syndrome.

When should you go to the doctor?

Stendhal syndrome is a serious condition that needs to be evaluated and treated by a doctor. Self-healing is very rare, so in most cases patients need to be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. If Stendhal syndrome is not treated properly, it can lead to serious complications in everyday life. The earlier the disease is recognized and treated by a doctor, the better the further progression of the disease.

A doctor should be consulted for Stendhal syndrome if the person affected suffers from various mental disorders. Hallucinations or disturbances of perception and panic attacks are common. Furthermore, severe confusion or severe dizziness can indicate Stendhal syndrome and should be examined by a doctor. Many of those affected feel exhausted and can no longer cope with their everyday life on their own. A psychologist can be consulted for Stendhal syndrome. Further treatment depends on the exact extent of the symptoms.

Treatment & Therapy

People with Stendhal syndrome not only consume external impressions that arise when looking at unique works of art, but also absorb these visual stimuli deeply and let them generate thoughts and feelings until they become dizzy and literally overwhelmed. Since Stendhal’s syndrome leaves no physical or psychological long-term damage, therapy in the classic sense is not necessary.

The first descriptor, Graziella Magherini, used talk therapy to cure very rare severe cases. To study this unusual phenomenon, a team of psychologists and doctors from Florence and Pisa conducted a study in 2010 to find out how often tourists are struck by the symptoms of Stendhal syndrome when they see an impressive work of art. The heart rate, pulse rate and blood pressure of the visitors were measured. The data collected was evaluated by the scientists and published in scientific journals. The results coincided with those of Graziella Magherini in 1979 and the scientific surveys in 1982.


Stendhal syndrome remains a fascinating mystery for physicians and scientists that has not yet been fully researched. There is disagreement in specialist circles as to whether it is an independent syndrome or not. Since every person reacts differently to external impressions and this psychosomatic disorder occurs completely unexpectedly, there is no prevention in the clinical sense.


In most cases of Stendhal syndrome, those affected only have very few and only very limited direct follow-up measures available. In most cases, direct treatment is not necessary for Stendhal syndrome, since the symptoms disappear on their own after just a few minutes or hours.

As a rule, there are no special complications or other complaints, so that a visit to a doctor is usually not necessary. However, if the symptoms of Stendhal syndrome occur frequently, a psychologist should be contacted. After the onset of the symptoms, the person concerned should rest and take it easy.

You should also keep your distance from the triggering works of art in order not to provoke the symptoms again. The disease does not lead to a reduced life expectancy of the affected person and there are no other complaints either. Since Stendhal’s syndrome is still a very unexplored disease, no special treatment measures are available.

You can do that yourself

Since Stendhal syndrome usually goes away on its own after the overstimulation has ended, no treatment is necessary. The most important measure is to process the stimuli, for example by keeping a diary or by artistically dealing with what you have seen.

Particularly severe cases of Stendhal syndrome can be treated in talk therapy. If typical symptoms such as dizziness and nervousness do not go away on their own, a therapeutic work-up is an option. It is usually sufficient to talk through the triggering situation again and to break down particularly intense impressions. You don’t need to see a psychologist for this. Conversations with friends and acquaintances are usually enough to work through the sensory overload.

Acute complaints, such as those that occasionally occur when visiting culturally significant places, require a break. Those affected should withdraw from the stimuli and, if necessary, break off the excursion or the inspection of the object. If you have shortness of breath or dizziness, it is advisable to see a doctor, especially if the symptoms last for a long time or are particularly intense. Stendhal syndrome requires medical attention if it recurs and is bothersome.

Stendhal Syndrome