18 Mental Conditions You Probably Don’t Even Know Exist

“Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.” – John Green

In one of my recent posts, I explored some thoughts around 10 Types of Depression. The article was well received and I had people reaching out asking after a similar perspective on some lessor known conditions and syndromes.

Among them were 3 relatively obscure ones that readers had heard about but weren’t sure actually existed. Namely: “Cotard’s Delusion”, “Depersonalisation Disorder” and “Capgras Syndrome”.

I think lots of us dismiss people as being difficult or crazy, or just assholes (or difficult crazy assholes). It’s hard for normally functioning people to appreciate the depth and breadth of the human psyche or be empathetic towards the less fortunate. For this reason, I’ve taken a stab at bridging the gap between the “normal” mind and those more unusual ones.

Subjective Over Objective Reality

Although we are still largely at the early stages of understanding the human mind, there are a few things about the nature of reality and consciousness itself, that we are beginning to unfold.

Most of us have this idea that reality is happening all the time and we get to witness it unfolding through the windows of our eyes. ie: that reality is objective.

But nothing could be further from the truth. The illustration below shows that humans only get to see and hear a tiny sliver of what there is to potentially be seen and heard.

Besides the visual and audio spectrums, the possibility for consciousness itself to manifest in other ways has been made all too real for all those who have tried psychedelics like LSD (Acid).  A dose of a strong psychedelic will change a person’s perspective of “self” and “consciousness” in significant (and sometimes horrifying) ways.

*I am not suggesting anyone tries acid. People who take it for learning about the mind, do so in a controlled environment with a professional in attendance (a medical professional, not a professional acid taker). Some people’s anchor of sanity can ill afford even the slightest tug and there are cases where an acid trip was a 1-way ticket*

The truth about consciousness and reality is that it all happens in our own minds and it’s never accurate because our brains create it for us.

Our personal realities are a combination of what our brains decide to allow us to notice (in sight and sound) mixed with past experiences, emotions, expectations, fears, mental conditioning, internal body functioning (including the vagus nerve) and bespoke mental processes.

2 very “normal” people sitting together may as well be on different planets for how different their experiences of the same moment can be. Once we appreciate this fact, we can try to begin imagining how far removed a person with less of a foothold on reality can stray.

The 18 Conditions

Histrionic Personality Disorder

Histrionic personality disorder is one of a collection of conditions called “Cluster B” or “dramatic” personality disorders. People with these illnesses tend to have powerful, unstable emotions and distorted self-images.

This one is far more annoying than life threatening though. People afflicted with it seem less concerned about the condition than those around them and see their behaviour as justified or warranted.

Folks with this personality disorder, ten to have their self-esteem depend on the approval of others and does not arise from a true feeling of self-worth. Their own feelings of self-worth are either absent or skewed to such an extent that the feedback is insufficient to function. They have an irresistible longing to be noticed, and often behave melodramatically or inappropriately to get attention. The word histrionic means “dramatic or theatrical.”

This disorder is far more common in women than in men and is usually evident by adolescence or early adulthood and continues their entire lives.

The disorder denotes low EQ (as self-control seems lacking).Understandably, this disorder can be very damaging in relationships as well as to family and friends.

Famous people with this disorder are:

  • Megan Fox.
  • Jessica Simpson.
  • Kim Kardashian.
  • Miley Cyrus.
  • Kanye West.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This disorder is characterised by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.

It has historically also been known as “shell shock” as a large number of men returning from war showed symptoms. The trigger or trauma which sets off this condition could also be caused by anything upsetting in one’s life, such as spousal abuse, sexual abuse, combat or kidnapping to name a few.

Some folks are more resilient to trauma while others feel distressed very easily and as a result, suffer from PTSD.

The condition may last months or years, with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions such as anxiety or panic attacks.

Ironically, panic attacks can cause a person to suffer from PTSD caused by the trauma of having had a panic attack.  

Symptoms may also include nightmares or flashbacks, avoidance of situations that bring back the trauma, heightened reactivity to stimuli, anxiety (GAD) or depressed mood.

Treatment includes different types of psychotherapy as well as medications to manage symptoms.

Famous people who suffer with PTSD are:

  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Mick Jagger
  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
  • Monica Seles
  • Shia LaBeouf
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Alanis Morissette

Dermatillomania (Skin Picking)

Dermatillomania is a mental illness related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is characterized by repeated picking at one’s own skin which results in lesions which can cause significant disruption in one’s life. 

