We’ve all heard, seen, and perhaps even undergone examples of strange and crazy behavior. And we’ve all heard of the scary but pretty common psychological disorders like schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and so on.
But there are mental disorders aplenty that are rare, unusual, and downright scary. And frankly, no one really knows what makes someone mentally break down and get unhinged. Put a group of people in the same circumstances and each will behave differently and be affected differently as well.
For instance, it is common for soldiers and abuse victims to have PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder that makes them have flashbacks, delusions, and even hallucinations. But does that mean that every abuse victim or frontline soldier has PTSD? No, though the percentage of those who do is pretty high. So basically, every mind reacts to the same situation differently – and this difference in mental make up is the birthing point of mental disorders.
Each person reacts to stress differently – some laugh it off, some cry, and then there are still those who bottle things up so much that the pressure valve blows and the mind crumbles into a million different pieces, and putting it together becomes a huge ordeal for the person going through this mental break, as well as their family and friends. Add to that the fact that the treatment of these mental disorders is pretty tough.
So here are 15 very uncommon, rare, and unusual disorders and the poor victims who got them – we only hope no one else does!
15. Erotomania I.E. That Celebrity Is In Love With Me
At some time or another in our lives, we’ve all taken our infatuations to an imaginary level where we imagine and pretend that the celebrities we so love, love us back. People with erotomania take it to whole new levels. They believe that the person they love, usually a celebrity or someone from a high social status, loves them back and send them messages through special smiles, glances, signals or, hell, even telepathy. These erotomanics then try and express their love back to the person of interest by writing letters, visiting them, and basically trying to get close and then turn into what we commonly call overly obsessive and sometimes violent stalkers. These people also look to expressing their love by doing something they feel would make the celebrity view them with love, lust, and more.
John Hinckley Jr. “fell in love” with Jodie Foster when he saw the De Niro-starring movie Taxi Driver. And since the movie plot revolved around assassinating the President of the USA, that’s what Hinckley attempted to do. He shot Reagan and sent Jodie love letters and has been in a mental hospital ever since.
14. Lycanthropy: People Who Think They’re Werewolves
With movies like Twilight often painting an intensely romantic picture of vampires and werewolves, experts believe that this intense exposure to “unreality” can sometimes affect impressionable and feeble minds to an extent where people might start believing that they themselves are animals or even werewolves. Even if they believe they are not animals yet, these people have the belief that they are being transformed into one.
There have been cases every now and then, though more of these were reported in the past when medical science was not advanced and superstitions ran rampant. One psychiatrist, Dr. Jan Kirk Blom, found that of the 56 reported cases of extreme delusional metamorphosis into an animal, 25 percent of the patients were additionally diagnosed with schizophrenia, 23 percent with psychotic depression, and about 20 percent with bipolar disorder.
13. Oh My God, My Hand Is An Alien!
Sounds like a corny dialogue straight out of a B-movie with bad sets, bad acting, and obviously no budgets! So the feeling is not that your arm has been replaced by an alien’s arm instantly. Rather, it starts with when an arm, hand, or limb starts to make what feels like involuntary movements – like an involuntary grabbing hold of things, without the brain having told the person to do it.
The issue arises when there is a conflict between the left and right parts of the brain, like a cross-connection or mixing of damaged brain wires. It might sound rather funny and unthreatening but for a person caught in this, it can be a nightmare. For instance, New Jersey resident Karen Byrne’s “alien arm” would attack her and unbutton her blouse. “I would make a telephone call and this hand would hang up the phone…I would light a cigarette and this one would put it out. I would be drinking coffee and this hand would dump it,” recalls Karen. Certainly terrifying!
12. When Crossroads Freeze You Into A Terrified Fog
Many of us freeze in the face of danger, or get confused and anxious when making a life-changing decision like moving to another city, or choosing a life partner or even wondering if you should go ahead with an elective surgery or not. Obviously, we do not get sweaty palms and drippy foreheads when we have to choose, say, a breakfast cereal or the dishwashing soap… Right?
Well, if you suffer from aboulomania aka the paralysis of will, then yes, even making a decision about choosing a mundane item from an everyday shelf at a Walmart can make you anxious and make it difficult not only to choose but also to regain normal function. The victims of this disease claim that they can only make a decision when they are 100% sure about it or else they just go into an anxious mental fog. Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide, suffers from aboulomania and once spent 30 minutes trying to decide which box of Cheerios to buy before he realized he had a problem.
11. Experiencing Life In 7D: Synesthesia
If you have to have a rare and unusual mental disorder, well, pray you get this. Why? Because there is really nothing negative about this disorder, which is a neurological phenomenon where there is a union of senses. Synaesthetes, people with synesthesia, can literally hear colors, taste music, hear food, or even feel sounds. The stimulation of one of the five senses can lead to the involuntary stimulation of another and these people can experience normal and mundane things in more planes than just one.
