Top 10 Bizarre and Frightening Brain Disorders
By Tanya Lewis / Business Insider
Imagine being able to feel everything another person is feeling — their pleasure and their pain? Or being convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that you're dead?
These are just a few of the strange brain disorders that have plagued a rare set of people over the years. Oliver Sacks' classic book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat introduced us to some of the strangest brain disorders people suffer from, but that's only the tip of the iceberg.
Here are a few of the most bizarre mental conditions out there.
Cotard's Syndrome: This disorder makes people think that they're dead.
This man suffered from a condition known as Cotard's syndrome (or Walking Corpse Syndrome), in which a patient thinks he or she is dead. Counterintuitively, in more than half of cases, these patients also think they are immortal. Treatment for the condition can include antidepressant or antipsychotic drugs, or electroconvulsive therapy.
Prosopagnosia: Some people can't remember others' faces.
Depending on how severe the case, a person may have a hard time recognizing just familiar faces, telling strangers' faces apart, or even telling a face apart from an object. Some people with prosopagnosia can't even recognize their own face. The condition is usually caused by stroke, but as much as 2.5% of people may be born with it.
Mirror-Touch Synesthesia: This disorder makes people feel what other people are feeling.
Amanda suffers from a rare condition called mirror-touch synesthesia that makes her able to physically "feel" what others around her are feeling. Although she was born this way, other people have acquired the ability after having a stroke, or a limb amputated (which can lead to sensations in a "phantom" limb). The first case of this condition was reported in 2005, and there have only been a handful of other reports since then.
Capgras Delusion: People with this condition think a loved one has been replaced by an imposter.
The woman suffered from what is known as the Capgras delusion or Capgras syndrome, where you think loved ones have been substituted by imposters, robots or aliens. It usually occurs in patients with paranoid schizophrenia, but has also been seen in patients with a brain injury or dementia. It's also more common in women than men (by a ratio of 3:2).
Alien Hand Syndrome: Some people are convinced their hand doesn't belong to them.
This was a case of alien hand syndrome, a rare neurological disorder where a person's limb moves without their control, making them feel it does not belong to them. Sometimes, the patient may reach for objects with the alien hand, and use their healthy hand to restrain it. The condition may be caused when the connections between the brain's two hemispheres are severed, but can also happen after a stroke or other brain injury. Only about four dozen cases of alien hand syndrome have been reported.
Hemispatial Neglect: This condition makes half of your world invisible.
The woman suffered from a condition known as hemispatial neglect, which happens when damage to one brain hemisphere causes a person to lose awareness of one side of the space around them. The person can no longer see or process information received from that side of the body or environment (often the side opposite the brain injury).
Aphantasia: People with this condition can't picture things in their minds.
After researchers reported this, more than 20 other people contacted them to say they had the same inability to picture things in their mind's eye. Though not yet a recognized neurological condition, scientists have eloquently dubbed the phenomenon "aphantasia," from the Greek word for imagination.
Jerusalem Syndrome: Some people develop religious delusions when they visit the holy city.
According to researchers, this man may have suffered from "Jerusalem syndrome," a phenomenon in which visitors to the holy city develop religious delusions and psychotic ideas. Israeli psychiatrists reported in 2000 that 1,200 tourists had been admitted to the city's Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center with "severe, Jerusalem-generated mental problems" between 1980 and 1993. But others have criticized the study because it failed to mention anything about who's at risk of the condition, and how to prevent it.
Exploding Head Syndrome: This disorder makes people hear explosions in their head.
In fact, this is a real condition, known as exploding head syndrome. People with this rare problem perceive a loud bang, like a bomb exploding, a gunshot, or some other deafening noise that seems to originate inside their head. But it does not cause any pain, swelling or other physical discomfort. Experts don't know what causes it, but stress and fatigue seem to play a role. It's not known how common this disorder is, but some studies suggest it may be common in college students.
Foreign Accent Syndrome: Having a stroke can make some people speak in a foreign accent.
The woman was diagnosed with foreign accent syndrome, a rare speech disorder usually caused by a stroke. But there have also been reports of it resulting from trauma or mental illness, or even developing spontaneously. There have been 62 reported cases of this disorder between 1941 and 2009.
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