10 Most Unusual Mental Disorders
Millions fall prey to mental disorders around the world that often requires years of dedicated psychotherapy. The psychological problems too can vary widely, which sometimes can be extremely rare or bizarre. Presented here are ten such mental illness that are amongst the most unusual.
Stockholm syndrome is a psychological reaction that is sometimes seen among abducted hostage, with the hostage developing a sympathetic feeling towards the hostage taker. The hostage becomes loyal and voluntarily complies with the abductors, this in spite of the risk and trauma that the hostage has been subjected to. This syndrome is also believed to come in to play in some other cases like wife-beating, rape and child abuse.
The name of this syndrome has its origin in a bank robbery case that took place in Stockholm, Sweden where a group of bank robbers had held the bank employees hostage from 23rd till 28th August, 1973. The victims not only developed an emotional attachment with the robbers, they also went on to defend the robbers even after they were freed from their 6-day captivity. They refused to testify against them while one of the captors married a woman whom he had held captive.
A well-known example of the Stockholm Syndrome is that of Patty Hearst, daughter of a millionaire who was kidnapped in 1974. She too developed sympathy for her captors, so much that she even took part in a robbery that her captors were planning.
Lima syndrome presents a scenario where it is the hostage takers who develop a feeling of sympathy and compassion for their hostages, which is exactly opposite to what Stockholm syndrome is.
It got its name from the Japanese embassy hostage crisis that took place in Lima, Peru and stretched from 17th of December 1996 till 22nd April 1997. It all began when 14 members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement or MRTA took under their custody hundreds of people at a party that was being held at the official residence of Japan’s ambassador to Peru. Among the hostages were several distinguished members like diplomats, government and military officials as well as several foreign business executives.
The militants went on to release most of the captives within a few days of the hostage crisis, including the future President of Peru as well as the mother of the current President, which shows they were least interested of their importance. What followed were several months of unsuccessful negotiations that culminated in a commando operation that led to the release of all the hostage except one who got killed.
Diogenes syndrome is a behavioral disorder characterized by extreme neglect for oneself, reclusive tendencies and compulsive hoarding, sometimes even of animals. Also known as senile squalor syndrome, the condition is known to affect mostly the elderly who live alone and is associated with senile breakdown.
It got its name from Diogenes of Sinope, an ancient Greek philosopher who had made a wine barrel his home and was a strong believer of nihilism and animalism. In a famous incident, he was once asked by Alexander the Great as to what he would like to have the most in his life. Diogenes had replied that he would like to see the monarch driven out of his sunlight.
However, the naming of the disorder is actually a misnomer as Diogenes – in reality – lead an ascetic and transient life with no reason to believe that he compromised on his personal hygiene.
The Paris syndrome is a collection of several mood-affecting symptoms that is known to affect those who visit this famous French city, with Japanese nationals being especially susceptible to it. The disorder is rare in that only about a dozen or so Japanese visitors go through what can be termed as some sort of a mental breakdown among the millions of Japanese tourists who visit this bustling metropolis each year. However, that’s enough for the Japanese embassy in Paris to maintain a 24-hr hotline for tourists who suffer from such a shock, and can also arrange emergency medical treatment if the situation so warrants.
It’s actually a severe form of culture chock that polite Japanese individuals visiting this city often suffer from, and is basically due to their inability to separate their idyllic view of the city that is evident in such films like Amelie, with the reality of a modern city.
The scenario can be like this – if a rude French waiter confronts a Japanese tourist, he won’t be able to argue back and can’t react other than to bottle up his own anger. This leads to a full mental breakdown, which in severe cases may necessitate deportation to the home country.
Essentially a form of psychosomatic illness, the Stendhal syndrome can be summed up as the reaction when an affected individual is exposed to art, more so when the art is particularly beautiful or if it is a large amount of art confined in a single place. Common symptoms are an increase in heartbeat, dizziness, a sense of confusion and even hallucination. The term is also used to describe a situation such as when an individual is faced with a surfeit of choice, for instance when faced with an object of immense beauty in the natural world.
The disorder got its name from the famous 19th century French author Stendhal who during a visit to Florence, Italy in 1817 encountered the phenomenon, which he later described in a book ‘Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio’.
A rare travel psychosis, Jerusalem Syndrome refers to the set of mental phenomena that may arise in the presence of religion based obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis related experiences that a visit to the city of Jerusalem may give rise to. It is a malady that is not just limited to one single religion or denomination but is known to affect Jews and Christians of different backgrounds alike.