People who suffer with this disorder pick at healthy skin, minor skin irregularities (e.g., pimples or calluses), lesions, or scabs.

This disorder is usually chronic, with periods of remission alternating with periods of greater symptom intensity. If untreated, skin-picking behaviours may come on for weeks, months, or years at a time. It is common for individuals with this disorder to spend significant amounts of time, sometimes even several hours a day, on their obsessive picking behaviour.

The resulting lesions left by the behaviour can cover an entire body, including the face, or it can be performed on parts of the body mostly hidden, which makes identifying the illness difficult.

Skin picking is a body-focused repetitive behaviour (BFRB) that typically begins, as most disorders do, during adolescence, commonly coinciding with, or following the onset of puberty around ages 13-15.

However, there are cases where children under the age of 10 begin harming themselves. And it is also not uncommon for adults as old as 45 to begin the behaviour.

Cotard’s Delusion

Also known as “walking corpse syndrome” or “Cotard’s syndrome”, is a rare mental disorder where the afflicted holds the delusional and ironic belief that they themselves are dead. They believe that they no longer exist or that they are putrefying or have lost their blood or internal organs.

Studies have shown that around 45% of people with the illness are in complete denial of their existence and the other 55% presented with delusions of “immortality”. I.e: They believe that they are no longer alive but continue on in a type of purgatory.

First discovered in 1880 by professor Jules Cotard (and initially named The Delirium of Negation), the illness presents with different levels of severity, almost all of which are devastating to the lives of the patients.

Even the mildest cases show the afflicted immersed in despair and self-loathing, while a severe case is characterized by intense delusions of negation and chronic psychiatric depression which always requires hospitalisation.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

BDD is a mental health disorder in which a person becomes obsessed with the way they look. Not unlike Anorexia Nervosa, the afflicted is unable to recognise an accurate depiction of themselves in the mirror. They may see their body as misshapen or deformed and they almost always see themselves as extremely ugly.

It is not uncommon for the person to seek out multiple plastic surgery procedures in the pursuit of physical perfection that is ultimately unattainable. Michael Jackson, by all accounts was a classic example of someone who suffered from BDD. He also suffered from low self-esteem and strange character flaws, 2 of the most common signs of someone suffering with the illness.

A person suffering with this disorder may spend many hours each day looking at themselves in the mirror. Ironically, this act in itself causes the sufferer significant distress and only serves to add to their self-esteem issues.

Treatment of body dysmorphic disorder may include cognitive behavioural therapy and medication.

Famous people with BDD are/were:

  • Shirley Manson
  • Andy Warhol
  • Michael Jackson

Antisocial Personality Disorder

This disorder, sometimes called sociopathy, is a mental disorder in which a person consistently shows no regard for right or wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others.

This wouldn’t be so bad if the person was always well intentioned or extremely kind, but these two traits almost never accompany Antisocial Personality Disorder. These people always seem to antagonize, manipulate or treat others harshly or with callous indifference, and, while they are not all psychopaths, they do show no guilt or remorse for their behaviour.

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder often violate the law, becoming criminals. They may lie, behave violently or impulsively, and have problems with drug and alcohol use. Because of these characteristics, people with this disorder typically can’t fulfil responsibilities related to family, work or school.

The more severe cases, where psychopathy is also present, shows them taking great pleasure in the torture and suffering of others. It was once thought that these people had little empathy, but it is now understood that some of them do have high empathy which is why they enjoy seeing their victims in pain or deep suffering.   

Famous people with APD are/were:

  • Theodore Bundy
  • Jimmy Saville
  • Jeffrey Dahmer
  • Charlie Manson
  • Harold Shipman

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is an illness that is joked about or used far too often to describe any person or child who seems to have too much energy. But actual ADHD can be a difficult disorder to deal with, both for the inflicted and for their loved ones.

It is a mental disorder of the neurodevelopmental type and is characterized by difficulty paying attention, excessive activity and acting without regards to consequences, which are otherwise not appropriate for a person’s age.

ADHD often begins in childhood and can persist into adulthood. It may contribute to low self-esteem, troubled relationships and difficulty at school or work.

Symptoms are comprised of limited attention spans and near constant hyperactivity.

