magine being able to feel everything another person is feeling – their pleasure and their pain. Or being convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that you’re dead.
These are just a few of the strange brain disorders that have plagued a rare set of people over the years. Oliver Sacks’ classic book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat introduced us to some of the strangest brain disorders people suffer from, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few of the most bizarre mental conditions out there.
1. Cotard’s syndrome: this disorder makes people think that they’re dead.
Mr. B was a 65-year-old retired teacher with no family history of mental illness, when he suddenly began having sad moods, stopped being able to feel pleasure, slept and ate less, and developed feelings of worthlessness. He later started having delusions that his organs had stopped working and his house was going to fall down. After an attempted suicide, he started believing he was dead.
This man suffered from a condition known as Cotard’s syndrome (or Walking corpse syndrome), in which a patient thinks he or she is dead. Counterintuitively, in more than half of cases, these patients also think they are immortal. Treatment for the condition can include antidepressant or antipsychotic drugs, or electroconvulsive therapy.
2. Prosopagnosia: some people can’t remember others’ faces.
The writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks recounts the story of a man who “mistook his wife for a hat”. He suffered from a condition where he couldn’t recognise faces, known as prosopagnosia, or face blindness. (Sacks himself has a moderate version of the condition.)
Depending on how severe the case, a person may have a hard time recognising just familiar faces, telling strangers’ faces apart, or even telling a face apart from an object. Some people with prosopagnosia can’t even recognise their own face. The condition is usually caused by stroke, but as much as 2.5 percent of peoplemay be born with it.