In a time when awareness for mental illnesses is increasing, there are many psychological disorders that are almost unheard of. Psychology is a mystifying science ever since it began in 1879, where every case is unique and sometimes difficult to believe.  Even more difficult to define, psychology can be understood in Carl Jung’s words, “The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.”What could be sensible for one could be nonsensical for another. Much of the “nonsense” that a human mind does is categorized into different psychological disorders.

There are thousands of mental illnesses, and while some like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc., are well known, others, like the ones listed below, are psychological disorders that are almost unheard of and a tad bit surprising to know.

1. At least 7% of men suffer from “paruresis,” an anxiety disorder where you cannot pee if other people are in close proximity.

public toilet
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“Parauresis” is a disorder that describes a person to be unable to urinate in front of other people, even if they belong to the same gender, in places such as public restrooms. The disorder goes beyond the simple fears of being judged or being shy. Some people who suffer from the condition are unable to urinate while traveling in moving vehicles or find it difficult to urinate in silent areas due to the fear of embarrassment from the sounds of urination. Many who suffer from the condition may feel relieved by turning on a tap or using an artificial noise machine like The Sound Princess in Japan, to relieve themselves.

Not only men, but women also suffer from “paruresis,” and it usually strikes in the teenage years. Due to a sympathetic nervous response produced by an adrenaline rush, the bladder neck or the sphincter tightens involuntarily which prevents the sufferer from urinating.

The name was coined in 1954 by Williams and Degenhart in a paper they wrote. They conducted a study of 1,419 college students and found out that at least 14.4% of them had suffered from “paruresis.” The condition has been portrayed in several films and TV series. In a 1995 episode of Friends, the popular character Joey shows signs of this disorder. (source)

2. Humans can suffer from a psychological disorder called “boanthropy” which makes them behave and live like a bovine—a cow, a buffalo, etc.

King Nebuchadnezzar, boanthropy person
Image credits: William Blake/Wikimediahunnnterrr/Flickr

A person suffering from “boanthropy” can be seen on their fours, chewing grass because they believe that they are a bovine—like a cow or an ox. The king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire from 605 BCE to 562 BCE, King Nebuchadnezzar, was the most famous sufferer of this condition. He was the one who built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

According to Chapter Four of the Book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar lived like an animal for seven years and “was driven from men and did eat grass as oxen.” The book states that his sanity was lost after he boasted about his achievements, but he regained it after he praised God.

Sigmund Freud had noted that the delusion of feeling like a bovine often starts with a dream which then continues into reality. Hypnotism, suggestion, and auto-suggestion can also lead to “boanthropy.” An Iranian film, The Cow, was made on this subject and directed by Dariush Mehrjui. (1,2)

3. “Cherophobia” is a mental disorder where humans try to deliberately avoid having fun and have an aversion to happiness.

Cherophobia
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“Cherophobia,” also known as the ‘fear of being happy’ or ‘fear of pleasure,’ is when people think that being happy is a waste of time or will make something bad happen to them. They also think that happiness will make them a bad person or think that their being happy may not be good for their friends or family. They refuse to participate in fun activities.

The disorder stems from a tumultuous situation in the past, a fear of conflict with someone you care about, or due to repeated events where bad things happen right after a happy event. Easily mistaken for depression, cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy help in treating this condition that is very common among people. (source)

4. “Smile Mask Syndrome” is when people develop depression and physical illness as a result of smiling unnaturally for a prolonged period of time. It was first described in Japan in 1983 and attributed to the great importance placed on smiling in the Japanese service industry.

A waitress at a restaurant is expected to exhibit positivity, such as smiling and expressing positive emotion towards customers
Image credit: Andrea Booher/Wikimedia

The professor Makoto Natsume of Osaka Shoin Women’s University proposed the disorder that is a result of smiling for long periods of time. Natsume believes that unnaturally smiling for a prolonged period leads to the suppression of the true emotions of a person and makes them depressed.

In the Japanese service industry and in most service industries across the globe, a lot of importance is given to smiling, especially for female workers. The female patients who spoke with Natsume stated that smiling had a large amount of influence on the decision of whether or not they got the job, and their superiors had stressed on the good effects of smiling at the customers. Author Tomomi Fujiwara notes that the “smiling demand” grew after the cultural changes brought about, post the opening of Tokyo’s Disneyland.

The “Smile Mask Syndrome” has been found in Korea as well and has not only mental but also physical consequences such as headaches and muscle aches, similar to repetitive strain injury. (source)

5. “Pseudocyesis” is a syndrome when a woman shows all the symptoms of being pregnant except for the presence of a fetus. Their belly grows like a pregnant woman, and they can even go into false labor.

Pregnant Woman
Image credit: Pixabay

Existing since 300 BCE, Hippocrates found 12 women suffering from the psychological disorder of “pseudocyesis.” Queen Mary Tudor of England is also known to have believed that she was pregnant more than once when she was not. Becoming rare in the 21st century with easy pregnancy tests available at pharmacies, “pseudocyesis” is still observed even today in places that associate fertility and a person’s value with pregnancy.

Those who suffer from the condition show similar symptoms as that of natural pregnancy: menstrual irregularities,  morning sickness, weight gain, and the expansion of the abdomen was found in 63-97% of women suffering from the disorder. The increase in the size of the abdomen is attributed to gas, fat, or feces. Also, 18% of women suffering from the disorder were at one time diagnosed with a pregnancy. Several causal theories have been put forward for “pseudocyesis,” but none have been accepted so far. (source)

6. The “Truman Show Delusion” is a mental illness where people feel that their life is a reality show, and they are secretly being filmed 24 x 7 as the star of the imaginary reality show.

