Psychology is the study of the human mind and of course there’s lots of strange disorders and syndromes. I’m your host, Leah…I’m Phil…and I’m Steve. Today we’ll be delving into the strange ways things can go wrong in the human psyche.
I have mentioned it here before, but back in 1990 I took a job teaching mentally ill patients at Western Washington State Hospital which is located near Tacoma, Washington. The purpose of my job was to try to help mentally ill folks with basic and slightly advanced living skills. In addition to basic academic subjects we worked on things like how to read a bus schedule, how to order from a menu in a restaurant, how to quit smoking and even relationships and dating. I found the work to be very challenging as many of the patients were dealing with both visual and auditory hallucinations. Yet I also found these folks to have a remarkable sweetness and I became very fond of many. Oh yes, they were also quite happy to tell you whatever was on their mind. There was little or no filter. You knew exactly where you stood with them!
Today while talking about odd psychological disorders, we want to make it clear that we are in no way attempting to ridicule the folks who suffer from the effects of mental disorders, even though they can occasionally present in a somewhat comical way. At the hospital where I worked, at one time there was a surge in the number of patients complaining to their doctors that they were hearing cars talk to them. Upon further investigation, it was found that a staff member who happened to park near the patient cafeteria had an alarm installed in his car that said, “Get away from me” when anyone touched it. The patients had to be told, “That was not a hallucination”.
Odd Psychological Disorders 1
https://online.csp.edu/resources/article/10-rare-mental-health-conditions/ Concordia University St. Paul
According to a website called online.csp.edu from Concordia University St. Paul, an estimated 50% of all Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. It specifically notes that depression is the 3rd leading cause of hospitalization among young adults age 18-44.
A manual called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), is basically a catalog of mental illnesses. This manual is used by health professionals to identify and classify mental health disorders. The DSM is not without controversy as each updated edition changes what is considered as a disorder. Conditions listed as disorders in earlier editions are now considered lifestyle choices.
Regardless, disorders such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are relatively well-understood by the public at large. However, some conditions noted in the DSM-V are so rare that mental health professionals may never encounter them. Here are some of the rarer mental health conditions.
Also called Wind Attacks (No, not those kind of wind attacks), Khyal Cap is a syndrome found among a very narrow population, specifically Cambodians and Cambodian refugees in the U.S. In the 1970s civil war broke out in this Southeast Asian country. Rebel factions known as the Khmer Rouge supported by communist North Vietnamese and Chinese forces took over the country in 1975. The Khmer Rouge regime murdered hundreds of thousands of their perceived political opponents, and its racist emphasis on national purity resulted in the genocide of Cambodian minorities. Large sections of the population attempted to escape, bringing with them only what they could carry. A few years ago one of my students told me about her grandparents who escaped carrying her mother and her aunt on their backs, and that was all.
As a result of this terror, many Cambodians, including those who escaped to the U.S., frequently experience Khyal Cap. Symptoms of Khyal Cap are similar to panic attacks. The sufferer may experience dizziness, palpitations, shortness of breath, and cold extremities as well as tinnitus and neck soreness. The attacks may appear without warning (come on like the wind) and appear to be centered in the fear that death may occur immediately.
Khyâl cap is an example of a cultural syndrome, or a syndrome that tends to co-occur among individuals in specific cultural groups.
Another example of a cultural syndrome is Kufungisisa which is found among the Shona tribe of Zimbabwe. Literally translated, Kufungisisa means Thinking Too Much. Kufungisisa involves ruminating on upsetting thoughts, particularly worries. You may have heard the expression, “Analysis Paralysis” meaning overthinking a topic can lead to inaction. Well, that’s kind of the idea being expressed here.
A common idiom in Zimbabwe is, “My heart is painful because I think too much.” To the Shona people Kufungisisa is the cause of anxiety, depression, headaches, dizziness, and sleep problems. Again, according to the Concordia St. Paul article, thinking too much is considered to be damaging to the mind and body.
While we don’t have the same word to describe it, I have known many folks in the U.S. who also fixate on specific thoughts and have a great deal of difficulty moving past them, particularly if it involves some kind of perceived slight from a trusted friend or family member. I personally find the New Testament scripture Philippians 4:8 helpful which reminds us that we have a choice of what we think about, and it encourages us to focus on positive things, not negative.
ODJ: NITHING POLE I recently came across a bit of a Norse tradition that I found very interesting. a Nithing Pole or NithStang. According to Wikipedia a nithing pole was a pole used for cursing an enemy in Germanic pagan tradition. It consisted of a long, wooden pole with a recently decapitated horse head stuck on the end. The nithing pole would be directed towards the enemy and target of the curse with the curse being be carved in runes on the pole.
