Balance is important. About 2400 years ago, the Chinese gave it a name: Yin and Yang. Yes and no, right and wrong, the duality of balance both in the mind and the physical world. This isn’t a new idea. It’s time honored and backed by examples everywhere we look. Balance in relationships, balance in the chemical content of the air we breathe, and balance in the amount of shots I take per hour.
So what happens when the balance is off? Disorder. Couples break up, air becomes smog, and I fall asleep using the soothingly cool, porcelain toilet as my pillow. General disorder.
Similar, the mind can suffer from any number of disorders when your metaphorical yin and yang are off. Mental disorders, scratch that, extreme mental disorders are no laughing matter. We’re not talking about the “I stayed up all night because I’m stressed about bills” kind of disorders, unless it's been a couple days without a single wink (insomnia) or you’ve suddenly acquired an appetite for eating inanimate objects (geophagia).
Famous footballer and all around quotable guy, Ronnie Lott once said, “If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it.” This of course was meant to be an inspirational quote, directed at achieving ones goals and aspirations. However, despite the quote's intentions, the mind's eye is near infinite and humans are just as capable at being positive go-getters who work hard, exercise, and treat every living thing with love and compassion as they are exploring the dark and existentially tormented parts of the mind and having those areas surface in bizarre and sometimes deplorable ways, like mental disorders. Here’s just a few of the stranger examples of mental disorders.
15 Paris Syndrome
Remember when your parents took you to a local parking lot fair and on your way there, your anticipation was akin to that of a visit to Disneyland or Six Flags, only to have it slowly dashed upon experiencing the rickety outdated rides, stale popcorn, and carnies who look like extras from a Mad Max film? Well imagine that disappointment times a billion resulting in a shock inducing anxiety that sends you to the hospital.
That’s what’s happening to roughly twenty (almost exclusively) Japanese tourist every year when they visit the City of Lights for the first time. It’s aptly called Paris Syndrome and it’s a physiological disorder that results from the extreme shock and disappointment of discovering Paris is in fact not some charming hybrid between Chocolat and Amelie but a real bustling metropolis with real everyday citizens who don’t feel like patronizing some film clichés based in a completely different century. Sure, it’s an amazing city in an amazing country but like most cities, it has an abundance of traffic, smog, rude people, red light districts, and apparently around twenty hysterical Japanese tourists with crushed expectations at any given point.
Basically it’s a form of culture shock. Symptoms include an acute delusional state, hallucinations, anxiety, dizziness, and sweating. The Japanese Embassy in Paris operates a 24 hour hotline and requires those suffering from this disorder to be sent home with a licensed physician or nurse as chaperone, to monitor progress.
Ever wonder what it would be like to smell color? Or taste music? No, I’m not offering you microdot of LSD purchased from a white guy wearing a Sioux Indian headdress at some overpriced music festival, I’m referring to a mere 4% of the population that suffer from Synesthesia, a perceptual disorder in which a sight or sound triggers an automatic, involuntary experience in another sense like smell or taste.
Though Synesthesia can occur between any combination of senses, the “ability” to taste sound and smell color seem to be the most common pairings. I put “ability” in quotes but those who suffer from Synesthesia don’t see it as a disorder let alone handicap, but rather a gift or additional hidden sense. In fact, many who suffer from Synesthesia don’t even realize their experiences are unusual till they learned others were not capable of perceiving these extrasensory sensations. This has led to a bit of envy from some folks but they obviously haven’t considered that Synesthesia is probably more of a curse than a blessing. Imagine taking a swig of water in the sun parched desert, only to realize it’s Nickleback flavored!
13 Reduplicative Paramnesia
You know that feeling when you first wake up in the morning and for a brief moment you’re not sure where you are? You may even think you’re in a previous home, still on a recent vacation, or even living back home with the ‘rents. This feeling of locational displacement usually goes away in the first few minutes of consciousness. Sounds, smells, and sensations that activate memories remind us where we are and usually keep us from screaming in confused horror and bewilderment every morning.
