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    Volume 9 Issue 14| April 2, 2010|

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That Thin Line......

Anika Hossain

Why is it that whenever there is a new viral fever in town we make sure we know everything there is to know about it so we can rush to the doctor at the slightest change of body temperature and demand a prescription, but we calmly observe ourselves/friends/family suffering from full fledged bipolar disorder, having manic episodes scarier than the Exorcist, and suffering from depression to the point where they refuse to get out of bed in the morning and attribute it to the victim being "moody"...."don't worry that's the way he/she is...it'll pass." Yes it will pass but not because they're all better but because they're getting ready for the next more horrifying episode. A little bit of research on mental disorders along with the physical ones can't hurt anyone. There are only certain ways one can go crazy and they are all listed in the holy book of psychology, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) which is currently in it's fourth edition (DSM-IV). Apart from the usual hits of the psych-ward, schizophrenia and depression, there are a number of other conditions, which are less well known. Listed below are twenty such disorders to watch out for each more bizarre than the next, to save you the precious time it would take to look them up yourselves. You're welcome.

1) Synaesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. Simply put, you think numbers have colours and words (such as the days of the week) have personalities. Many people with synesthesia use their experiences to be creative, and many non-synesthetes have attempted to create works of art that may capture what it is like to experience synesthesia. Here is a description of the disorder by one synaesthete: “I realised that to make an R all I had to do was first write a P and draw a line down from its loop. And I was so surprised that I could turn a yellow letter into an orange letter just by adding a line.” In a more bizarre twist, sufferers might mix sound and taste so that different noises might have a taste. It may be wise for synaesthetes to avoid the brown sound.

2) Oniomania is commonly referred to as compulsive shopping, shopping addiction or shopaholism. Oniomaniacs often experience satisfaction when they are in the process of purchasing, which seems to give their life meaning while helping them forget about their sorrows. Once leaving the environment where the buying occurred, the feeling of a personal reward has already gone. To compensate, the addicted person goes shopping again. Eventually a feeling of guilt and frustration will overcome the person. For example, cases have shown that the bought goods will be hidden or destroyed, because the person concerned feels ashamed of their addiction and tries to conceal it.

3) Trichotillomania or “trich” as it is commonly known, is an impulsive control disorder or a form of self-injury characterized by the repeated urge to pull out scalp hair, eyelashes, facial hair, nose hair, eyebrows or other body hair, sometimes resulting in noticeable bald patches. It may seem, at times, to resemble a habit, an addiction, or an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Trichotillomania often begins during the individual's teenage years. Depression or stress can trigger the trich. Some people with TTM wear hats, wigs, wear false eyelashes, eyebrow pencil, or style their hair in an effort to avoid such attention.

4) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an illness which causes the victim to have repeated, unwanted thoughts which are often violent or of a sexual nature or concern other illnesses. These thoughts are unpleasant, intrusive and cause high levels of anxiety. To overcome these obsessive thoughts the person concerned will display repetitive behaviours called compulsions. These usually involve washing and checking. The person will repeatedly wash their hands or bodies, they will arrange and rearrange objects repeatedly, they will check everything repeatedly, they will say the same things over and over again and make lists for everything. Some people with OCD have regimented rituals while others have rituals that are complex and changing. Performing rituals may give the person with OCD some relief from anxiety, but it is only temporary.

5) Hoarding is the acquisition of and the failure to discard a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value. Hoarding is different from normal collecting because it causes significant distress and impairs day to day living. Hoarders cram their living space with so many possessions that it is difficult for them to navigate around their own house. Hoarding behaviour can be seen mostly in people suffering from OCD. In order to avoid obsessive thoughts, hoarders develop a compulsion for collecting. Hoarders usually have a creative streak in them and can see beauty in things most people would consider trash. They are emotionally attached to their collection and most believe that terrible things may happen if they discard their belongings.

6) Coprolalia is involuntary swearing or the involuntary utterance of obscene words or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks. Involuntary outbursts, such as racial or ethnic slurs in the company of those most offended by such remarks, can be particularly embarrassing to the sufferer of coprolalia; the phrases do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of the person. This disorder is often treated with botox near the vocal chords, which helps to reduce the volume (but not the quantity) of outbursts. Related disorders are copropraxia, performing obscene or forbidden gestures, and coprographia, making obscene writings or drawings.