Treatments include a combination of medication and talk therapy after an official diagnosis by a professional.

Famous people with ADHD are:

  • Howie Mandel
  • Ty Pennington
  • Justin Timberlake

Pica Disorder

Pica is a compulsive eating disorder in which people eat non-food items. Dirt, clay, and flaking paint are the most common items eaten. Less common items include glue, hair, glass metal, and even faeces.

The disorder is more common in children, affecting 10% to 30% of young children ages 1 to 6.

There are some prominent magicians who eat glass, pins, nuts and bolts which some people suspect may be a trick, but this is actually the Pica disorder. Most lifetime suffers experience bowel distress and teeth which are sometimes worn down to the gum from the chewing of harder material.

Famous/ish people with Pica Disorder are/were:

  • Tod Robbins
  • Michel Lotito
  • John Fasel

Non-suicidal Self Injury Disorder (NSSI)

NSSI (or cutting) is a disorder where the person inflicts pain on themselves through non-life-threatening (mostly mild) injuries such as cutting the skin with sharp objects, threading needles through the skin or burning oneself to cause pain.

Although the methods used sometimes overlap with those of suicide attempts (eg, cutting the wrists with a razor blade), non-suicidal self-injury is distinct from suicide because patients do not intend the acts to be lethal.

Patients may specifically state this lack of intent, or the lack may be inferred by their repeated use of clearly nonlethal methods. Despite the lack of immediate lethality, long-term risk of suicide attempts is greater in this group than of the general population.

The disorder seems to decrease after young adulthood which may mean that hormones combined with abuse, depression or trauma could be a trigger though an exact cause is unknown.

Schizophrenia Disorder

Schizophrenia is sadly a pretty devastating disorder. It affects a person’s ability to think clearly, feel appropriate emotions and behave properly. It is super difficult for the person with the disorder but sometimes even more difficult for family.

The exact cause of schizophrenia isn’t known, but there have been inconclusive studies which suggest that the brain itself is diseased but we just don’t know yet.

What we are sure about is that a combination of genetics, environment and altered brain chemistry and structure, all play a role in making the journey a pretty unpleasant one.

Schizophrenia is characterised by thoughts or experiences that seem out of touch with reality. The person exhibits disorganised speech or behaviour and decreased participation in daily activities due to difficulty with concentration and memory.

Treatment is usually lifelong and often involves a combination of medications, psychotherapy and coordinated speciality care services.

People with this disorder are/were:

  • John Hinkley Jr
  • Peter Green
  • Darrell Hammond
  • Syd Barrett

Dependent Personality Disorder

Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is an anxious personality disorder categorised by an inability to be alone.

People with DPD develop symptoms of anxiety when they’re not around others. They rely on other people for constant comfort, reassurance, advice, and support.

People who don’t have this condition sometimes deal with feelings of insecurity but are typically able to work through these feelings. Whereas people with DPD need reassurance from others in order to function. According to the Cleveland Clinic, people with this condition normally first show signs in early to mid-adulthood.

These people find it very difficult finding a stable relationship as the burden on the partner is often fairly significant.

Depersonalisation Disorder

Depersonalisation Disorder is the experience of feeling unreal, detached, and often, unable to feel emotion.

It is a phenomenon characterised by a disruption in self-awareness and emotional numbness, where many people feel that they are disconnected or estranged from themselves.

Many people experience depersonalisation during a panic attack when the person feels like reality is slipping or they are outside of their bodies and this is often characterised as the peak level of anxiety.

Brief moments of this disorder can be experienced with certain serotonin uptake receptor medication if the person misses a daily tablet.

It is one way that the mind copes during periods of high levels of stress. For some people the condition can feel as though the world around them is like a movie that they are watching rather than specifically being a part of it.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

The letters OCD are often used to describe someone who is neat or who prefers order over a mess but this disorder is anything but funny.

People who have true OCD have a very difficult time doing the simplest mundane activities like putting on their shoes or locking the front door.

It is characterised by Excessive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviours (compulsions).

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterised by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to compulsive behaviours.

It often centres on themes such as a fear of germs, the need to arrange objects in a specific manner, counting things and checking things over and over to ensure it is done correctly.

Symptoms usually begin gradually and vary throughout life. If the behaviour is addressed early on it is easier to treat and manage it.