Lady Gaga and Pharrell Williams are two famous synaesthetes and perhaps so is the “rat” shown in the movie Ratatouille who can actually see the colors of the food he tastes. There is nothing negative about synesthesia for there aren’t any negative connotations behind it, except maybe a need for rest every now and then due to overstimulation.
10. The Foreign Accent Syndrome That Hits You Out Of Nowhere
Imagine getting out of bed an American, only to open your mouth and involuntarily start to talk in a Jamaican accent? Sound weird, impossible, and more of a House plot than reality. It’s real, and we kid you not.
Sarah Colwill is a British woman, born and raised, who had such a severe migraine that she had to be hospitalized. She underwent surgery and when she woke up, she gave a shock to everyone for she spoke English, but now with an intense Chinese accent.
A rare disorder with over 50 documented cases to date, medical science has no idea why it occurs and what possible cure it might have. So in case you start speaking in a foreign accent, unfortunately, you are stuck with it without a cure. Yet another patient, Linda Walker, recalls waking from a stroke to find that her English Geordie accent had been transformed into a Jamaican one. She lamented that she lost her identity and didn’t like it one bit.
9. Help, Everything Is Retracting Down South!
Called the Genital Retraction Syndrome in America and Europe, or the Koro syndrome in Asia – this one is a delusion that your genitals are retracting into the body and once they do, you die. This delusion incorporates itself in women too where they remain in fear of their vulva or breasts shrinking. This psychiatric disorder is prevalent in communities where there is a lot of fear regarding masturbation, sex, and impotence – as well as plenty of superstitions involving pagan Gods and witchcraft.
Koro often causes mass epidemics of hysteria and cases have been reported in many countries in Africa, as well as Singapore, India, and Thailand. While not dangerous, Koro can cause extreme depression, a sense of worthlessness, and even lead to suicidal thoughts. People may also try to stop their organs from shrinking using physical means and cause themselves further injury. Doctors need to check all physical and psychological signs in order to cure Koro.
8. Not A Troop But An Actual Disorder: The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine
A bizarre disorder guaranteed to get the victim undue attention, the equally bizarre name comes from when it was first identified in 1978 in some of Maine’s lumberjacks of French-Canadian descent. Basically, it belongs to a group of startle syndromes, which entails abnormal responses and reflexes to literally everyday events.
An unexpected noise or sight is said to be the trigger for this neuropsychiatric condition and an afflicted person shows unusual responses, such as falling, flailing his arms or legs, crying out loudly, and even repeating words. The jumping comes from these involuntary movements that the body literally jumps to do and basically, these individuals cannot help but react to and sometimes obey the forceful orders given to them. If they were suddenly asked to strike a person they were with, even if it was a loved one, these people would not stop to think but merely blindly obey. Mostly, the cases have remained endemic to Maine and are considered genetic in nature.
7. I Am So Hungry That I Could Eat Anything: Pica
Pica is a disorder especially noticed in pregnant women, small children, people with learning difficulties like autism, and almost 6% of the institutionalized population. In fact, you may have come across someone with Pica, not even realizing that they have a disorder – think of children with a penchant for eating chalk, soil, clay, or even fingernails!
So basically, Pica is a disorder in which people have a compulsion to eat things with no nutritional value such as wood, soil, paint, and so on. While Pica is not a disorder that makes anyone visibly different from the normal human population, it can be dangerous to your health if a person ingests harmful or poisonous substances or even sharp objects. Depending on what the person eats, it can cause poisoning, gastrointestinal blockages, or stomach lining tears. The disorder can be further characterized into subtypes depending on what is being ingested, like the gross coprophagy (feces) or urophagia (urine), the weird geophagy (soil, clay or dirt) or trichophagia (hair or wool), and the really dangerous hyalophagia (glass)!
6. The Mary Hart Syndrome: I Cannot Bear That Woman
Most celebs have a perfume, a building, or even a style of clothing named after them. Mary Hart, the TV personality who hosted Entertainment Tonight from 1982 all the way to 2011, was a little different – she has a syndrome named after her, luckily not because she has it.
Apparently, her voice has the (dubious?) power of being able to send people suffering from epilepsy into a sudden episode. Reportedly, in 1991 an unidentified woman fell into rather dramatic seizures at the sound of Mary Hart’s voice and a doctor who studied her, Dr. Ramani, later confirmed it too. However, only people who already have epilepsy are affected by her voice, the rest of the population seems safe. This even became a joke on Seinfeld when, in one episode, Kramer remarks, “Suddenly I got dizzy and the next thing you know I hit my head on the coffee table.” This is probably one of the reasons why watching TV is harmful to your health!
