Unless we evolve psychic powers or something, humans will always depend on our physical senses to experience all that surrounds us. They are our windows to the world — so wouldn’t it be a huge pain in the ass if one or more of those windows randomly transformed into a psychedelic fun house mirror for no apparent reason? Unfortunately, there are several medical conditions where exactly that can happen. Here are seven real disorders that make your brain as reliable as a shady-ass fake news site …
People who suffer from troposmia might think their shit don’t stink — not because they’re egomaniacs, but because they actually perceive a different smell. Unfortunately, the imaginary scent is likely to be as bad, if not worse.
Yeah, that. Worse.
Troposmia messes with your sense of smell, and in a cruel twist, it almost exclusively makes odors worse. Not much is known about the condition (we can’t even settle on a name, since it’s also known as parosmia), but what’s certain is that it blows. In some cases, the distortion is uniform — everything smells, say, musty, as if your grandparents’ garage had extended into the entire world. Other times, all the smells are wrong, but uniquely incorrect, such as bananas smelling like trash, bread smelling like paper, or roses smelling like shellfish.
“Thanks, but they’re not kosher.”
And since smell is a huge part of enjoying a good meal, troposmia can mess with the way food tastes, too. Outside of the broad flavors like sweet or sour, more delicate distinctions are processed through our nose — we “taste” garlic, citrus, and the like by smelling them. Keeping a straight face while drinking terrible soup at your mother-in-law’s is challenging enough. Now imagine it tastes exactly like dog balls.
Scientists are unsure whether the issues arise in the nose or the brain, as the syndrome has abated slightly with treatment on each area in different patients. It can be caused by infections, or head trauma, or who the hell knows what else. Let that be a lesson to you to always stop and smell the roses, in case one day they start to have a whiff of shit.
There’s a reason we can dream about, say, wrestling Michael Fassbender on the mounts of Venus without waking up to realize we beat the crap out of our mattress (or something more awkward). That’s called muscle atonia — when your body stops responding to your commands, turning you into a human log. OK, now picture the exact same thing happening to you at random times when you’re awake. That’s cataplexy.
Cataplexy usually comes as a combo package with narcolepsy, but it can also manifest on its own. The body-freezing attacks, while brief, can make life difficult for sufferers because they’re triggered by strong emotions. Laughter is a common one, which can turn you into a bit of a buzzkill in social situations (unless your friends are especially terrible). Sex, terror, crying, and embarrassment make it happen for others, which in our experience could lead to an endless loop. If you refuse to believe this is a thing, there are plenty of examples on the internet. Here’s one a sufferer recorded to show what happens:
Treatment is possible, but both highly expensive and rare — the price tag is enough to trigger an episode. Some doctors prescribe antidepressants, with mixed results. That’s if you even manage to get diagnosed, which takes an average of six years after the symptoms first show up. Apparently, many patients think it’s normal to feel weak when you laugh, or are used to playing dead during emotional moments.
Our eyes are pretty good at covering for each other, the little scamps. One’s being all lazy? The other one can step in and sort of pick up the slack, like a good twin changing shirts and redoing the math test for the shitheaded one. That’s right, your sense of sight can compensate for missing information, to the point where you might not even realize something’s amiss. For those with hemianopsia, this can be a dangerous neurological parlor trick.
People with hemianopsia can only process half the information their eyes are receiving (usually as a result of a stroke). The main side effect is that they’re constantly bumping into things they never saw coming. This in itself isn’t that terrible, because if you know something is outside your line of sight, you can usually, you know … turn and look at it. The problem comes when you don’t know that. When paired with a related condition called visual neglect, hemianopsia sufferers don’t realize they have a gap in their vision and can’t compensate for it. They probably simply think they’re extra klutzy.
“Hahaha! I’m such a doofus.”
Merely crossing the street can be a dangerous adventure (moreso than usual) when you can only see half the vehicles, pedestrians, and middle fingers coming at you. And think of the danger of driving a car — how can you send a proper text about the traffic when you can only see half the keyboard?