According to Norse specialist Dr. Jackson Crawford from the University of Colorado, “In old Norse the word for hateful, slanderous or insulting speech is Nid (neethe). The old way of expressing Nid was to create a NidStong or Nid Pole which when translated into English is often called a scorn pole.
One of the most famous uses of a nithing pole appears in Egill’s saga (part of the Old Norse Legend (ch. 60, here translated by W. C. Green in 1983):
And when all was ready for sailing, Egil went up into the island. He took in his hand a hazel-pole, and went to a rocky eminence that looked inward to the mainland. Then he took a horse’s head and fixed it on the pole. After that, in solemn form of curse, he thus spake: ‘Here set I up a curse-pole, and this curse I turn on king Eric and queen Gunnhilda. (Here he turned the horse’s head landwards.) This curse I turn also on the guardian-spirits who dwell in this land, that they may all wander astray, nor reach or find their home till they have driven out of the land king Eric and Gunnhilda.’
This spoken, he planted the pole down in a rift of the rock, and let it stand there. The horse’s head he turned inwards to the mainland; but on the pole he cut runes, expressing the whole form of curse.
An interesting Old Norse way to communicate great scorn and disdain for someone. But is it entirely a thing of the ancient past? No, not really.
An article published in May of 2022 by Larissa Kyzer for icelandreview.com reports on a nithing pole found on the land of a spiritual community whose name I couldn’t hope to pronounce.
The new-age spiritual community is run by a lady named Linda Moll and practices things like cacao ceremonies, singing, dancing, drumming and Tantric festivals. It’s the festivals that have raised eyebrows and have caused a rift between the commune and its surrounding neighbors. Moll thinks that may be the reason for the scorn pole.
She and her husband being avid equestrians were afraid at first that the head mounted on the pole came from one of their own horses. It didn’t, thankfully, but Moll still considered the nithing pole to be a serious threat and was at the time the article was written afraid to return home. She said, “This can’t be because of some neighbor dispute. We could have had this conversation over a cup of cocoa. And who deserves to receive a message like this? I don’t think anyone deserves this.”
Police and the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority removed the horse head and as of the publishing of the article the incident was under investigation.
Odd Psychological Disorders 2
Clinical Lycanthropy and Boanthropy
These two are somewhat related, so we will address them together. Clinical Lycanthropy involves the delusion that a person can change themselves into an animal. The name comes from the mythical word Lycanthropy which referenced turning into a werewolf. Classified as a delusional misidentification syndrome, people with this disorder believe that they can transform themselves into any animal. Acting on this delusion, people have been found roaming around the forest on all fours and howling like a wolf.
Boanthropy is a very specific form of Lycanthropy in that the affected individual believes that they are cows. (Bo as in Bovine) Some folks with Boanthropy have even been found in fields with cows, walking on all fours and chewing grass as if they were part of the herd. Those with Boanthropy don’t seem to realize what they’re doing when they act like a cow, leading researchers to believe that this odd mental disorder is brought on by dreams or even a type of hypnotism. The most famous sufferer of boanthropy appears to have been Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon. In the Old Testament book of Daniel, the king is described as being driven away from men and eating grass as an oxen.
More commonly referred to as Hoarding, Diogenes Syndrome is one of the most misunderstood mental disorders. Recent popular television shows which focus on those suffering from this disorder have raised public awareness. This syndrome is characterized by an overwhelming desire to collect random items and then forming an emotional attachment to them. This disorder is more common among the elderly, as well as people who have at some point in their lives been abandoned or who have lacked a stable home environment. In addition to hoarding, sufferers often neglect self-care and become socially isolated.
Oddly enough, the syndrome is named for the Greek philosopher Diogenes who was just the opposite of what a hoarder is. Rejecting the desire for wealth, power, and possessions, Diogenes found virtue in poverty, slept in a large ceramic jar, and was actively engaged socially.
A few years ago my wife and I along with my sister and brother in law were touring Italy. In Florence, we spent a good deal of time one morning at the Academia Gallery marveling at Michelangelo’s amazing statue of David. It really is quite stunning! Imagine taking a 19 foot long hunk of rock and turning it into this magnificent statue! I watched as art students actually burst into tears upon seeing it up close. There were other notable works of art there as well. After a brief lunch we then toured the Uffizi Art Museum which housed some of the greatest artists of the Renaissance Period. About half way through the Uffizi I strongly felt the need to get to a window and look outside. Imagine that, here I was in this amazing ancient palace surrounded by incredible works of art, but I found it to be overwhelming. I called it stimulation overload, but I didn’t realize that what I was experiencing had an actual name.