5. I Am Moo-st Certain I Am A Cow: Boanthropy
Much like lycanthropy, boanthropy is another strange delusional disorder where a person believes themself to be a cow, or an ox, or heck, maybe even a buffalo. Basically, they believe they are cattle, and you might just find these people on all fours in a field, chewing on mouthfuls of grass.
Experts say that this delusion could start out as a dream and be impressionable enough to take over the waking mind, and then turn into a full-blown delusion. Some say that a condition like this is induced by hypnotism since the subjects involved are rather suggestible. According to the Book of Daniel Nebuchadnezzar, the King of the Neo-Babylonian Empire probably had this for “he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen.” He is the one credited with conquering Judah and Jerusalem, sending the Jews to exile and building the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. God wanted to humble him so he lost his sanity and lived like an animal for seven years before he was forgiven.
4. The Riley Day Syndrome Aka Familial Dysautonomia
A genetically inherited syndrome, this is a disorder where both the parents need to be carriers of the gene, and it affects the autonomous nervous system. It’s not a pleasant thing to have. Unpleasant symptoms include frequent vomiting, difficulty in swallowing, poor and stunted growth with an abnormally fat upper lip, and a protruding jaw.
One strange symptom to this also includes insensitivity to pain which may sound like one lucky symptom to have, but frankly is so not, for pain tells us when our body needs intervention. Further symptoms include an inability to produce tears, a wildly fluctuating blood pressure, pneumonia, problems with speech and movement, inappropriate perception of heat, taste, and a poor digestion. It doesn’t sound pleasant and it’s not. There is no cure, and more than 50% of afflicted patients die by the time they are 30!
Riley-Day Syndrome is also known as Familial Dysautonomia, and it’s a disorder that is genetically inherited. To actually show signs of having the condition, however, the relevant gene has to be passed on by both carrier parents.
Basically, Riley-Day syndrome affects the autonomous nervous system and while there are many extremely unpleasant symptoms (such as frequent vomiting, and difficulty swallowing), it does also have some arguably cool features. Chief among these is the fact that many people with the condition are almost entirely insensitive to pain.
Of course, though a painless life sounds great in theory, it doesn’t work so well in practice. Pain is actually your friend; it sends signals to your brain to let you know when something needs fixing—so to go without it all together isn’t necessarily going to be a pleasant experience.
3. The Walking Corpse, Or Cotard’s Syndrome: I Am Dead
So people afflicted by the Walking Corpse Syndrome aren’t, um, dead tired! Rather, they wholeheartedly believe that they are dead, as in they are not alive and perhaps don’t even exist. Sometimes these people can also believe that they are putrefying or have lost their blood or internal organs. Delusions of immortality are not uncommon either. To the normal, non-afflicted people, this sounds like a bizarre and unbelievable condition and cannot possibly be true.
But there have been documented cases of the same, like Mademoiselle X who believed that she was already dead and so did not need to eat. She finally did, in due course, die of starvation. Warren McKinlay of Essex also developed the Cotard’s delusion after a brain injury suffered during a motorcycle incident and was slowly starving to death when a chance meeting with another survivor of Cotard helped him see the light and get on the road to recovery.
2. The Alice In Wonderland Syndrome And Rabbit Holes
Frankly, ever since Lewis Carroll made Alice fall through a rabbit hole, I have wondered how that was possible. Now I know, though I wish I didn’t! So the Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is not so much a psychological disorder as it is a visual neurological disorder. In medical terminology, this disorder is called micropsia and it means that patients see normal everyday objects much smaller than they are in real life. For instance, to patients with micropsia, a car might look like the size of a cat! And sometimes, they may have macropsia, where everything looks looming and large.
Many believe that Lewis Carroll himself had this, as this condition can often incorporate in people who suffer from severe migraines. Some physicians believe this condition to be an aura, the body’s natural warning symptom of an oncoming migraine. Usually, this goes away by adulthood but in some cases, it does persist and become a bit of a problem, like if it occurs while you are driving.
1. The Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome Aka I’m Delicious
So there are tribes in the world who tend to find the flesh of their enemies, the neighboring tribes, really yummy. And then there are sickos and serial killers with a taste for the human flesh. But what if you meet someone who tends to gnaw on his own flesh? Then you just met someone with Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome, with auto-sarcophagi or self-cannibalism.
Basically, it starts out as juvenile gout wherein large amounts of uric acid begins to accumulate in the joints. This results in severe gout and kidney problems and neurological signs include poor muscle control and moderate intellectual disability. In the second year of life, this turns into self-mutilating behaviors. Rare as it is, there are still many documented cases of the same. In fact, in 2009, a 25-year-old convicted murderer on death row named Andre Thomas pulled out and ate his own eye. Needless to say, he had a history of mental illness.
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