LONDON, May 15 — From delusions and hallucinations to dizziness, feelings of persecution, anxiety disorders and sweating, all these symptoms can be the result of a phenomenon known as “Paris syndrome.” It is thought to affect tourists, particularly Japanese visitors, who are disappointed by the reality of a trip to Paris after building up an over-idealised vision of the French capital.

As the Olympic Games approach and the French capital prepares to welcome just over 15 million visitors (from both France and overseas), a rare but very real phenomenon is back in the news: Paris syndrome. This disorder, experienced by travelers, particularly Japanese visitors, it seems, is related to the excessive idealisation of a destination.

Many people in Japan have a fascination with Paris, perceiving it as a city of spellbinding beauty, imbued with an unparalleled artistic and cultural richness. This romantic vision is often fueled by idealised representations of the French capital in movies and TV shows such as Amélie and Emily in Paris. Paris is portrayed as a place of elegance, refinement and good taste. However, when Japanese travelers arrive in Paris, reality can sometimes shatter these illusions. This can give rise to severe culture shock.

According to an online article posted by psychotherapist and psychoanalyst Rodolphe Oppenheimer, Paris syndrome arises when visitors’ expectations don’t match the reality they discover. Many Japanese visitors are caught off-guard by the challenges encountered in the French capital, be it public transport issues, sometimes scruffy or neglected streets, or even what they perceive as widespread rudeness on the part of Parisians.

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A very rare phenomenon

Although this syndrome is not officially recognised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals of Mental Disorders (DSM), it has been observed and documented since the 1980s. It is characterised by symptoms such as dizziness, anxiety, hallucinations and even heart rhythm disturbances.

The term Paris syndrome was first used in 1986 by Japanese psychiatrist Hiroaki Ōta. At the time, he was living in the French capital and working at the Sainte-Anne psychiatric hospital. He noticed that some Japanese tourists passing through Paris exhibited common symptoms such as anxiety attacks, behavioral disorders and hallucinations. In a study published in 2004, he counted around 60 patients experiencing this syndrome since 1988. However, it should be noted that these cases very often present in individuals with a previous psychiatric history, such as schizophrenia, or psychological disorders.

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Paris is not the only city in the world whose name is associated with a syndrome. There’s the “Florence syndrome,” also known as “Stendhal syndrome,” caused by the overabundance of great works of art in the Tuscan capital. There’s also “Jerusalem syndrome,” linked to the religious significance of the Holy City, and “India syndrome,” linked, as with Paris, to the culture shock between this mystical country and the global West. — ETX Studio