Sunday, October 26, 2008

Top Five Most Bizarre Insanities

"He says to me, he says to me, 'You got STYLE, baby.
But if you're going to be a real villain, you gotta get
a gimmick.' And so I go I says YEAH, baby. A gimmick,
that's it. High explosives. Aaaaaa-hahahahaha!

It is a crazy world. Literally. Almost anyone, with enough observation, could probably be diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder, large or small. Whatever it is, don't worry, there is probably a pill for it. I straighten the DVD cases whenever I am in a video store, and that is just the one thing that I am both aware of and comfortable sharing. Lots of shit that goes on in my head has no business seeing the light of day, and my wife could probably make a list that ran for pages of weird shit I do that I don't even consider odd.

But some crazy is orders of magnitude greater than being mildly manic or having a touch of the obsessive compulsive, some things are bat-shit crazy. So I made a list of the top five that I think (1) aren't common knowledge and (2) would still allow you to function as a member of normal society. No face-eaters, in other words. People who might be in the cubical next to you, trying to ignore the stapler's constant orders to take a dump in the planter next to the water-cooler. 

Click through for the list...


"Who are you and what have you done with my husband?", my wife jokes on the rare occasion when, instead of getting drunk and throwing beer cans at the kids and dogs, I mow the lawn or thoughtfully use the toilet in the basement for my epic, triple-flush, house depopulating dumps. Capgras Delusion is like that, except for instead of joking, she would screech it hysterically and then either watch me warily out of the corner of her eye for the rest of the day or keep me at bay with a steak knife until the police showed up. This delusion makes the victim sincerely believe that a person has been replaced with an impersonator. This has not only been used as a dramatic vehicle many times in books and movies, both as a delusion and just as a general idea, but generated real-life drama as well. Comedian and former SNL cast member Tony Rosato (yeah, I never heard of him either) recently made news when he was sentenced to the loony bin for being a danger to his wife and kid because he thought they were evil dopplegangers.

Similarly, serving as the Yin to Capgras' Yang, the Fregoli delusion is the belief that many people are actually one person. Sort of like extreme Zen where not only is everything connected, but also out to get you. In the original illustrative example used by the doctors who defined the syndrome back in 1927, a young woman believed that two actors she had seen at the theater were stalking her by assuming the form of people she knew or met. This doesn't really scare me, since replacing most of the people I generally know and meet with impostors could only be an improvement.


Probably one of the creepiest things that could ever happen to you. This delusion makes you believe that you are basically a zombie, minus the propensity for munching on brains, (fortunately). Clinically characterized "by the presence of nihilistic delusions that one is dead or the world no longer exists" it often manifests itself through delusions that you have died and are literally rotting away. In a Florida case from 2001, a man reported feeling that he had died and his brain and insides were rotting away. The hallucinations can be so vivid as to actually include thinking you can smell your own flesh rotting, which would be odd since I imagine that most people have no idea what rotting human flesh smells like. At least I hope not.


People who have an arm or leg amputated sometimes report the sense that the missing appendage is still there in a phenomenon known as the "Phantom Limb". Musical Ear Syndrome is a similar concept but usually occurs in people who have lost their hearing instead of a body part. Those afflicted report hearing music, in some cases constantly and of occasionally maddening volume. They usually have no control over the channel or volume. The auditory hallucinations are not limited just to those with hearing loss, however, and many able-eared folk report hearing music nobody else can:
It began with a pop tune, and others followed. Mr. King heard everything from cabaret songs to Christmas carols. "I asked the nurses if they could hear the music, and they said no," said Mr. King, a retired sales manager in Cardiff, Wales.

"I got so frustrated," he said. "They didn't know what I was talking about and said it must be something wrong with my head. And it's been like that ever since."

Each day, the music returns. "They're all songs I've heard during my lifetime," said Mr. King, 83. "One would come on, and then it would run into another one, and that's how it goes on in my head. It's driving me bonkers, to be quite honest."
This could either be a dream or a nightmare for me. I often imagine how awesome it would be to have my own soundtrack, like that episode of Family Guy. However, not being able to control the songs would probably result in constant Jonas Brothers, which would result in my violent suicide.


Also known as being "face blind", this affliction makes you incapable of discerning the differences between faces. You literally can't tell one person from another by looking at their face. In extreme cases, you might even have difficulty recognizing that you are looking at a face at all. Cecilia Burman, who suffers from the disorder and has published a website which describes the condition from her perspective, uses stones as an analogy for what she sees when she looks at faces. Since very few people are even aware of the condition, they are often offended by having someone who is obviously not blind stare them directly in the face and demand that they identify themselves. Burman says that the face-blind use other methods to identify people such as hair, voice, clothes, body types, etc. She has put up a series of pictures that give a rough approximation of what she sees when she looks at someone's face. The result is kind of creepy:

Even creepier is's story about a gorgeous but severely face-blind fashion model who fell in love with the first face that she was able to clearly discern. That of a 44-year old mime. A fucking mime. White face paint and heavy black eyebrows equaled a lottery ticket. Tragic.


I might actually be overvaluing this one based on the name, but it's my list and I can do whatever I want. This disorder manifests itself as a faulty "startle" response. When a person who suffers from the Jumping Frenchmen disorder is startled, a dramatically exaggerated reaction occurs; including spectacular leaps away from the cause, screaming, limb flailing, convulsions or any combination of those. Also, they are often hypersensitive to suggestion and if ordered to do something suddenly, loudly or in any manner that might trigger the startle reaction, they will immediately perform the suggested action. The disorder earned its name because it was first reported in French-Canadian lumberjacks in the Moosehead Lake area of Maine. G.M. Beard described it as follows in his 1878 paper:
One of the jumpers while sitting in his chair with a knife in his hand was told to throw it, and he threw it quickly, so that it struck in a beam opposite; at the same time he repeated the order to throw it…. When the commands are uttered in a quick loud voice the jumper repeats the order. When told to strike, he strikes, when told to throw it, he throws it, whatever he has in his hands…. all of these phenomena were indeed but parts of the general condition known as, jumping.
Sounds like something my buddies and I would have had trouble recognizing as anything more than just hilarious fun. The effect only lasts a couple seconds, by the way, so you can forget trolling the JFMD support groups for hot chicks who are overly susceptible to suggestion.


Katro said...

They were all funny but the face-blind one was oddly fascinating (no not because I'm face-blind :P). Ended up reading that whole article you linked - I can't imagine 2% of the population being faceblind though. That's... a ton.

Skippomac said...

Yeah. At one in every fifty, you would think I would have heard about it by now. That has to be a higher ratio than people who own BMWs, for instance, and I see those all the time. But I had never heard of being "face-blind" before. Scary stuff, hate to think I could have fallen in love with a mime.