Monday, June 20, 2011

Medical Mondays: Stendhal Syndrome/Double Rainbow


Stendhal Syndrome occurs when a person is in the presence of artwork that literally overwhelms the viewer, causing symptoms of dizziness, hallucinations, delirium, rapid heart beat, and occasionally fainting.

The syndrome was named after Stendhal (the pen name for Henri-Marie Beyle) a French author who experienced the syndrome during a visit to Florence, Italy.

In novels, Stendhal Syndrome has been seen in:

Astoria, by Robert Viscusi
The Importance of Being Seven, by Alexander McCall Smith
among others.

It can also occur when viewing beauty in the natural world.

So, okay. Some people have blamed the reaction by the infamous Double Rainbow video guy on Stendhal Syndrome.

Others have blamed...er...more illicit causes.

You be the judge.

Have you ever experienced Stendhal Syndrome?

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice.

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
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46 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

Pretty cool! I used this syndrome as the basis for time travel in my current wip. I took the hallucinations a step farther and a painting transports them! I love research!

salarsenッ said...

Now this is interesting. So, should the artist who seems to stir this disorder in an individual feel badly or proud??? Sorry, my brain usually goes to strange places.

Em-Musing said...

I felt this way when I went to the Caribbean for the first time...the colors, the smell...the air...the everything! I thought it was the rum I had been drinking, but since then, I've gone back and pretty much have the same reaction (sans rum)...though all I do is smile on the outside. Inside, I'm doing flips. Guess that's why I'm moving there in the near future.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Can't say I have heard of this before.

Yvonne.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Can't say I have heard of this before.

Yvonne.

Matthew MacNish said...

Double rainbow FTW!

Anne Gallagher said...

I don't think I've had the full blown syndrome but I have been known to weep with joy listening to music, or seeing art. And as for double rainbows, I've seen two in my lifetime. Awesome experience.

Sarah said...

I live under a rock, and I'VE heard of Double Rainbow Guy. This is an interesting explanation for his behavior!

Jonene Ficklin said...

So there's a medical reason for Double Rainbow Guy - that explains so much. I've been moved by art and music, but never to the point of being overwhelmed like that. I think any artist would be flattered. Wow.

Bryce Daniels said...

I've never heard of this before!

Fascinating stuff. Thanks for sharing!

Carol Kilgore said...

I've never been quite as 'enthused' as Double Rainbow Guy, but I'm often besieged by a flood of thoughts and emotions around some works of art, pieces of music, and natural beauty. I'm going to do some research on Stendhal Syndrome. Thanks!

ensouling said...

I've experienced it - though not to the point of fainting - & used it in writing. It's one of my favs. (Which, I realize, is a weird thing to say about a medical condition, but I think of this as a spiritual condition too.)

Carolyn Abiad said...

Perhaps Double Rainbow guy has the new "enhanced" version of this syndrome.

Linda Gray said...

The power of the brain is amazing! I have to admit that while I completely accept the reality of phenomena like this, they bring out my scientific inquiry spirit. Do you know, medically, what happens in the brain to create this syndrome, or any of the many examples of the mind creating a reality that is not considered 'normal?'

notesfromnadir said...

Never heard of it, never experienced it. I've seen rainbows though--does that count?

Old Kitty said...

Oh my stars!! That rainbow guy really liked his double rainbows and yes I am putting it mildly! Actually some witty commentator of the clip said that the guy was having a rainbowgasm! And I would have to agree.

I'm still scraping my jaw off the floor after listening to the rainbow guy.

Take care
x

Suze said...

I cry at both visual and written art on a ve-e-ery regular basis. Does that count or am I just a weenie? ;)

Bossy Betty said...

Very cool! I always learn so much here!

Olga said...

Oddly enough, I know about this one. It was very popular in Russia :)

Alleged Author said...