According to onlinephychologydegree.info Stendahl Syndrome occurs when the sufferer is exposed to a large amount of art in one place, or in other environments characterized by extreme beauty. Those who experience this odd, yet scary mental disorder report sudden rapid heartbeat, overwhelming anxiety, confusion, dizziness, and even hallucinations. Stendahl Syndrome is named after the 19th century French author who described in detail his experience after an 1817 trip to Florence. In fact, the condition is also known as Florence Syndrome. Fortunately for me and others who have experienced this phenomenon, the condition is temporary.
PSYCHOPATHS / SOCIOPATHS / NARCISSISTS Let’s talk about psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. Those are the subjects I think abut when thinking about the topic of psyche. After all we’ve probably all have had interaction with one or more people with these conditions. You out there listening, you may be one of these. So what are they really?
We have a pretty good grasp on what a narcissist is I think. It’s defined as a person with a pattern of grandiose self-importance and a lack of empathy. That “friend” that interrupts your crying over the loss of a loved one to tell you they know how you feel because they just lost out on a job promotion and then goes on to tell you in detail why that was unfair. A person that makes everything about them and are oblivious to it. Narcissists require a ton of attention and it may be draining spending time with them. In close relationships they tend to be abusers in an emotional or verbal way if not physically. They make for very bad parents or lovers.
But what about a psychopath and a sociopath, those words are treated like synonyms a lot but there is a difference.
Although sociopath and psychopath are often used interchangeably and may overlap, each has its own clear lines of distinction. For example, sociopathy is the unofficial term for antisocial personality disorder (APD), while psychopathy is not an official diagnosis and is not considered an APD.
While both a conditions are marked by a lack of empathy toward others, an inability to understand how others feel, as well as few emotional attachments to other people. Some of the key differences are…
Sociopaths make it clear they do not care how others feel
Psychopaths are skilled at pretending that they do care
Behave in impulsive, hot headed ways and are prone to fits of anger and rage
Cold hearted and calculating
have a hard time maintaining regular work and family life
Able to maintain a normal life
Can form emotional attachments, but it is difficult
Fail to form genuine emotional attachments but may love people in their own way
The key difference here is that sociopaths have a hard time fitting into society, whereas a psychopath does well in society and because of the lack of emotion often sees other people as opponents in a game they are determined to win. So it is no surprise that according to several sources that cite a study by psychologist Kevin Dutton, the number one profession of choice for psychopaths is CEO.
Some of the other professions of choice are Lawyer, salesman, surgeon, Police officer, and this last one may surprise you…clergy.
Many sources I have found (such as Britannica.com) state that a key difference between the two is that psychopaths are born, and sociopaths are made. It’s the whole “nurture versus nature” argument saying that while both biological and environmental factors play a role in the development of psychopathy and sociopathy, it’s understood that psychopathy is a generally an inherited condition whereas sociopathy is caused by emotional abuse or severe childhood trauma. The more medically minded sources I came across pointed that assessment out to be a bit too simplistic. In any case the characteristics of narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths overlap quite a bit and it really takes a skilled psychologist or psychiatrist to make a diagnosis but even many mental health professionals may differ in their diagnoses.
The sources I used are VeryWellMind.com DomesticShelters.org, Forbes.com, Wikipedia, Britannica.com
Odd Psychological Disorders 3
Alien Hand Syndrome
This syndrome is characterized by the belief that one’s hand has its own life and doesn’t belong to oneself. Those with this scary but rare disorder experience a complete loss of control of a hand or even the whole arm. The Alien Hand often seems to have a will of its own. Sufferers have reported that their Alien Hand attempted to choke themselves or others as well as ripping clothing or excessive scratching. Alien Hand most often appears in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Some with this disorder are able to use their other hand to control the afflicted hand. This is known as intermanual conflict meaning the hands are acting in opposition to one another. There is currently no cure for this disorder. Some Alzheimer’s patients have been fitted with gloves to prevent themselves from scratching or causing other harm with the Alien Hand.
Alice In Wonderland Syndrome
I’m not sure about you, but when I think of Alice in Wonderland, my mind goes to the great Walt Disney animated feature from the 1960s. You recall that Alice chased the rabbit down a hole and found herself in a distorted other world. At one point she found herself to be growing to oversized dimensions.
