You may have never heard of some of the rare and strange psychological disorders that exist in our world, but they are certainly real. These rare disorders may not be as common as Clinical Depression, Bipolar Disorder or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, but they are still debilitating. Some of them are so strange you would swear someone with a vivid imagination made them up. Read on and you will see how these strange psychological disorders are fodder for film and have probably inspired some plot lines.
Paris syndrome is a passing disorder that is most commonly reported amongst Japanese tourists in Paris. The Japanese embassy in Paris estimates approximately 20 cases occur every year. That’s a small number considering Paris hosts over 6 million Japanese tourists annually. Individuals suffering from Paris syndrome experience delusions, hallucinations, feelings of persecution, derealization and depersonalization. Anxiety leads to rapid and irregular heartbeats, dizziness and sweating. It’s believed that this strange psychological disorder is the result of culture shock. Japan paints a fantastic, beautiful picture of Paris, but the reality of the city is far different than the picture perfect city most Japanese tourists expect and they have a breakdown.
Jerusalem syndrome occurs after the individual has made a pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem. This strange psychological disorder doesn’t impact any particular religion, it occurs in Christians, Jews and Muslims. Individuals suffering from Jerusalem syndrome experience delusions, become obsessed with religious themes and may have a psychotic break. The movie, “The Jerusalem Syndrome” was inspired by an Australian tourist who had a psychotic break after a trip to Jerusalem. The man reported feeling an overpowering sense of being on a divine mission and set fire to the al-Asqa Mosque. The fire set off a city-wide riot.
Stendhal Syndrome is also known as Stendhal’s syndrome, hyperkulturemia or Florence syndrome. This strange psychological disorder is psychosomatic for the most part, but some patients have experienced hallucinations. People suffering from Stendhal syndrome become so overwhelmed by beauty that they experience dizziness, rapid heartbeats, fainting and confusion. It can occur when they see a particularly beautiful piece of art or a large collection of art in one place. There have been cases where people have reacted to stimuli other than art, nature for example. Stendhal syndrome gets its name from the author, Stendhal. In the book, “Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio”, the author describes these feeling during a trip to Florence. The syndrome did not get its name until 1979 when an Italian psychiatrist reported being familiar with over 100 cases of it in Florence’s tourists.
Fregoli delusion was first reported in 1927. The case was a young woman in London who believed she was being persecuted and stalked by two local actors. She believed they were changing their appearances to that of people she knew so they could stalk her undetected. Individuals suffering from this strange psychological disorder believe everyone around them is actually someone they know who is changing their appearance, or rapidly changing disguises, in order to persecute them. The disorder gets its name from an actor, Leopoldo Fregoli, who was exceptionally adept at rapidly changing his costumes and physical appearqance.
Reduplicative paramnesia is a strange psychological disorder commonly linked to a brain injury. Individuals suffering from Reduplicative paramnesia have the delusional belief that a place, or life, exists in two places at the same time or has been duplicated in another plane of existence. I can think of a number of shows this disorder may have inspired.
Alice-In-Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS), also known as Todd’s syndrome, is a strange psychological disorder named after the novel. Individual’s suffering from AIWS experience micropsia or macropsia. Micropsia is a neurological disorder that leads the patient to perceive themselves as bigger than usual and everything around them as abnormally small. Mocropsia is the opposite. Some patients may also confuse the size and shape of individual body parts. AIWS is believed to be connected to migraines, psychoactive drugs (yes, think LSD) or brain tumors. Alice-In-Wonderland syndrome isn’t just a bad trip, it’s a real psychological disorder.
Apotemnophilia is a strange psychological disorder in which seemingly well-adjusted, emotionally healthy people want parts of their body amputated. There is nothing actually wrong with the body parts, they just feel “disconnected” from the part. This condition is known as body integrity identity disorder. Individuals suffering from Apotemnophilia will approach doctors and surgeons and ask them to amputate one or more of their limbs. In extreme cases, the individual will intentionally inflict severe damage to the body part so medical personnel will have to remove the limb.
Exploding Head Syndrome
Exploding Head Syndrome, seriously, may not be all that rare. Individuals suffering from this strange psychological disorder hear very loud explosions, buzzing, shouts, screams, gunshots or “bangs” in their heads. They don’t experience pain, they just hear the noise. The noise typically occurs within an hour or two after the patients has fallen asleep. There is no evidence that the sounds are related to a dream. There have been cases of it occurring when the person was awake. Bright flashes of light usually occur with the attacks. The patient is left feeling nervous and afraid. Patients report waking with fast and furious heartbeats. If the person was asleep, they usually experience a very brief period of sleep paralysis when they attempt to force themselves to wake up, they are awake but can’t talk or move.
Wendigo psychosis is a strange psychological disorder named after the Wendigo. A wendigo is a savage, cannibalistic mythological creature that would take over a human and feast on human flesh. Patients suffering from this strange psychological disorder experience an overwhelming desire to eat flesh and are consumed with the fear that they will become cannibals. Wendigo psychosis is one of the culturally-bound psychological disorders, meaning it is found only among certain cultures that have very little, if any, interaction outside of their own culture. In this case, it was most commonly found amongst the Algonquian tribe, and it wasn’t rare. Due to urbanization of the tribe, the disorder has become all but extinct.
Clinical lycanthropy is a strange psychological disorder that involves delusions about the individual’s ability to turn into an animal. This disorder has been generalized to refer to patients who believe they can turn into wolves, werewolves, but it really includes people who believe they can turn into any kind of animal. The disorder is sometimes referred to as zoanthropy or therianthropy. Patients report feeling like an animal, believing they can change at will or acting like an animal. Some individuals suffering from clinical lycanthropy have gone so far as to shed all clothing and hide in the woods.
Boanthropy is a strange psychological disorder that was mentioned as far back as the Book of Daniel. It is believed King Nebuchadnezzar suffered from this rare disorder. The passage that suggests this is "was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen". Yes, patients suffering from boanthropy believe they are an ox or a cow. Not only do they believe this, they try to live like a member of the herd. They will shed all clothing, attempt to live outdoors and eat grasses and weeds in a field.