Hey there Psych2goers! This is a disclaimer that this article is for informative purposes only and is not to be used for the purpose of diagnosis.
The human brain is extraordinarily complex, yet we understand very little of it. Most of us can think of people in our lives (or even ourselves) with certain conditions. Perhaps it’s depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety. These are unfortunate conditions that luckily are well documented with several treatment options. However, there’s many conditions that we know less about. Even the most seasoned mental health professionals scratch their heads as to where they come from. Not all conditions negatively effect people. Some may find that a condition to be neutral while others may benefit from them! In this article, we’ll be exploring 10 mysterious psychological and neurological conditions that you should learn about.
Please note that while these conditions are unusual, there are people who experience these on a daily basis. These people’s struggles are just as valid as anyone else’s and should be treated with the same respect as anyone else. Other conditions listed have limited to no negative effect on the effected person and thus should not be stigmatized.
Many of us can relate to having crushes. Perhaps you have a hunch that a certain someone has feelings for you. While this is a common experience that many of us go through at one point or another, erotomania takes this to a new level. People with this condition feel that a person, either celebrity or someone they know, is madly in love with them. They have these feelings even if there’s no evidence of such being true. In some cases, they never even met the person. The person may demonstrate violent and stalking behavior towards another. Other times, it’s just an intense infatuation that they don’t act upon, or do so in a harmless manner. People with the condition may come up with false evidence (such as a public figure winking on the television as a sign that they’re interested). Little is known about this condition, but it is believed to effect women more than men and instances show up several times in historical contexts (Ingleson 2017).
2. Musical Ear Syndrome
Imagine if you could hear music, only it’s not coming from anything. Perhaps it’s muffled like it’s coming from the neighbor’s house, or maybe it sounds like there’s a radio that’s been left on in the house. Only, it isn’t actually coming from any of those things! Musical ear syndrome is an auditory hallucination commonly found in people who have tinnitus. Although the condition can arise from brain trauma, medication, to even stress. The syndrome can cause a great level of discomfort to a person as they may be hearing the same song repeated over, and over again. However, some composers thank the condition for giving them original compositions. It is believed to be caused by the brain is taking obscure, ambient noises and “filling in the blanks” which in turn sounds like music (Hearing HealthCare 2020).
3. Visual Snow Syndrome
When you look at a blue sky, what do you see? How about a white sheet of paper? Maybe a dark corner of the room? For the most part, you’ll likely see the different items for what they are and the respective colors clearly. However, some people see what can best be described as static or visual noise overlaid on everything in their field of vision, especially on those three items. The severity varies from person to person and most people with the condition don’t notice it. Others may struggle with night vision and/or migraines. It is not considered a disorder and often has little impact on a person’s life (Puledda et. al 2020).
4. Alien Hand Syndrome
Our brain is capable of amazing things. For the most part, we have autonomous control over our limbs; we can decide what our hands do at any given moment. However, what if we lost control over our hands? Alien hand syndrome is when your hand has a mind of its own. The hand is uncontrollable unlike like the rest of our body. It may also act out in opposition. Imagine picking up an object off the floor, only to have your hand suddenly and purposefully knock it back down. This is a neurological condition with no cure. Fortunately, there are treatment options to help manage (Cronkleton 2018).
5. Folie a Deux
Delusions are common in many disorders. These false beliefs often fall into the realm of the bizarre and unusual. They also tend to only stick with one person. However, sometimes two or more people in a close relationship may share the same delusions. In this condition, a psychotic delusion develops in one person, the “active” participant, who then passes on the same belief to a person close to them. This gives the condition the name: shared psychotic disorder. The unique disorder most commonly occurs in families. However, some cases have been reported in a doctor/patient relationship to even relationships with animals (Sharon 2019) .
6. Hemispatial Neglect
Strokes are scary experiences in general that come with a variety of complications. Hemispatial neglect is an unusual side effect. In this rare disorder, a person ignores half of a certain space. When asked a draw a picture of a clock, a person with the condition may only draw half of one. In other cases, a person with the disorder may only eat food off of one half of the plate. This condition is more neurological than psychological, meaning that these actions are not intentional rather a result of damage to the neurological system (Parton et al. 2004).
Try to visualize a slice of pie. What do you see? Perhaps it’s a creamy and rich french silk with drizzled chocolate on top. Maybe it’s a goopy and vibrant red cherry pie. Perhaps you can imagine the taste and smell of it. However, with aphantasia, you’re unable to make a mental image of anything. This an unusual condition that most people with it are unaware that they’re different. Aphantasia is not considered a disorder and many people with it can go on to work in creative fields. However, they may struggle with composing images in their heads and have a different dreaming experience. It’s a strange phenomenon that isn’t completely understood (Maddox 2020).