Alice In Wonderland Syndrome causes sufferers to experience their surroundings or even their own body in a distorted way. Described as an LSD trip without the euphoria, AIWS is extremely rare, and in most cases affects those in their 20s who have a brain tumor or history of substance abuse. Also known as Todd’s Syndrome, AIWS may cause hallucinations, sensory distortion, and an altered sense of speed. These symptoms can trigger panic and fear responses. As stated in the onlinephychologydegree.info site, “A mental illness like this one will make you want to keep your mental health a top priority!” No mention was made about celebrating your unbirthday.
Capgras Syndrome and Reduplicative Amnesia
French psychologist Joseph Capgras was fascinated by the illusion of doubles. We talked about this idea back during our S2E6 on twins. However, patients who suffer with Capgras Syndrome have a profound belief that important people in their life (usually a spouse, family member, or close friend) have been replaced by an imposter. Moreover, they believe that this imposter is trying to harm them. (We also talked about imposters S2E1) Fortunately, Capgras Syndrome is quite rare. It is most often seen after a brain injury or in those who have dementia, schizophrenia, or epilepsy.
Similar to Capgras Syndrome, Reduplicative Amnesia details sufferers who sincerely believe that a location has been duplicated. This belief manifests in many ways, but always includes the sufferer being convinced that a location exists in two places at once. It too is related to a brain injury or dementia.
Psychological tricks Are there some psychological tricks you can use to influence people around you? Of course there are so let’s about some of them. Note that I am staying away from the word “manipulate.” We need to use our powers of persuasion for good.
- If you are in a discussion with someone and you want them to agree with you nod your head slightly. Or do the opposite and shake your head slightly if you want them to disagree.
- I use this next one a lot and find it to be a powerful tool when trying to find out information or dealing with a difficult person. Silence and eye contact. Seriously, try it sometime with your kids if they are telling you a story you don’t quite believe. People are generally very uncomfortable with silence and will fill in the silence often giving out more information than they intended to. This is a good tactic to use when someone is being rude or if you are in negotiations and want a better offer. And of course it’s good when trying to extract a confession after questioning.
- If someone is trying to speak over you then make a conscious effort to lower your voice. It usually will cause them to match your tone and calm down.
- If a person is being offensive or crude ask them to explain it to you as if you don’t understand. Or act like you didn’t hear them and ask them to repeat it. It usually (not always) causes the person to be embarrassed about what they are saying.
- If you want specific information (like the cost of an item) then suggest a very unlikely example like a low cost and they’ll usually feel the need to correct you with the right information. This also works if you want to know how late a kid came in last night.
- If you want someone who is distant or cold to you to warm up to you then ask them for a favor. It may seem counter-intuitive but your indebtedness to them followed up by your appreciation usually thaws the coldest heart.
- Give people a choice and it makes you seem flexible and easy to work with. for example instead of asking for a 1pm meeting, ask them if mornings or afternoons work better then nail down a specific time. BUT don’t give too many choices. It overwhelms people and usually ends up in no choice at all. I learned this when I was making and selling soap. Having people choose between 3 or 4 varieties ends in a sale so much more often than having 12 varieties to choose from.
- Salesman also know that if you hand someone something they will ost likely take it. I do this to my children with various trash and food wrappers. But then I learned it from them. They do it to me all the time.
This info came from buzzfeed.com
Odd Psychological Disorders 4
Cotard’s Delusion or Walking Corpse Syndrome
It’s one thing to have a genuine interest in The Walking Dead or Twilight or other aspects of Zombie-ana. It’s quite another thing to believe that you are in fact a living corpse. The feeling of having a rotting body or of having lost all of their internal organs is part of Cotard’s Delusion also called Walking Dead Syndrome. Sufferers often experience depression or even manic depression. Persons afflicted with Cotard’s Delusion have been known to starve themselves to the point of death. Neurologist Jules Cotard first wrote about this syndrome in 1880. One of the most famous cases of Cotard’s Syndrome was of a man from Haiti who was convinced that he had died of AIDS and was now living in hell.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Though it’s widely heard of and often mocked, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is fully understood by very few. OCD manifests itself in a variety of ways, but is most often characterized by immense fear, anxiety, and recurring thoughts of worry. Those who suffer from OCD attempt to cope with their feelings by repetition of tasks, including excessive hand washing and vacuuming their rooms with perfectly straight lines. Often sufferers with OCD are quite intelligent and are very aware that their fears are irrational, but then this realization is cause for more anxiety which can start the cycle all over again. OCD effects approximately 1% of the U.S. population.