But sometimes familiar sights and sounds don’t do the trick. Someone suffering from Reduplicative Paramnesia may be in a room they’ve been in a thousand times before and be fully aware of their surroundings but insist those surroundings have either been moved or even duplicated in another location.
Reduplicative Paramnesia, which can be classified as both a neurological and psychiatric disorder, was first observed in the late 1800s during wartime, when many wounded soldiers suffered from the delusion that they were admitted to hospitals in their hometowns despite obvious surroundings. It wasn’t until 1903 that the term Reduplicative Paramnesia was coined by psychologist Arnold Pick who described a condition in a patient with suspected Alzheimer's disease who insisted that she had been moved from Pick's city clinic, to one she claimed looked identical but was in a familiar suburb. To explain this, she concluded that Pick and the medical staff worked at both locations.
If you’re a parent, give your kids a couple venti caffechino’s or whatever, then take them to a quiet white tablecloth restaurant to experience Trichotillomania first hand. Okay, perhaps not but Trichotillomania, also known as Hair Pulling Disorder, is exactly what it sounds like.
Trichotillomania is commonly seen in those who suffer from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and has been known to be hereditary, and is part of the gigantic, often horrifying group of impulse control disorders along with kleptomania (stealing stuff) and pyromania (burning stuff).
Slipping into a trance like state, those with Trichotillomania will begin rhythmically pulling or rubbing at their own hair until the area has little or no hair left. Usually more than one area has been picked out on the scalp, gradually working their way down to the eyelashes, face, arms and legs, basically giving themselves a manual Brazilian sans the wax. Trichotillomania is another disorder that affects up to 4% of the population.
11 Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS)
Remember the movie Scanners, when the guy’s head explodes? It’s not like that at all. Belonging to the Parasomnia circle of hell, I mean disorders, EHS arises from stress, anxiety, lack of Delta sleep, minor seizures, shifts within the workings of your inner ear, and even anticipation of a frequently experienced auditory trauma, like when the DJ screws up the drop, can cause EHS.
EHS is a disorder where those suffering from it believe to hear extremely loud sounds usually in the form of massive thunderclaps or explosions as they fall asleep or wake up. It’s like being trapped in a room with some kind of evil marching band as EHS often times comes with crippling fear, paranoia, confusion, and tinnitus. There have even been a few cases where patients suffering from EHS have reportedly suffocated.
Doctors tend to agree EHS is caused by the various parts of the brain that control audio, motor, and visual functions having a serious miscommunication while shutting down for sleep or waking up. Which somehow results in getting periodic jump-scares one patient described as “an enormous roar so loud it could kill me.” Fun.
10 Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
Everyone gets a little self-conscious now and then. We may even stress out a little over body weight, a few crooked teeth, my entirely hypothetical for the sake of this article receding hairline. No biggie, onward. But for some it’s not a fleeting thought or moment of insecurity, it’s a constant obsession. Not to be mistaken for an obsession with vanity, to be the hottest girl, sexiest guy, or even fashionable, but simply to be normal. To not be a freak or an aesthetic abomination, but simply walk down the street without being mocked and ridiculed by those who make being normal appear so easy, those jerks.
Anyway, these physical flaws, either real or perceived (usually perceived), have been so exaggerated in the mind of one suffering from BDD, they will avoid loved ones and social situations, quit jobs, even go to extreme lengths to mask or correct these flaws via plastic surgery or in some cases, go so far as to mutilate themselves.
Those suffering from BDD have no control over their thought process and usually refuse to listen to reason and will often accuse those who contradict their insecurities of lying. It affects both men and women equally.
9 Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI)
Fatal Familial Insomnia is very much a disorder, though it’s often fatal so it graduates to disease status because that’s totally how science works.
Normal sleep occurs in four main stages: Light Sleep, Non REM Sleep, Deep Slow Wave Sleep, and REM Sleep. The latter two produce specific brain waves, hormones, chemicals, and other important things we need to live as well as produce the dreams we can remember which help spark creativity and that helps us stay interesting. So if you want to stay interesting and alive you don’t want FFI.
