Mental Disorders: Confusing or Instructive?

Posted: May 30, 2013 in Behaviour, Biology, Consciousness, Health, Mental Health, Psychology
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The mind fascinates me. It is dazzling in its complexity and can throw up some incredibly interesting questions.  Take the more outlandish mental disorders as an example.  The science.discovery.com website rather helpfully has put together a list aptly entitled ‘10 little known mental disorders‘ that include details of the following and really make us think:

1) Cotard’s Syndrome – someone afflicted with this disorder believes that they are dead, non-existent or have had all their blood or organs removed.

2) Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) – causes the sufferer to have an overwhelming desire that they want to be an amputee; the urge to amputate a healthy limb is very strong.

3) Synesthesia –  a disorder resulting in the sufferer experiencing an different sense as a result of the first sense.  For example, the person may experiencing the sense of sight as the sense of taste, or vice versa.

4) Windigo Psychosis – a disorder involving an insatiable craving for human flesh, coupled with the fear of becoming a cannibal.

5) Genital Retraction Syndrome (GRS) – people living with this disorder are overcome with the fear their genitals are either shrinking or retracting into the body and will eventually disappear.

6) Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) –  here the sufferer speaks with a new-found accent that bares no relation to their place of origin. For example a FAS sufferer may be British, but might speak with a strong New York accent.

7) Trichotillomania (TTM) – a disorder that results in a person feeling a strong urge to literally pull their hair out.

8) Mary Hart Syndrome –  a disorder characterised by “sound induced” epileptic fits.

9) Paris Syndrome – reserved solely for Japanese tourists traveling to Paris, those who exhibit this condition are essentially suffering from extreme culture shock.

10) The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine – a disorder that brings on an extreme response to a startling noise or sight.

Quite a list that extends from the outlandish to the downright strange! But at one level these conditions raise existential questions that encompass many interlocking fields including neurology, psychiatry and psychology.  How we perceive our external environment is crucial; when one or more element of that complex apparatus goes awry it can have profound implications. And these implications can even extend into the realms of faith or religious experience.  Although not a defined disorder, hyper-religious delusions are sometimes associated with particular clinical presentations of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.  How we see the world is often not objective, a point we should remember as we reflect on the worldviews and ‘Godviews’ we’ve constructed to make sense of the environment we live in.

And as you ponder on that thought, you might want to read a bit more on the ’10 little known mental disorders’!  You can access the website here.

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