When we think of Paris, we think of a beautiful city filled with beautiful buildings and very chic people. Young people around the world fantasize about traveling to Paris and finding love somewhere between the Eiffel Tower and the Saine River. Even the normally staid social studies videos that I showed in my geography classroom described Paris as the World’s Most Romantic City. While Paris certainly is a beautiful place, and yes, many of the people are quite chic, it is also a gritty large city with all of the normal problems that befall other large cities. This distance between the reality of Paris verses the idealized version has a name. It is called Paris Syndrome.
Oddly enough, Paris Syndrone appears to afflict Japanese tourists more than those from other locals. No one know exactly why, but likely the language barrier combined with tourist exhaustion as well as the above mentioned gritty reality are contributing factors. Fortunately this condition is temporary.
I actually experienced Paris Syndrome in reverse. In 2019 we were traveling in Europe and I really wanted to see the Normandy Beaches as well as other historic locations around France. I really didn’t have any great desire to visit Paris, though if I could time travel I would love to have been there in August 1944 when the Allies liberated the city. However, seeing as we were going to be so close to the city, we decided to spend a couple of days there, no big deal. Well, we really fell in love with the city. I’ve shown pictures of the Eiffel Tower for years, but seeing it in person took my breath away. Contrary to what you may have heard, we found the Parisians to be very friendly and accommodating. We took a two hour walking tour with a local historian (which by the way is something I highly recommend doing in any city) and we were sorry that we hadn’t allotted more time. I think we will be going back.
ADVERTISING MANIPULATION Speaking of psychological tricks what are some ways that advertisers manipulate us. Yes, I used the word manipulate.
These are things I think we are aware of on a certain level but let’s face it, advertising is all around us and we are bombarded by ads nearly every waking moment so a lot of the manipulations go under our radar.
- Things such as putting candy and other small cost but impulsive buy items near a cash register where you are likely to spend time waiting in line. Sometimes with an impatient toddler. Or just by yourself but with a growling stomach and a raging sweet tooth.
- Disney is known to use smells to attract customers. They will do their best to make an area smell of baking chocolate chip cookies to get you to come in a buy a snack. They also uses smells to enhance your experience on an attraction like adding the smell of seawater and wet wood to the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.
- Disney as well as other establishments I can think of place the exit strategically where you have to walk through the gift shop to get out. The Houston Museum of Natural Science does that.
- And going back to what I said about limiting choices, advertisers will simplify the decision making process often down to an eith/or scenario so as to makedecision-making less daunting.
- Emotion. Advertisements appeal to emotion rather than reason. For example a sleeping medication ad might show friends enjoying dinner together or a father engaged in family activities rather than focusing on the product itself. They portray a life you might want for yourself. Ads are designed to remove thinking from the equation.
- Advertisers rely a lot on color and the feelings or ideas it invokes. I know this from being a graphic designer. Law offices tend to use classic dark colors like maroon or navy (the color of leather bound books) to give the impression of professionalism and academics or knowledge. Whereas those colors would not be a wise use for a spa or an ice cream shop. We are greatly affected by color and assign certain moods and emotions to different colors. Think about the Apple stores that use white to convey clean, simple design.
- And finally advertisers work hard to express the idea that buying their product will fulfill the deeper desires of your heart than the product could possibly satisfy. What I mean by that is like coffee showing a happy family eating breakfast together before starting their busy day. Or a laundry soap showing a laughing, healthy baby. Their main consumer is the women of the household, the moms and they appeal to her desire to be a good mother, to keep a clean house and to save money doing it.
- Perfume commercials?? No one knows why they are so weird and surreal. I don’t think they even know.
I got my info from allears.com, and and article for Nevada Today by Professor Laura Crosswell on unr.edu which is the University at Nevada, Reno website.
A couple of notes before we get to the Trivia Challenge. I want to welcome Brandy Nichols to the Remnant Stew team. She was a great help in the research for this episode and is also taking over several administrative tasks for the podcast.
Phil here reminding you to check out our Facebook and Instagram pages @RemnantStewPodcast. Drop us an email at StayCurious@RemnantStew.com just to say hi or to let us know about any topics you would like to hear us cover in an upcoming episode.
Remnant Stew is part of Rook & Raven Ventures and is created by me, Leah Lamp. Dr. Steven Meeker and I research, write and host each episode along with commentary by our audio producer, Phillip Sinquefield. Theme music is by Kevin MacLeod with voiceover by Morgan Hughes. Special thanks goes out to Brandy Nichols, Judy Meeker, and Harbin Gould.
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