The human brain is much more complex than most of us can imagine. ‘How it works’, ‘why it behaves in a certain way’ and ‘what it is capable of’ are questions to which not even doctors can answer entirely. A mental disorder is, therefore, a mysterious phenomenon, because of the diversity of symptoms which may appear and because of the uncertainty that governs this area. Psychiatric problems have been identified in their great majority and treatments, more or less effective, have been proposed for each of them. While doctors have seen them all, we are still shocked to discover just how many peculiar things our brain can push us to do or to say. This is a list of some of the weirdest mental disorders out there.
Disclaimer: The term “weird” mental disorders is used to describe uncommon and/or complicated illnesses which are difficult to deal with. It is in no way meant to degrade the sufferers.
10 Weird Mental Disorders
1. Cotard Syndrome
The Cotard Syndrome is a very rare mental disorder which causes patients to believe that they are dead and that they are even putrefying. This syndrome was first described by Jules Cotard in 1880. However, it was not until 2007 that the mental condition was finally acknowledged by scientists. One case of a person experiencing the Cotard syndrome is that of a 44 years old homeless person nicknamed Mr. K, who started blaming depression for poor sleep and lack of appetite, but he was not seen by a doctor because he did not have medical insurance. It was not until he had a severe crisis, shouting that he was dead and that his internal organs were gone, that he finally received medical attention. The symptoms associated with this disease might diminish if proper medication is administrated.
2. Stockholm Syndrome
This is a mental disorder which you may have heard of. It refers to the abnormal reaction of an abduction victim who develops affection for the kidnapper. Victims of rape who fall in love with the rapists, of child or of domestic abuses who develop an unnatural fondness for the abuser are also diagnosed as suffering from a form of Stockholm syndrome. A famous example is that of Patty Hearst who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army. After being held hostage for several months, Patty announced through means of an audiotape that she had joined the group and she subsequently took part in one of their burglaries. She was arrested and she spent 2 years in prison before President Jimmy Carter freed her. In 2001, Clinton offered her full pardon, as her Stockholm condition was finally admitted.
3. Lima Syndrome
This syndrome refers to the opposite situation: there are cases where kidnappers begin to feel attracted, or to feel sympathy towards the victim. The name of this disorder comes from an incident which took place in Lima, 15 years ago: the members of a militant group took several hundred public persons as hostages. at the Japanese embassy. However, two hours later the abductors started to let people go, including the most important ones, because they started to feel sympathy for their victims.
4. Body Integrity Identity Disorder
This is one of the most damaging mental disorders one could suffer from because the sufferers start to believe that they would be happier if they did not have a certain limb anymore. They feel the impetuous need of amputating one or more of their own perfectly healthy limbs. According to the experts, what happens is that the ‘mapping system’ of the brain does not function properly anymore and it fails to incorporate those particular body parts. Consequently, the person feels that the arm or the leg is not his own, or that they do not feel ‘complete’ while still having the specific limb attached. This may lead to the sufferer pretending they are an amputee or even hurting themselves trying to really become one.
5. Alien Hand Syndrome
The sickness which bears such an original name is one of the strangest mental disorders discovered so far. It gives the patient the sensation that they don’t have the control of their own hand anymore. This neurological problem may appear as a result of a brain surgery or infection. One example is that of a patient who put a cigarette in his mouth with one hand, while the other hand quickly grasped the cigarette and threw it away. The man concluded ‘I guess he doesn’t want me to smoke’.
6. Diogenes Syndrome
You most probably heard of Diogenes, the Greek philosopher. He was famous for being self-neglectful and an ultimate minimalist. Apparently, when Alexander the Great asked him what would he need, Diogenes answered ‘for you to step away from the sunlight’. This quote best reflects the situation of a person suffering from this mental disorder: they are extremely self-neglectful, lose all sense of shame and do not seek the company of others anymore. Apparently, this sickness is more frequent to elderly people.
Trichotillomania is hard to pronounce but even harder to live with. It represents the compulsive urge to pull out one’s own hair, which will lead to distress and social isolation. This is both one of the strangest mental disorders and one of the most difficult to treat. This disorder is common both to children and adults, but while pre-school age children will get cured easily, adults need the support of the entire family and intense medication.
8. Müchasen Syndrome
Müchasen Syndrome is a mental disorder that makes people fake illness symptoms in order to draw attention to themselves. The name of the syndrome comes from Baron Münchhausen, who lived in the 18th century. He used to tell many invented stories in which he was the main character. Later, they were compiled into a book. In 1951, Richard Asher studied the symptoms of some patients who fabricated illnesses and he remembered Baron Münchhausen who liked telling stories as well.
This is another condition which implies telling stories. Mythomania refers to the condition of a person who cannot stop himself from lying. While identifying a pathological liar may prove difficult, but there are certain symptoms to recognize a sufferer from a healthy person who simply tells many lies: first of all, the patient who suffers from this disorder tells lies which contain a certain true element. Secondly, they will invent stories because they cannot stop themselves from doing it and with no apparent reason, and not because of a stressful situation which, for example, may determine most of us to lie.
10. Dissociative Identity Disorder
This syndrome is again familiar, especially from movies and books, which advertised the phenomenon as an interesting yet scary one. One of the most complex mental disorders, DID is a condition in which a patient displays multiple distinct personalities. A person who suffers from it experiences two or more different personalities taking control of the body. It is associated with memory loss and headaches, as well as other symptoms such as depersonalization, depression, unjustified anxiety, anger, as well as paranoia. There is a great deal of controversy surrounding this phenomenon which appears to be linked with traumatic past events, especially from childhood. Apparently, its validity as a psychiatric diagnosis is yet to be established, while the question of why this disorder is much more frequent in North America than in the rest of the world remains unanswered.
These are some of the weirdest and scariest mental disorders out there. Fortunately, for some of the sufferers, treatments have been developed and in the end, they manage to live a long and healthy life. It’s definitely interesting to see just how complex the human brain is and even the littlest damage or faulty nerve connections can have such an impact on our well-being.