According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about 1/5 of the United States personally experiences a disorder in a year.
Almost 7 percent of Americans had at least one instance of major depression in the past year, and more than 18 percent experienced an anxiety disorder.
We’ve all heard of these particular mental health challenges and they’re relatively well-understood.
But let’s look at some conditions that are so unique and rare that most mental health professionals never even encounter them.
3 Big Body Betrayals
If you’ve ever had food poisoning or run a marathon, you know sometimes your body can feel like the enemy. But the syndromes listed below are even more detrimental because they take the mind and body hostage with insidious abandon.
As a result, people with these disorders lose sight of their body’s real place in the world.
Killer Hands: Alien Hand Syndrome
Alien Hand Syndrome is sometimes called Dr. Strangelove Syndrome after the character Peter Sellers plays in the cult movie. Turns out the hand hijinx of Peter Seller’s character refers to this real disorder.
In the movie his hand performs a Nazi salute against his will for the sake of satire. And much like satire, it’s a strong parallel to true-life. In Alien Hand Syndrome cases, a patient’s errant hand has a will and command all its own. Sometimes the hand even tries to kill its owner, choking them or stuffing bones down their throat in documented cases.
This syndrome usually arises after a head injury or stroke that created a lesion in the brain. Many who suffer from this must tie the anarchic hand to their body, so that it can’t cause damage. Unfortunately, no treatment has been found yet for this Jekyll and Hyde hand phenomenon. But scientists continue to study these strange cases of the enemy limb.
Ants in Your Pants: Ekbom’s Syndrome
Ekbom’s Syndrome feels like parasitic problems to those who have it but turns out it’s all in their head. You’d think finding out from a doctor that you’re not actually infested with bugs would be a relief… But in most cases of Ekbom’s Syndrome this news is wholly rejected and sufferers usually require psychiatric care to accept it. Many never do even after years of care. They live their remaining lives with furniture and even bedding encased in sheets of plastic to fend off further infestations.
Typical characteristics of people with Ekbom’s include: older age, loneliness, personal problems, no psychiatric history, skin diseases in the family, and hormone issues. They’re incredibly stubborn too. Doctors say the most difficult part of treating patients with Ekbom’s syndrome lies in their “infestation conviction”. Patients often simply refuse to believe there are no bugs.
In fact, any indication that there might have been insects present can solidify the delusion in their mind. This can create treatment challenges. If a patient shows up with scratches all over their body and claims to be infested, of course a doctor will do an initial check for infestation. Problem is, that alone can cement the idea of the insect presence in the patient’s mind.
Down the Rabbit Hole: Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome involves different bodily distortions. For instance, Micropsia and Macroposia both fit within this disorder perfectly because they’re distorted perceptions of size just like Alice experiences in her classic story.
People with Micropsia see things as much smaller than they are. While Macroposia causes the opposite – they are suddenly tiny and living in a giant’s world. This syndrome also has transient episodic phases, usually not more than an hour and rarely more than a day. That’s also a lot like what Alice went through because nothing lasted very long
while in Wonderland.
Sometimes the disorder also confuses their sense of time. The afflicted can even feel like they’re levitating, they are so out of touch with what their bodies are doing under the syndrome’s spell.
Although Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is often associated with migraines and epilepsy, in some cases patients have a viral onset. Other times doctors attribute the disorder to hallucinogenic use. No matter the cause, it’s generally considered harmless so the focus is more on treating the underlying condition with antivirals, antibiotics, or epilepsy medication in those particular cases.
2 Big Phony Imposters
Two syndromes on our list are very much alike. In fact, they could even be mistaken for one another. This is a delightful bit of irony because the whole nature of the syndromes themselves is precisely this sort of mistaken identity.
Stranger Danger: Capgras Syndrome
People may sometimes do things that we feel are out of character for them, and this can trigger a sense of doubt about really knowing them. But when you are afflicted with Capgras Syndrome, you actually believe that a significant person in your life has been replaced by an imposter.