Eli Orzessek is Travel's Digital Content Producer.

The strange ways travel can affect your mental health

From delusions of Paris to mile-high tantrums, travel can do a serious number on your brain

Travel isn't always fun and sometimes it can seriously affect your mental health. Photo / 123RF
Travel isn't always fun and sometimes it can seriously affect your mental health. Photo / 123RF

Travel is perceived as one of the most enjoyable experiences there is - relaxing on beaches, being introduced to new cultures, ticking items off your "bucket list" - but it can also affect your mental health in a variety of interesting ways.

From symptoms relating to Paris' failure to live up to romantic expectations, to fainting fits in art galleries, to the modern plague of "air rage", here are some of the ways travelling can drive you up the wall.

Paris Syndrome

While some consider it an urban myth, the phenomenon of "Paris Syndrome" has been well-documented since it was identified in 1986 by a Japanese psychiatrist working in France.

Romantic images like this are a cause of Paris Syndrome. Photo / 123RF
Romantic images like this are a cause of Paris Syndrome. Photo / 123RF

The temporary psychological disorder is said to occur when a tourist arrives in Paris only to find it is not what they expected it would be - thanks to its over-romanticised reputation as a city of of love, culture, beauty and fashion.

Faced with the realities of rude service and poor public transport, tourists who were expecting something out of the movieAmelie experience extreme culture shock. Symptoms include acute delusional states, feelings of persecution, anxiety and depersonalisation.

Japanese tourists appear particularly susceptible and the Japanese embassy in Paris reports around 20 cases a year.

Bernard Delage of Jeunes Japon, an association that helps Japanese families settle in France, told the Guardian: "In Japanese shops, the customer is king, whereas here assistants hardly look at them ... People using public transport all look stern, and handbag snatchers increase the ill-feeling."

Jerusalem Syndrome

Like Paris Syndrome, but with added religious delusions, this psychological disorder is triggered by a trip to the city of Jerusalem. It doesn't adhere to a single religion, affecting Jews, Christians and Muslims from many different backgrounds.

While some sufferers have previously been diagnosed with other forms of mental illness, most of those afflicted were previously mentally balanced.

A visit to Jerusalem can spark religious delusions. Photo / 123RF
A visit to Jerusalem can spark religious delusions. Photo / 123RF

Symptoms include anxiety, the desire to split away from a group, obsessive cleanliness and bathing, the urge to chant religious verses or sing hymns and marching to the city's holy places to deliver sermons.

While the syndrome has been observed since the Middle Ages, it was first clinically described in the 1930s. Between 1980 and 1993, it was reported that 1200 tourists with severe Jerusalem-related mental problems were referred to the city's Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre.

Stendhal Syndrome

If you've ever felt weak and dizzy in the presence of a great work of art, you might have experienced Stendhal Syndrome.

This disorder causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations, when a person is overcome by emotion during an experience of great personal significance - such as viewing art.

Stendhal's visit to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence was overwhelming. Photo / 123RF
Stendhal's visit to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence was overwhelming. Photo / 123RF

The name of the syndrome comes from the 19th century French author Stendhal, who wrote of an intense emotional experience he experienced while viewing Giotto's frescoes for the first time at the the Basilica of Santa Croce.

"I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen," he wrote.

"Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty ... I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations ...

"Everything spoke so vividly to my soul. Ah, if I could only forget. I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call 'nerves'. Life was drained from me. I walked with the fear of falling."

The Telegraph reported that staff at Florence's Santa Maria Nuova hospital have become accustomed to dealing with dizzy, overwhelmed tourists who have been admiring Michelangelo's David and other treasures of the city.

Air rage

Incidents involving angry and unruly air passengers are on the rise, according to the International Air Transport Association, which reported a 16 per cent increase over the last year.

The most famous recent case of this was the "nut rage" incident, which saw a Korean airline heiress pack a sad when her in-flight snack was delivered to her in a packet, rather than in a bowl.

Air rage incidents are on the rise. Photo / 123RF
Air rage incidents are on the rise. Photo / 123RF

While many would assume the availability of alcohol to be the main culprit, sober passengers are often the instigators of chaos at cruising altitude.

So what can we blame? A University of Toronto study earlier in the year found a strong correlation between class segregation on airlines and incidences of passenger misbehaviour.

It's always a bit of a buzz kill having to walk from the front of the plane, through business class, to cattle class in the back, and the report found the existence of a first class cabin made an incident of air rage four times more likely.

Other potential triggers included lack of leg room, narrow seats, small cabins and long flights.

- NZ Herald

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