7) Dissociative Identity Disorder is the disease formerly known as multiple personality disorder. It is a condition in which a person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities (known as alter egos or alters), each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment. The diagnosis requires that at least two personalities routinely take control of the individual's behaviour with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness. There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the topic, with some therapists considering it to not exist at all, despite the fact that 40,000 cases were diagnosed from 1985 to 1995.

8) Diogenes Syndrome: Diogenes was an ancient Greek philosopher, who lived in a wine barrel and promoted ideas of nihilism and animalism. Diogenes syndrome is a condition characterised by extreme self-neglect, reclusive tendencies, and compulsive hoarding, sometimes of animals. It is found mainly in old people and is associated with senile breakdown.

9) Stendhal Syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly 'beautiful' or a large amount of art is in a single place. It is named after the famous 19th century French author Stendhal who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.

10) The Capgras Delusion is a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that an acquaintance, usually a spouse or other close family member, has been replaced by an identical looking impostor. It is most common in patients with schizophrenia, although it occurs in those with dementia, or in those suffering from a brain injury.

11) Fregoli Delusion: The exact opposite of the Capgras delusion the Fregoli delusion is a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusion or belief that different people are in fact one person who changes appearance or is in disguise. The condition is named after the Italian actor Leopoldo Fregoli who was renowned for his ability to make quick changes of appearance during his stage act.

12) Othello Syndrome is also known as delusional or morbid jealousy--an absolute belief that your husband/wife/partner is cheating on you. It often leads a person to threaten to attack their spouses or to stalk the imagined lovers of their spouses. In one case, a woman accused her husband of fathering 10,000 children with a 70-year-old mistress.

13) Pyromaniacs or fire lovers don't set fires to destroy property, collect insurance, or draw attention; they are attracted to fire itself and may experience being tense, aggressive, or piqued before lighting a fire. They may even hang out at fire departments or become fire fighters so they can focus on fire all the time. Pyros tend to be men and tend to be heavy drinkers. Some experts argue that pyromania is a myth, a label attached to mentally ill people who happen to set a fire.

14) Bibliomania is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is a disorder in which people start to collect books, and this eventually starts to interfere with their relationships and their normal lives. People often buy more than one copy of the same exact books. They also buy so many books that they could not possibly read them all, and often have trouble finding places to store their books

15) Munchausen Syndrome is one where people exaggerate the symptoms of an illness, or pretend like they are experiencing symptoms that they are not, in order to receive medical attention. They often make themselves sick so that they can be treated. They usually do this because they are seeking attention, comfort, or sympathy from someone. People with this disorder are extremely deceitful and manipulative.

16) Androphobia is the fear of men. People who have this experience extreme anxiety when they are in the presence of a man, despite the fact that they know that there is no immediate danger or threat to their life. This disorder is usually linked to something traumatic that happened to the person suffering from it when they were younger.

17) Fugue, which means flight, is leaving ones home and identity for days, months, even years. Severe psychological stress triggers this dissociative disorder. Fleeing is a method of self-preservation. Once the individual recovers they rarely remember what happened or what they did during this period of time.

18) Social Phobia: Social phobia is a type of anxiety problem. Extreme feelings of shyness and self-consciousness in a person builds into a powerful fear. As a result, a person feels uncomfortable participating in everyday social situations. People with social phobia can usually interact easily with family and a few close friends. But meeting new people, talking in a group, or public speaking can cause their extreme shyness to kick in. Instead of enjoying social activities, people with social phobia might dread them and avoid them altogether.

19) Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a condition in which people have an inflated sense of self-importance and a need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings. But behind this mask of confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

20) Boanthropy is an illness in which sufferers believe they are cattle.
So next time you find yourself or someone you know going on an unstoppable buying spree, being attached to a bottle cap, thinking traffic sounds taste like strawberries, repeatedly running away from home, accusing your spouse of having 10,000 lovers or suddenly mooing and chewing on grass at the nearby park, do consult a psychologist because believe it or not it can and will get much worse if you don't.

Source: DSM IV and other internet sources.

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