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What is Stendhal Syndrome?

Laura M. Sands
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Stendhal syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that occurs as a reaction to art. Also known as hyperkulturemia, this particular condition produces an overwhelming reaction to a large amount of art being gathered in one place or if a work of art is particularly attractive to the viewer. Stendhal syndrome produces actual physical symptoms as the result of the psychological and emotional reaction to art.

Stendhal’s syndrome is named in honor of the famous French writer, Stendhal, who experienced overwhelming symptoms of anxiety and even fainted while viewing art in Italy. It was an Italian psychologist named Graziella Magherini, however, who in the 1970s first began to apply this label to others with symptoms similar to those first described by Stendhal in the 19th century. Symptoms of Stendhal syndrome include anxiety, heart palpitations, dizziness and fainting. Some individuals experiencing this condition have even been noted to experience hallucinations while observing great works of art.

Stendhal syndrome can be experienced by anyone overwhelmed by artistic masterpieces. It most commonly occurs, however, in individuals visiting works of art in Florence, Italy, which is why it is also called Florence syndrome by some. It is such a frequently occurring syndrome in this part of the world that hospital staff workers in that area report that symptoms are commonly recognized when disoriented patients arrive at a hospital soon after admiring nearby works of art.

Travel experts advise tourists to not try to take everything in at one time when visiting Italy in order to avoid developing Stendhal syndrome. Experts further advise that art lovers balance their time between viewing art and doing other activities, such as attending sporting events, shopping or dining out. By doing so, the odds of becoming overwhelmed by too much artistic beauty are reduced, as are the odds of experiencing Stendhal syndrome symptoms.

In her book on the subject, "La syndrome de Stendhal," Dr. Magherini explains that, while Stendhal syndrome is a rare psychosomatic illness, it most commonly occurs in tourists who have created stress symptoms by attempting to see and do too much during a visit to a city famous for its museums, art galleries and historical landmarks. Similar syndromes, such as Paris syndrome and Jerusalem syndrome, have been known to occur in Paris and Jerusalem as individuals become overwhelmed while viewing significant religious and cultural artifacts in each country. For some, symptoms of these syndromes have even led to hospitalization and have required some individuals to undergo antidepressant therapies.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing to her work. With a background in social sciences and extensive online work experience, she crafts compelling copy and content across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a skilled contributor to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By popcorn — On Jul 06, 2011

Has anyone ever met or known anyone that suffers from Stendhal syndrome?

I think it is interesting how our emotions and intellect play off one another to create actual physical symptoms. There are so many different kinds of psychosomatic illnesses that it never ceases to amaze me how people can actually make themselves sick just by thinking about something.

I think one of the most common examples of a psychosomatic illness is reading about something that would make you feel itchy, and then you itch. This always happens to me when someone mentions head lice or insect bites. I just can’t help but to start itching and scratching.

By wander — On Jul 05, 2011

This is the first time I have ever heard of the Stendhal syndrome and I find it fascinating that such a condition has been labeled. I have traveled extensively and have had the opportunity to visit a lot of great landmarks. Besides landmarks, I have also had the chance to view some of the most famous art in the world.

Sometimes when visiting an artwork I have experienced dizziness or felt like I would swoon, but I am sure it had very little to do with the painting. I find if you are a tourist you often have a short time to view a lot of things and tend to push yourself too hard. This can result in exhaustion and feeling quite ill. I wonder how many cases of outright exhaustion and travel stress have been mistaken for Stendhal syndrome?

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing...
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