FFI is basically years of insomnia and never getting passed the first stage or two of light sleep causing an epically slow physical and mental collapse that ends in… no, not a good nights sleep, death. That’s right, first you can’t sleep, then comes four months of panic attacks, paranoia, and phobias mixed with a little stage one sleep, then another five months of extreme panic attacks and hallucinations, then six months or so of dementia and full on unresponsive catatonia with a touch of stage one sleep, then you die. But wait there’s more, its also known to be hereditary as well as something that can pretty much just happen. So you better learn to get along with Freddy because the alternative is way, way worse.
On the polar opposite end of FFI comes the only disorder on this list with its own PornHub category, although this disorder can have some disturbing implications.
Another member of the parasomnia crime family, Sexomnia is fairly self-described. Much like sleepwalking, Sexomnia occurs at some point during the late stages of non-REM sleep, persons with Sexomnia will make an unconscious effort to engage in sexual acts without having any memory of their actions, as they occur before REM sleep, where memorable dreams are generated.
In most cases, the end result is some dry humping on a very confused pillow, however extreme cases have been linked to sexual assault and rape, so let's keep the snickering to a minimum. Imagine all the horrible ways you could discover you have this disorder.
For obvious reasons, Sexomnia has been prominently featured in film and television. There’s even a full documentary on the subject streaming on YouTube.
7 Stendahl Syndrome AKA Beatle Mania
This is a disorder I would wish upon myself if I weren’t already dead inside, however as a Star Wars fan, I’m pretty sure I had a brush with Stendahl Syndrome when I attended a celeb packed private party at Skywalker Ranch some years back.
Stendahl Syndrome is becoming so moved by the artistic beauty or profound personal significance of a person, place, or thing, you go temporarily insane, with the usual rapid heart beat, dizziness, fainting, and hallucinations. It was named after French author Stendahl who experienced this disorder upon visiting the Basilica of Santa Croce, burial place of Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and Galileo.
It’s also a common disorder among Beliebers and Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters. Luckily, like Paris Syndrome, Stendahl Syndrome can be treated like a form of mild shock, which gradually subsides, usually after removing the patient from the area, which, depending on the situation, may get you into a fight with security at Skywalker Ranch.
6 Koro Syndrome AKA Genital Retraction Syndrome
So yeah… ever feel like, you know… stuff is shrinking? Probably not because Koro Syndrome is most common in countries where sex education is still considered propaganda and/or blasphemy.
Koro Syndrome, or Genital Retraction Syndrome, is a disorder mostly observed in men, where a person believes their genitals are shrinking and being sucked up into their abdomen. This delusion is usually perceived to be a precursor to death. Koro Syndrome, as it’s referred to in Asian countries, is believed to have its origins in myths and urban legends, that grew up to be a widespread social anxiety, and retired a full blown mental disorder.
In the States, Genital Retraction Syndrome is usually associated with schizophrenia and severe social anxiety disorders. Boy it’s a good thing society doesn’t place any importance on things like the size of a guys junk or a woman’s measurements...
For a simple cure to Koro Syndrome, I recommend around the clock monitoring and perhaps finding some volunteers to assist you.
I don’t want to really admit this disorder is real because if I do, I’ll have to admit Maria Sharapova probably isn’t penning a poetic letter, describing her love for me, not because of a writer's block that threatens to tear our love apart, but because we have no relationship nor have we ever met in any capacity whatsoever. Also, we’re both happily married.
Erotomania is a psychological disorder where the affected individual believes a person, usually of higher status, is in love with them. The person will believe this celebrity or person of status is communicating their love and adulations through coded messages, hand gestures, dance moves, secret meanings in songs, and public breakups with other celebrities.
Erotomania has been observed in those suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Two notable cases involved President Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr., who shot Reagan as a gesture in reply to what he perceived as personal messages of love from Jodie Foster and the other involving a woman who stalked then late-night TV host David Letterman because of what she thought was a mutual courtship.
4 Depersonalization Disorder
Sometimes I’ll have three Saturday nights on a Wednesday which, by the end of it, is about the closest thing to having Depersonalization Disorder besides actually having it.