Famous people with OCD are/were:

  • Howard Stern
  • Howie Mandel
  • Frank Sinatra

Body Integrity Disorder

Body integrity dysphoria (BID, also referred to as body integrity identity disorder, amputee identity disorder and xenomelia, formerly called apotemnophilia) is a disorder where the person has an acute desire to become disabled or has discomfort with being able-bodied.

This disorder begins in adolescence and can result in some seriously harmful consequences.

BID is a rare, infrequently studied condition in which there is a mismatch between the mental body image and the physical body, characterized by an intense desire for amputation of a limb, usually a leg, or to become blind or deaf. The person sometimes has a sense of sexual arousal connected with the desire for loss of a limb or sense.

In some extreme cases there have been reports of the afflicted attempting self-amputation (e.g: by allowing a train to run over their leg to ensure it is so badly damaged that it requires amputation).

People with this condition find it difficult to lead normal lives and experience feelings of repugnance from others in general.

Alice In Wonderland Syndrome (AWS)

AWS is also known as Todd’s syndrome (as it was first identified in the 1950s by British psychiatrist Doctor John Todd). He noted that the symptoms (and recorded anecdotes of this syndrome) closely resembled episodes that the character Alice Liddell experienced in Lewis Carroll’s novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

The condition causes temporary acute episodes of distorted perception and disorientation. The person may feel larger or smaller than they actually are. The afflicted may also find that the room they’re in — or the surrounding furniture — seems to shift and feel further away or closer than it really is.

These episodes aren’t the result of a problem with the eyes nor are they a hallucination. They’re caused by changes in how the brain perceives the environment and the body.

This syndrome can affect multiple senses, including vision, touch, and hearing. The patient may also lose sense of time. Time may seem to pass faster or slower than in reality.

AWS typically affects children and young adults. Most people grow out of these disordered perceptions as they age, but it’s still possible to experience this in adulthood.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder is a condition related to brain development that impacts a person’s life in a number of different ways.

How they socialize and communicate with others, behaviour patterns and learning problems are all very common.. The term “spectrum” in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity.

Autism spectrum disorder includes conditions that were previously considered separate — autism, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and an unspecified form of pervasive developmental disorder. Some people still use the term “Asperger’s syndrome,” which is generally thought to be at the mild end of autism spectrum disorder.

ASDr begins in early childhood and eventually causes problems functioning in society — socially, in school and at work, for example. A small number of children appear to develop normally in the first year, and then go through a period of regression between 18 and 24 months of age when they develop autism symptoms.

Each child with autism spectrum disorder is likely to have a unique pattern of behaviour and level of severity — from low functioning to high functioning.

Some children with ASD find learning difficult and seem to have a low level of intelligence. Other children with the disorder have normal to extremely high intelligence — they can absorb vast amounts of information quickly, yet have trouble communicating and applying what they know in everyday life and social situations.

Some early and lifelong signs of ASD are:

  • Lack of desire for social interaction
  • Inability to communicate or apply the vast amounts of knowledge they absorb but can accomplish tasks in solitude or can write the knowledge down
  • Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping
  • Performs activities that could cause self-harm, such as biting or head-banging
  • Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
  • Is unusually sensitive to light, sound or touch, yet may be indifferent to pain or temperature
  • Doesn’t engage in imaginative or make-believe play
  • Fixates on an object or activity with abnormal intensity or focus absorbing large amounts of data about the activity
  • Has specific food preferences, such as eating only a few foods, or refusing foods with a certain texture
  • Prefer playing alone, retreating into his or her own world
  • Patients have to learn how to make eye contact or facial expressions
  • Struggles to keep a conversation going and reverts to unrelated facts
  • Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm and may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
  • Repeats words or phrases verbatim on command and obsessively when alone
  • Doesn’t express emotions or feelings and appears unaware of others’ feelings
  • Has difficulty recognizing nonverbal cues, such as interpreting other people’s facial expressions, body postures or tone of voice

Famous people with ASP are/were:

