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4 Mental Illnesses You've Never Heard Of

By Krista Elliott

Not all that long ago, mental illness and personality disorders were kept closely under wraps. All too often, people with these conditions suffered in silence, and did not dare to admit their illness for fear of what their friends, families, and employers would think of them. 

It's getting better ... a bit. In the fight to raise awareness, more and more people are disclosing their battles with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other relatively common conditions. We still have a long way to go before society treats mental illness as no more shameful than the flu or hypothyroidism, but at the very least, people are hearing about mental illness and are understanding that it's something that can strike people from all walks of life. 

There are still some conditions that you don't hear about, though. These are less commonly diagnosed, and even if the name is known, it may be vastly misunderstood. 

Four Lesser-Known Mental Illnesses

Capgras Syndrome - Remember the old movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Now imagine feeling as though you're living in that movie every day. This syndrome, also known as Capgras delusion, is sometimes seen in patients suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Less commonly, it can arise in people who have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Capgras syndrome makes the sufferer believe quite firmly (and much to their distress) that a familiar person or place is not real, but is an imposter. 

Cotard Delusion - Unlike people who play-act as zombies, those who suffer from Cotard delusion are neither acting nor playing. Instead, this rare condition causes the sufferer to genuinely believe that he or she is actually dead. In some cases, they will demand to be buried. In others, they will neglect their nutrition and hygiene, thinking that there's obviously no point in eating or washing if they're dead and decomposing. 

Clinical Lycanthropy - If it's not zombies, it's werewolves. People with clinical lycanthropy, like their walking-dead brethren above, are not play-acting. They believe that they truly are an animal (other than human) or that they're being turned into one. Some may believe that they're wolves, others may think they're a cow or an ox, right down to getting out in a field and chewing grass. 

Pica - If you've ever been pregnant, you may have heard of this one. Pica is when someone develops a strong compulsion to eat non-food items. For some people, it's paper. For others, it's dirt. Items also range from glass (ouch) to hair (eww). This disorder is mostly found in pregnant people, but can also sometimes show up in small children. 

The brain is an amazing, woundrous, strong but fragile, and slightly terrifying organ, and we're only starting to understand how it works, and how things can go awry. Hopefully with time, awareness and work, we'll gain further knowledge of how to help people whose minds are making them miserable. 


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