Lonely and Possessed: Rare Mental Illness

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Lonely and Possessed: Rare Mental Illness
Lonely and Possessed: Rare Mental Illness

Psychiatrists call schizophrenia a "psychiatric dump." They say that everything incomprehensible is dumped there. But among this incomprehensible there are long-known syndromes, albeit very rare.


The European Committee of Experts on Rare Diseases (EUCERD) has about 8 thousand of them. There are also psychiatric ones among them. Let's talk about the most interesting ones.

Capgras syndrome

“Mrs D., a 74-year-old married housewife … believed that her husband had been replaced by a stranger. She refused to sleep with the impostor, locked her bedroom, asked her son for a gun and fought the police who came to hospitalize her. She sometimes believed that her husband was her long-dead father. She easily recognized the rest of the family, "- this is how they describe in their work" Pimozide in the treatment of Capgras syndrome. Disease history. Psychosomatics”psychiatrists Passor and Warnock are typical cases of negative twin delusion, or Capgras syndrome.

For the first time this strange disease was discovered by the French psychiatrist Joseph Capgra in 1923, calling it "the illusion of doubles." Symptoms are simple: a person is sure that someone from his loved ones (or even himself) has been replaced by a double. Of course, with malicious intent. This type of syndrome is actually considered a symptom because it is often part of other psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia or neurological ailments.


And there is also the delusion of the "positive double", in this case the acquaintance is recognized in strangers. In addition, Capgras syndrome includes the so-called Fregoli syndrome - a person's conviction that some people around him are actually familiar to him, but deliberately changed their appearance and made up to remain unrecognized. The syndrome got its name from Leopoldo Fregoli, an Italian comedian of the early 20th century who was famous for his ability to change his appearance right in the course of action.

Another manifestation of Capgras syndrome is the delusion of intermetamorphosis. In this case, the patient is sure that all his surroundings, including objects and landscape, have been reincarnated into other images.

The occurrence of this disease, like most psychiatric ailments, is not known for certain. But there is an assumption that it is associated with the physiological pathology of the brain, namely, with damage to the fibers connecting the fusiform gyrus (where images are distinguished) and the amygdala (which is responsible for the emotional verification of objects). Thus, a person can recognize people or show emotions, but "get confused" in the connections between them.

The hypothesis, however, does not explain why these connections are often broken only when the same images are perceived, as in the example of Passor and Warnock. Psychotherapists associate similar symptoms with a person's intrapersonal conflicts. Needless to say, each case is different.

Alien hand syndrome

Many have heard about him. And all thanks to the film "Doctor Strangelove, or How I Stopped Being Afraid and Loved the Bomb" (it tells about a man whose right hand was constantly raised in a Nazi greeting and began to strangle its owner), after which, by the way, the disease began to be called " Dr. Strangelove's disease."

In fact, this is a complex neuropsychiatric disorder in which one or both of a person's hands act on their own. The disease is sometimes accompanied by epilepsy and refers to the so-called apraxia - a violation of purposeful movements with the intactness of their constituent elementary movements.Apraxia is a consequence of focal lesions of the cerebral cortex or the pathways of the corpus callosum.

Alien hand syndrome was first described in 1909 by the German neurologist Kurt Goldstein, who observed a patient who was strangled by her left hand while sleeping. The doctor did not reveal any other mental abnormalities in her, and since the attacks stopped, he let her go, as they say, in peace. However, after her death, he managed to open the body. Then he discovered a damage in the brain that disrupted the transmission of signals between the cerebral hemispheres. On this, studies of the syndrome were discontinued, and resumed only in the 1950s, when the dissection of the joints of the cerebral hemispheres entered the practice of treating epilepsy. And, it seems, it helped, if not for one "but": the operated patients began to have someone else's hand syndrome.

Despite the fact that the disease is purely physiological in nature, psychotherapists ask themselves the question: is not psychology joining physiology? After all, a "disobedient" hand does not always play a musical instrument or draw - it suffocates a person, which may be associated with a repressed feeling of guilt.

Zombie syndrome

Scientifically, it is called Cotard syndrome - after the French neurologist Jules Cotard, who described it in 1880 under the name "delusion of denial." A person draws pictures of catastrophes, general destruction and world cataclysms. He himself may seem to himself the greatest criminal in history or the greatest patient who infected AIDS, syphilis and poisoned the whole world with his fetid breath, or - even more surprising - that his body has acquired the dimensions of the universe (which is why Cotard syndrome is sometimes referred to as a manic delirium of greatness, only with a negative sign). All this very often includes the belief that part of a person, his organs, or he is all already dead (sometimes - that all life on Earth has died). In general, a person perceives himself as a world evil.

It is not surprising that many patients believe in their immortality, and in order to check their guesses … they ask others to kill them or decide to do it themselves. The syndrome can be observed in schizophrenia, but, as a rule, in severe psychotic depressive conditions. And also with progressive dementia and atherosclerosis. The syndrome is especially common in senile depression and psychosis. Although it can be observed at any age, including in youth. In this case, the syndrome is usually associated with pronounced depression. Before the first episode of delusions, there are signs of severe anxiety, lasting several weeks or even years.