Depersonalization Disorder stems from a distorted perception of your own body. You might feel like you’re a robot, exist outside your body, or like you’re playing yourself in a video game. Though the person is fully aware of what’s going on, they realize that things are not as they appear to be. This can cause major anxieties and bring on a whole slew of other disorders.
Experts are a bit fuzzy on the causes of Depersonalization Disorder, but those who suffer from it tend to have experienced severe physical and/or mental trauma at some point in their lives.
Depersonalization Disorder may also just be a small cog in a much bigger disorder machine and be a mere symptom of a seizure disorder or even certain brain diseases. So if you feel like you’re about to have an out of body experience, you’re either suffering from Depersonalization Disorder or you need to give me the number of your dealer.
We’ve all had denial on some level. Personally, I focus most of my denial towards the pile of overdue bills and parking tickets on my coffee table. Or should I say aren’t on my coffee table! It’s great, being in denial pretty much clears you of any wrong doing or subsequent guilt and who wants that?
Somatoparaphrenia is a delusional disorder where the one affected vehemently denies ownership of their own body part. Even when given undeniable proof that they do in fact own and control their own limbs, the person will create elaborate and bizarre stories to explain why the limb doesn’t belong to them or how the limb somehow found its way to be attached to them. Sometimes the one affected will go so far as to treat and groom the limb as if it were its own separate entity.
One treatment known as mirror therapy has proven affective. Essentially, the patient stands if front of a mirror and usually recognizes the limbs are theirs however, Somatoparaphrenia soon returns after the mirror is removed.
This one is similar to Somatoparaphrenia except a bit darker. It’s one thing to deny ownership of your own limb, it’s another to want to chop it off.
Apotemnophilia (from the Greek akron "limb," temnein "to cut," and philein "to love") is an extreme neurological disorder where the affected has an extreme desire to amputate one of their own limbs.
As this wasn’t terrifying enough, Apotemnophilia has a completely separate definition in which the individual suffering from Apotemnophilia has a strong sexual desire towards people who are amputees. The second form of this disorder may sound creepy, combining something as horrific as amputation with strong sexual urges but on the other hand, those who have to live their lives as amputees are human just like the rest of us and want a little lovin' too. Disorder or not.
Back to the original definition of Apotemnophilia, also known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). Those suffering from this disorder will often times inflict great bodily harm on themselves in the hopes to garner medical attention to the point of amputation. Much like the alternate usage of the word, Apotemnophilia has a strong sexual overtone. Patients will often find sexual gratification from self-mutilation or the idea of having their limbs removed.
There are currently no known causes for Apotemnophilia and treating Apotemnophiles is incredibly difficult since most of them are deemed psychologically healthy, don’t consider themselves affected by any mental disorder, and won’t seek psychological help. Rather they are more likely to be caught in the act of self amputation far before they are likely to seek help or be diagnosed with any mental disorder.
Similar to Apotemnophilia, except way darker. Those readers who have an interest in mental disorders may have heard of Wendigo Psychosis, where the person afflicted has an extreme desire to eat human flesh, specifically the flesh of other people. Autosarcophagy is the act of eating ones own flesh. Yes that’s right, the number one mental disorder on this list is the one where people need to be restrained from eating themselves.
What’s especially disturbing about Autosarcophagy is that the afflicted will often times find the idea of self cannibalism repugnant and be partially unaware of their actions. They slip into a hypnotic state and begin to consume themselves unwillingly and without any knowledge of their actions.
This is probably the rarest mental disorder on this list and has only been documented a number of times in modern medicine, however that doesn’t make it any less terrifying.
Autosarcophagy also consists of several sub groups including Auto Vampirism, where the afflicted consumes their own blood and Forced Autosarcophagy, which has been covered in several films including Hannibal and Seven, and was a practiced past time of historical figures like Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bathory. Forced Autosarcophagy was also reported in the late ‘90s in Sudan where children were forced to eat their own ears by Sudanese death squads.
So there you have it, my top 15 Mental Disorders So Disturbing They Sound Fake. This list is in no way associated with any medical professional and should not be used as a source for diagnosing anything of any kind. Unless you try to eat yourself, it’s probably Autosarcophagy. Please, seek professional help at once.