Imagine when listening to music and being able to see bright colors flash in your peripheral vision in correspondence with the instrumentation. This is just one form of synethesia. Synethesia involves a stimulus activating multiple sensory pathways (hearing a sound and also seeing it for instance). It can come in many forms and take on several variations within each form. While “seeing” colors with sound is one form, a person may also have words/numbers/days of the week associated with colors; Wednesday is blue for example. The condition can manifest in other senses as well. Someone can also utilize it to their advantage. Those who see colors in response to sounds (chromostsia) for instance, may have perfect pitch because of their unique ability. Similarly in associative synesthesia, some people may associate different words and sounds in a sensory way, but not necessarily experience the sense itself. This may be beneficial to writers who pick words based on their associations. Synethesia is not considered a disorder, rather a unique experience (Psychology Today 2020).
9. Factitious Disorder
Many of us can relate to pretending to be sick to get out of situations: whether it’s trying to skip out on school or as an excuse to stay in on a Friday night. However, while these are relatively common experiences, a person with factitious disorder takes this to a different level. They may go to extremes to pretend to be sick including harming themselves in order to appear sicker. They may do so without any sort of reason or to get any benefit out of it. It can be hard to determine if someone has the disorder as they can become highly advanced at faking their symptoms. It can be especially risky, as the affected person can take life-endangering measures to convince others of their ailment (Mayo Clinic 2019).
10. Dancing Mania
This bizarre condition appears several times throughout history without a known cause. The “Dancing Plague of 1518” was characterized with the citizens of Strasoburg breaking out into spontaneous and uncontrollable dancing. People would dance until they collapsed of exhaustion only to begin again after resting. It killed approximately 15 people per day and went on seemingly without end. The Strasoburg incident was the best documented, however there exists several other cases. In fact, cases of dancing mania reaches back to the 7th century and sporadically reoccurs up until the 1500’s (Neuroscientifically Challenged 2019). While it is unknown what the exact cause was, most historians agree that it was likely a mass psychogenic disorder. The effected cities were under extreme stress due to existing famines and disease (Bauer 2019).
The human brain is certainly mind-bogglingly intricate. Even the most advanced neuroscientists and psychiatrists find themselves baffled at the cause of some conditions. Fortunately, not all conditions are bad and some can contribute to successfulness. As well, treatment options do exist for the less fortunate conditions. What are some other mysterious conditions to learn about? How do they affect us, either positively or negatively? Let us know in the comment section!
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Like this article? Here’s another list of the 10 Most Bizarre and Shocking Psychological Disorders:
- Bauer, Patricia. “Dancing Plague of 1518.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 8 Jan. 2019, www.britannica.com/event/dancing-plague-of-1518.
- Cronkleton, Emily. “Alien Hand Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 18 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/alien-hand-syndrome.
- Editors of Hearing HealthCare. “My Tinnitus Has a Melody – Is That Possible?: Musical Ear Syndrome.” Hearing HealthCare, Inc. , 14 Feb. 2020, www.hearinghealthcareinc.com/musical-ear-syndrome/.
- Editors of Neuroscientifically Challenged. “The Mysterious Dancing Mania and Mass Psychogenic Illness.” Neuroscientifically Challenged, Neuroscientifically Challenged, 9 Apr. 2019, www.neuroscientificallychallenged.com/blog/dancing-mania-mass-psychogenic-illness.
- Editors of Mayo Clinic. “Factitious Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 14 Dec. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/factitious-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20356028.
- Editors of Psychology Today. “Synesthesia.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/synesthesia.
- Ingleson, Kanna. “Erotomania: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 28 Aug. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319145.
- Maddox, Lucy. “Aphantasia: What It’s like to Live with No Mind’s Eye.” BBC Science Focus Magazine, 8 Apr. 2020, www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/aphantasia-life-with-no-minds-eye/.
- Parton, A, et al. “Hemispatial Neglect.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, BMJ Group, Jan. 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1757480/.
- Puledda, Francesca, et al. “Visual Snow Syndrome.” Neurology, Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on Behalf of the American Academy of Neurology, 11 Feb. 2020, n.neurology.org/content/94/6/e564.
- Sharon, Idan. Shared Psychotic Disorder: Background and Criteria, History, Subtypes and Characteristics, Medscape, 9 Nov. 2019, emedicine.medscape.com/article/293107-overview.