Double rainbow...what does it mean?? This syndrome quite cool as I did not know it existed. Maybe he wasn't high on pot but on nature. Hmmm.

Emily Rose said...

Wow, what a sensation to be completely overwhelmed by art.

Munk said...

Looking back at the video now, perhaps I did go a little overboard. But it was DOUBLE, don't you see? It was a DOUBLE!

julie fedderson said...

Rainbowgasm. That's hysterical, Old Kitty.

Just saw a double rainbow the other day. I feel like my response was lacking now.

Jayne said...

Ah! I feel so much better knowing that there's a diagnosis for my dizziness. Yep, art does that to me all the time. or maybe it's hormones. ;)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Can't say anything has ever wowed me that much!

Heather said...

Wow, I didn't even know such a thing existed. Cool! I can see how someone could be overwhelmed by the beauty of art or nature but I've never had it happen to that degree.

Jai Joshi said...

I have experienced it once, actually, although I didn't know it was called Stendalh Syndrome. I was reading a book called 'Yagnaseni' by the Indian author Pratibha Ray and there was a passage in there that so overwhelmed me with it's beauty that I felt lightheaded and almost fainted. I've never fainted in my life except for that one moment.\

I wrote a review of the book on my blog and even now just thinking of that reading experiences fills me with joy.

Jai

Ghenet Myrthil said...

LOL about double rainbow guy! Such a random and interesting syndrome. :)

M Pax said...

I know I have been completely awed by stunning natural scenery. Does that count?

I have a half written story in which this will be useful. Thanks. :D

Jennifer Hillier said...

Ahahaha! Double rainbow guy! I forgot about him!

As hilarious as he was (not that he was intending to be), I do admit that his intense emotions were pretty cool. And to think there could be a medical explanation for it...

D. U. Okonkwo said...

Love how you always have new words and meanings! A constant education over here :o)

-E- said...

what was he looking at when it happened, though?

Susan Fields said...

I guess I'm not that deep, because I can't imagine reacting that way to artwork or even beauty in the natural world. Would be an interesting reaction in a character, though.

Connie said...

Okay, so I've never heard of the double rainbow guy. I guess it's time to google him.

Thanks for the interesting post.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Poor double rainbow man. Some things will dog us all our days. I have never experienced it. Victor Standish has over his first meeting with the lovely ghoul, Alice Wentworth. But I think it was because she looked at his hands and mentioned finger sandwiches!! Roland

Krispy said...

LOL, so can we rename the syndrome, Double Rainbow syndrome?

Janet Johnson said...

Wow, I have never experienced this. So crazy! If it weren't on your blog, I wouldn't believe it. :)

Leslie Rose said...

Oh, this explains all the weird color visions I had while grading final rendering projects in my design class. Kidding. What a wild phenom.

Meredith said...

Haha, that sounds too strange to be true! I love it.

Madeline Bartos said...

I usually suffer Stendhal Syndrome when listening to music. Nature always seems to get me too. :)

Slamdunk said...

Ha, not me. It sounds like something people in undergrad would describe as experiencing while listening to Pink Floyd among other things....

brookerousseau said...

Interesting. I've never heard of that and I thought I was a Stendhal fan. Thanks for teaching me something new!

Colene Murphy said...

Never heard of it! What a weird thing!!! Interesting, though. Thanks for the info!

Ciara said...

That is strange. I love these posts. I've NEVER heard of this syndrome before.

Carol Riggs said...

How bizarre. I've never heard of that. How sad, too! Hope your summer is starting off great, Lydia. ;o)

Faith said...

I've never heard of this before, but it might explain something that happened while I was in Egypt... I was in a museum in Luxor, looking at a statue of Tuthmosis III, and I felt suddenly overwhelmed, dizzy, and utterly consumed by the beauty of the statue. I felt an urge to stand there and stare at it for hours, and had to force myself away as I had people with me. I've always wondered what happened to me in that moment... maybe this was it? Fascinating.

 
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