The Truman Show
Image credit: Fair Use – Scott Rudin Productions/Wikipedia

Even when our television screens are overcrowded with reality shows, we rarely understand their impact on our daily lives. The patients who suffer from the “Truman Show Delusion” believe that they are being filmed day and night for the entertainment of others. In 2012, Joan Gold and Ian Gold published a paper coining the term “Truman Show Delusion” inspired by the 1998 film starring Jim Carrey, The Truman Show.

A patient suffering from the delusion believed that cameras were planted in his eyes and all of his family was involved in the conspiracy to film his life. He also thought that the 9/11 attacks did not really happen and were a part of the show. Another patient who was a journalist believed that all the people around him were paid actors and his colleagues drafted news articles solely for the purpose of his amusement. Yet another patient who worked in the crew of an actual reality show thought his life was being filmed, and he was a secret contestant whose thoughts were being controlled by people who were paid by his family. (source)

7. There is a syndrome called “Capgras Delusion” where those who suffer from it think that their friends, family, and even pets have been replaced by imposters.

woman with mask
Image credit: Pixabay

Also known as “Imposter Syndrome,” those suffering from this disorder irrationally believe that people they know are replaced by imposters who look exactly like them. They would also go to the extent of accusing their spouse or friend of being an imposter causing a severe strain in the relationship. Their delusion is not just limited to humans. They can have the same beliefs about animals and even objects.

Commonly associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia can also cause episodes of “Capgras Delusion.” In rare cases, a brain injury can also be a cause. The condition can affect anyone, even children, and is more common among women. The treatment options at the moment are limited, but a part of the treatment is to treat the underlying cause of the delusion. Patients are treated with medications, therapies, and surgeries when needed. (source)

8. In the “Jerusalem Syndrome,” tourists visiting Jerusalem have a religious delusion and begin to believe that they are the next coming of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, or the Virgin Mary.

Jerusalem Syndrome
Image credit: Jacek Proszyk/Wikimedia

Recently, a British tourist who went missing in the Negev desert is believed to be suffering from “Jerusalem Syndrome.” A trail of torn Bible pages was found in the desert in southern Israel with notes that had references to the story of Jesus going into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. He was assumed to have developed a religious delusion that he was the next coming of Jesus after visiting Jerusalem.

At the Jerusalem Psychiatric Hospital, 50 cases a year were reported a decade ago with a sharp drop in the number in the last few years. Even people who are mentally healthy are known to have visited Jerusalem and then begun having delusions that they are the Messiah, John the Baptist, or the Virgin Mary and are on a religious mission.

Denis Michael Rohan, an Australian tourist, set fire to the al-Aqsa Mosque in the city in 1969, believing that he was on a religious mission. The people who suffer from this condition may have an underlying mental illness like schizophrenia or may belong to ultra-religious families. (source)

9. It is a mental disorder to pretend to have a mental disorder, and this disorder is called “Factitious Disorder.” People pretend to have a mental illness and begin exaggerating the symptoms only to fit into the role of a mental patient.

Also known as “Munchausen Syndrome,” it is a condition that causes a person may feign or exaggerate symptoms for themselves or for another to fit into the description of a psychological patient. They may go to the extent of contaminating urine samples or taking hallucinogens without a malignant motive.

Usually, patients suffering from this disorder seek attention, nurturing, and sympathy. They may be looking to recreate a childhood relationship with a doctor that helped them or have a need to deceive or test the authorities. Abuse, neglect, and abandonment during the childhood can also lead to the “Factitious Disorder.”

The challenge lies in treating this disorder. People suffering from this mental illness have mastered the art of faking the symptoms so well that it gets difficult to ascertain improvement. The passage of time is known to bring about positive changes in the sufferers. (source)

10. “Pronoia,” the exact opposite of “paranoia,” is a delusion people go through in which they believe everyone in the world around them is secretly plotting their success.

person on mountain top
Image credit: Pixabay

“Paranoia” is a more common state of mind that causes one to feel that everyone is conspiring against them. What we haven’t heard of is its exact opposite—“Pronoia.” While suffering from the latter, a person feels that the universe is conspiring in their favor and for their success, and they suspect that everyone is plotting to make them happy.

Dr. Fred H. Goldner of Queens College in New York first mentioned the term in an article for a journal that was widely talked about in several other medical publications. While suffering from “pronoia,” one believes that their efforts and actions are well-appreciated by others, and they begin considering mere acquaintances as close friends. An exchange of pleasantries is seen in an intensely higher degree as expressions of deep feelings and attachments. Goldner believes that the condition stems from humans becoming increasingly dependent on the opinions of others. (source)

11. People suffering from the “White Coat Syndrome” exhibit high blood pressure levels only when they are in a clinical setting. Otherwise, their blood pressure levels are normal.

Doctor takes blood pressure
Image credit: Bill Branson/Wikimedia

The “White Coat Syndrome” causes a person’s blood pressure levels to spike when they are placed in a doctor’s clinic. The name comes from the “white coats” that are generally worn by medical professionals. Having otherwise normal levels, sufferers go through periods of anxiety in a clinical setting leading to abnormally high blood pressure levels.

There are also cases where a patient experiences high blood pressure in all the places other than a clinical setting, but it drops when in presence of a doctor. This is known as “masked hypertension,” the exact opposite of the “White Coat Syndrome.” (source)

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