Trichotillomania and trichophagia

But this ailment can be diagnosed by anyone - just look at the person's head. Trichotillomania sufferers are doomed to have a very unattractive appearance, and all because they like to pull out hair on their own head (as well as other parts of their body, including in the area of ​​eyelashes and eyebrows). And to such an extent that instead of hair there are pathetic bald spots. However, “love” is an incorrect formulation. Hair pulling occurs against a background of stress, although individuals with an unbalanced psyche do it for no external reason.

The horror lies in the fact that trichotillomania is often combined with another syndrome with the prefix "tricho" (from the Greek "trichome" - "hair") - trichophagia, that is, simply eating hair (not only one's own!). And intrusive. In especially advanced cases, it can even lead to the formation of a hairball in the gastrointestinal tract.

For the first time, the disease was described by the French dermatologist François Henri Allopo already in 1889. But another French doctor, a certain M. Bodamant, who discovered a large hairball in the stomach of a 16-year-old boy, was first reported about trichophagy in the same 18th century.In medicine, by the way, there is even a separate term for this - another syndrome - the so-called Rapunzel syndrome, when the accumulation of hair in the stomach of a person reaches such an amount that the "tail" from it - oh, horror - extends into the intestines. There is even a known case when 4.5 kg (!) Of hair was removed from the stomach of an 18-year-old girl. The operation was timely, otherwise the outcome could be very sad.

In general, the disease is indeed unsafe, but there seems to be no universal salvation from it. In addition to psychotherapy, medications are used for depression and anxiety. However, relatively recently, a damage to the SLITKR1 gene was found in people suffering from trichotillomania. If the genetic nature of the disease is confirmed, this will allow the development of more effective means for its treatment.


Or simply the fear of men. It seems that many representatives of the beautiful half of humanity suffer from it, but not everything is so simple. Androphobia is not just a completely normal fear of the opposite sex (which is characteristic of both men and women): the fear of appearing funny or unattractive. Androphobia is accompanied by a wave of physiological symptoms - redness or paleness of the skin, tremors, nausea (up to vomiting), panic in the presence of men, profuse sweating and even the urge to defecate and urinate.

And here we are not talking about disturbances in the work of the brain, although the disease may also be associated with a socio-anxiety disorder (that is, the fear of being in society in general, performing any social actions, or actions related to attracting the attention of strangers, including views of passers-by, etc.).

Interestingly, androphobia can also be observed in boys, who, upon reaching puberty, reject all manifestations of male brutality. Doctors associate androphobia with childhood trauma. Most often with episodes of assault by the father or other male relatives, sexual harassment or violence, disrespectful attitude towards the mother, observed by the child, etc. unsuccessful.

The disease has psychological roots, therefore, it is treated primarily with psychotherapy, although medications that reduce anxiety can also be used.

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

This poetic name does not harbor any romance, but is characterized as a disorienting neurological condition, manifested in impaired perception of the human body or its parts. Simply put, a person sees himself as either too small or a giant, only parts of his own body can seem to him as such. At the same time, the arms, legs, head and other parts can change in the perception of a person not only their size, but also their shape. You won't get bored! But with this syndrome, the surrounding objects and people can also undergo changes. Interestingly, in the meantime, a person can look at himself in the mirror and see that everything is in order, although he clearly feels that his head, for example, is ten meters in size.


It is clear that this syndrome has nothing to do with vision problems. It is associated only with mental phenomena, the causes of which may be a headache (cases are described when people during migraine attacks think that they either increase in size, or, on the contrary, decrease), epilepsy, encephalitis, organic pathology or a brain tumor, the use of psychoactive substances, an acute viral disease - infectious monoculosis, the Epstein-Barr virus (by the way, one of the most common human viruses) and God knows what else.


But this strange disease is characterized by a person's inability to recognize faces.At the same time, he sees and recognizes objects quite clearly. One can imagine what a nightmare life seems to him: he simply cannot remember and distinguish people, even close relatives - for him they are all alike. Such cases were described back in the 19th century by the American neurologist John Hughlings Jackson and the famous French psychiatrist Jean Charcot. But the term "prosopagnosia", derived from the ancient Greek words for "face" and "unrecognition", was introduced by the German neurologist Josim Bodamer.

He described three cases, including the case of a 24-year-old man who, after being shot in the head, no longer recognized not only his family and friends, but also his own face. However, he completely preserved tactile, auditory and other senses, to the help of which he now had to orient himself.

Scientists agree that the disease can be genetic in nature, or it can be caused by injuries, tumors, or - even more often - vascular disorders in the right lower occipital region of the brain with the spread of the focus to the adjacent parts of the temporal and parietal lobes. The fact is that our brain reads information about faces in a different way than everything else.

However, in more severe cases, a person loses the ability to distinguish not only faces, but in general any objects that can be called belonging to the same type of objects. The patient understands that there is a face in front of him, but he does not know whose, or that he has a car in front of him, but he cannot determine what brand. Interestingly, it is mainly left-handers who suffer from prosopagnosia in old age. Another phenomenon of the disease is that patients, paradoxically, remember people with whom they constantly contact in everyday life worse.

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