People seem to get affected with this syndrome while they are in Jerusalem, causing psychotic delusions, with none of it persisting beyond a few weeks. Also, all of them who have undergone this spontaneous psychosis have either had a previous history of mental illness or did not feel too well before visiting the city.
The Capgrass delusion causes the sufferer to believe that a close acquaintance, generally a spouse or some other family member, has been replaced by someone who carries the same exact looks. It is an extremely uncommon disorder and is most likely to occur to those who suffer from schizophrenia, though patients of dementia may also be affected with it. Also, a brain injury can make one to be susceptible to it.
A typical case report brings out the following fact:
Mrs. D, a married housewife 74 years of age who had been discharged from hospital after undergoing her first psychiatric treatment returned back to seek a second opinion. During her stay at the hospital earlier in the year, she was diagnosed with a typical psychosis that made her to belief that her husband has been replaced by a similar looking man who is completely unrelated to her. This prompted her to not only refuse to sleep with the imposter, she also locked her bedroom and door at night and even asked her son for a gun. Finally, she resisted vehemently when police were called in to put her in a hospital. There are times when she thought her husband is actually her father who has died long ago and the trouble seemed to be only when its about recognizing her husband, as she could easily identify everyone else of her family.
The paranoia that this condition has given rise to has made it a favorite tool of science fiction writers and film-makers and has been translated into several masterpieces like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Total Recall and The Stepford Wives.
Another extremely rare disorder, Fregoli Delusion is named after the famed Italian actor Leopoldo Fregoli who was well known for his ability to make quick changes to his appearance during his stage acts.
Symptoms of this disorder can be defined as exactly opposite to those of the Capgras delusion in which, affected persons believe that different persons are actually a single person who is either changing appearance or is in disguise.
The disorder was first diagnosed in 1927 by two psychiatrists in a 27-year old woman who was of the opinion that the two actors whom she often went to see at the theatre was actually persecuting her. She held the belief that the two actors in reality took interest in pursuing her in the form of people she has met or knew.
The Cotard delusion is a rare psychiatric condition that make the sufferer to believe that they have died, does not exist anymore, is putrefying or has lost their blood or internal organs. Sometimes, though rarely, it can also include delusions of immortality. It is named after a French neurologist Jules Cotard, who was the first to describe such a condition at a lecture in Paris in 1880, and which he referred to as ‘le délire de negation’ or ‘negation delirium.
One particular case study reveals the following:
Common symptoms of this disorder revolved around a general feeling of unrealities and being dead. A patient, after being discharged from a hospital in Edinburgh in January 1990 was taken to South Africa by his mother. The patient believed it to be a journey to hell that was confirmed by the heat. He also believed to have already died of septicaemia which was a risk early in his recovery, or maybe of AIDS. A story that he came across in The Scotsman about someone with AIDS who eventually died from septicaemia further added to his belief. Another reason that he thought was responsible for his death is an overdose of a yellow fever injection. He believed to have borrowed his mother’s soul while he went around hell and that he was asleep in Scotland.
Reduplicative paramnesia makes the sufferer to believe that a particular place or an entire location has been duplicated so that two or more places are existing simultaneously or maybe that it has been relocated to another site. For instance, a patient who has been admitted to one hospital may believe to have been shifted to another similar looking hospital located in a different part of the country, though there exists no basis for such a belief.
It was the Czechoslovakian neurologist Arnold Pick who was the first to use the term ‘reduplicative paramnesia’ in 1903 to describe a condition that a patient with suspected Alzheimer’s disease was going through. The patient believed that she has been relocated from Pick’s city clinic to another location that looks identical but was in a familiar suburb. She further claimed that Pick and the medical staff worked at both the locations to explain the discrepancy.
A case study of the disorder
A patient, after being admitted to the Neurobehavioural Center, was able to give details that he has known from others of the accident. His orientation for time was intact and was able to recount his doctor’s names as well as absorb new information while also retaining it indefinitely. He however exhibited a distinct abnormality of orientation of place. While he was fully aware of the fact that he has been admitted at the Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospital also known as the Boston Veterans Administration Hospital, he believed that the hospital was actually located at Taunton, Massachusetts, which incidentally is his home-town. When pressed further, he acknowledged that Jamaica Plain was part of Boston and that it would be a strange thing for two Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospitals to exist simultaneously. Nonetheless, he insisted that it was a branch of the Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospitals located in Taunton that he had been admitted to. At one time, he even maintained that the hospital was located in the spare bedroom of his house.