  • Dan Aykroyd – Comedic Actor
  • Hans Christian Andersen – Children’s Author
  • Tim Burton – Movie Director
  • Lewis Carroll – Author of “Alice in Wonderland”
  • Henry Cavendish – Scientist
  • Charles Darwin – Naturalist, Geologist, and Biologist
  • Emily Dickinson – Poet
  • Albert Einstein – Scientist & Mathematician
  • Bobby Fischer – Chess Grandmaster
  • Bill Gates – Co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation
  • Thomas Jefferson – Early American Politician
  • Steve Jobs – Former CEO of Apple
  • Stanley Kubrick – Film Director
  • Barbara McClintock – Scientist and Cytogeneticist
  • Michelangelo – Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Classical Composer
  • Sir Isaac Newton – Mathematician, Astronomer, & Physicist
  • Jerry Seinfeld – Comedian
  • Nikola Tesla – Inventor
  • Andy Warhol – Artist
  • William Butler Yeats – Poet
  • Sir Anthony Hopkins – Actor

Capgras Syndrome

If we were handing out prizes for mere complexity and layered nature of disorders, this, to me, would be the top pick.

Capgras syndrome (AKA “imposter syndrome” or “Capgras delusion”) is when a person experiences an irrational belief that someone they know or recognize has been replaced by an imposter. They may, for example, recognise their own mother entering the room, but they are convinced that their mother is an imposter only pretending to play the part of their mother.

Even when the patient is calm and rational, they can accept that they have a mental disorder but when the “imposter” enters the room, they find it impossible to believe that their mother, spouse or friend is who they say they are.

Getting them to examine the “imposter” for a mask or physical signs of them not being who they say they are, still has no effect on the persons belief.

In some cases, the person experiencing the delusion may believe an animal, object, or even a home is an imposter. Capgras syndrome can affect anyone, but it’s more common in women. In rare cases, it can also affect children.

Capgras syndrome is most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Both of these affect memories and can alter your sense of reality.

Schizophrenia, especially paranoid hallucinatory schizophrenia, can cause episodes of Capgras syndrome. Schizophrenia, as we touched on earlier, also affects one’s sense of reality and can cause delusions.

In rare cases, a brain injury that causes cerebral lesions can also cause Capgras syndrome. This is most common when the injury happens in the back of the right hemisphere, because this is where our brains process facial recognition. People with epilepsy may also experience Capgras syndrome in rare cases.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of their own body weight.

The person perceives themselves as overweight when they look in the mirror and take drastic measures to achieve their ideal weight (which of course doesn’t exist).

Not only to they limit their food intake by, misusing laxatives, diet aids, diuretics or enemas, but they also purge after eating (which can cause their teeth to rot due to high levels of stomach acid in the mouth). They may also try to lose weight by exercising excessively.

Anorexia isn’t really about food. It’s an extremely unhealthy and sometimes life-threatening way to cope with emotional problems. When a person has anorexia, they typically equate thinness with self-worth.

Anorexia, like other eating disorders, can take over your life and can be very difficult to overcome. But with treatment, you can gain a better sense of who you are, return to healthier eating habits and reverse some of anorexia’s serious complications.

Disturbingly, there are pro-anorexia sites and forums where people discuss details of their disorder and there are celebs who claim to have had the disorder (which I think just encourages weak people to follow suit)

Instead of listing famous people who have suffered from the disorder I’d like to list some famous people who have died fairly horrific deaths due to Anorexia.  

Famous people who have all died from Anorexia:

In Conclusion

No one is without baggage of some sort. Baggage is merely the price of entry for being human. They say it’s not the weight that kills you, it’s the way you carry it.

I think that’s true, except some folks are born with weak or fragile mental bodies, and the weight isn’t only more difficult to carry, it breaks them.

There isn’t a great deal we can do to prevent the strains and struggles of life or the mental illnesses that affect so many people. But, what we can do is ensure we are as kind and patient as we can possibly be with everyone we come into contact with, because everyone is dealing with something.

Remember, we all are survivors of immeasurable events, flung upon some distant reach of land, small wet miracles, without instructions, only the imperative for change and compassion.

Folks also found accompanying drawings useful in imagining what it must be like to suffer from different afflictions, so I’m going to share more of Shawn Coss’s sketches to accompany outlines of the disorders in this post..

*Feel free to check out some more work by Shawn Coss on Instagram Here. Please exercise caution when viewing his work, though it’s fantastic, it’s a little dark, so, if you are at risk of being triggered, please proceed with caution on both this article and Shawn’s page or skip completely*

Thanks for reading..

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8 Replies to “18 Mental Conditions You Probably Don’t Even Know Exist”

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