The worst part is that if you don’t recover from this condition right away, you’re probably stuck with it forever. Imagine going through life thinking you’re getting the full picture when you’re definitely not. Well, at least you can always go into politics! * Cue rimshots until the heat death of the Universe.*
Sadly, “complex regional pain syndrome” isn’t when you piss off an entire Midwestern town and they all kick your ass. The inspirational posters at your gym are right: Pain is only in your mind. But in this case that’s not a good thing. When we’re hurt, the nervous system sends signals upstairs so we know that something is wrong in our bodies (even though it’s the 21st century — a simple notification would suffice). For those with CRPS, the nervous system goes haywire and is constantly spamming the brain with pain signals. Sufferers describe it as a 24/7 nonstop pain train.
CRPS confounds doctors so badly that we’re still unsure of why it happens or how to treat it. They know the issue is with the nervous system, and that usually the onset occurs after a trauma (even a minor one), but that’s about it. In the case of one girl from England, a simple fall on the soccer field led to pain so severe that standing up was a living hell. After two weeks of treatment at a specialist center, she could run on a treadmill, but the pain has not completely subsided. As a side note: We’d definitely just stay in bed feeling sorry for ourselves all day. This kid rules.
Anyway, because things can always get worse, doctors usually don’t believe CRPS patients. It normally takes over four doctor visits to be diagnosed — which is rather unfortunate, since the condition becomes more difficult to treat the longer it is left to attack unabated. Every visit to every wary or incredulous physician makes matters even direr. You feel like knives are being plunged into you all day, and medical science keeps on twisting them.
If you had to choose one special ability from the entire Marvel Comics firmament, chances are you wouldn’t pick this guy’s:
No, we’re not talking about his ability to Marvel Studios
creep out female interviewers.
Just like Groot from Guardians Of The Galaxy (who only says “I am Groot”) or Hodor from Game Of Thrones (same thing, but with “Hodor”), people with expressive aphasia can only communicate by saying a single syllable or word. Even then, they still enunciate and emphasize as if they’re relaying perfectly acceptable anecdotes, like when you’re extremely drunk and certain everybody is riveted by your political manifesto, even though all they can hear is growling and mumbling.
The most famous case was a 19th-century Frenchman who could only say the word “Tan,” so that’s what they started calling him. Dr. Paul Broca, who first studied this phenomenon, noticed that Tan’s other mental abilities were perfectly fine — he could distinguish numbers, read the time, and so on. When Tan passed away, Broca found lesions in an area of his brain now known as Broca’s area, as if he was claiming land as an intrepid explorer into the intellects of invalids. Another patient who could only speak five words turned out to have lesions in roughly the same place.
But that’s not the only way aphasia can fuck with your language. Jargon aphasia, another variant, can make you burst into spurts of gibberish inside perfectly coherent speech, often without even realizing it. Who knows how many “eccentric” celebrities have this without knowing it?
The worst of all the variants is Landau-Kleffer syndrome, or infantile acquired aphasia, which is when children don’t gain the ability to speak at all. This is often confused for deafness, but it’s arguably even more heartbreaking. Even if they do manage to learn to speak at some point in their lives, they can lose the ability again. Their condition puts them back at square one without warning, like an infuriating retro video game.
Can you imagine living before anesthetics, when every medical procedure involved putting up with the pain of being sliced open like a piece of fruit? Well, people with one rare condition don’t have to imagine. To them, every trip to the doctor is a potential Saw sequel.
YakobchukOlena/iStock The worst part: They have to hear
every single second of the doctors judging their genitals.
Jori Lemon is one such case. It started when she went to the dentist at age seven and the local anesthetic couldn’t numb her mouth. So she had to endure having teeth pulled with the only method available: crying and screaming. A doctor who treated her as an adult, Steven Clendenen, decided to investigate this phenomenon further, and found a whole host of individuals with the unluckiest superpower ever.
Together, they formed the AAAAARGHHH-Men.
Clendenen found isolated cases of patients reporting the same resistance, but nobody knew why it happened or how to remedy it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t theories, though. Some scientists in London were running a clinic for patients with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (a collection of rare genetic conditions making joints hyper-mobile) when they noticed that a lot of them were also immune to anesthesia. They have some ideas about how the EDS patients’ slightly abnormal tissues or weirdly placed nerves might fail to absorb the anesthetic, but a large-scale study is still needed. Something tells us not a lot of people with this condition will volunteer to have their nerves exposed and poked at, though.
Being allergic to cold sounds like a total non-sequitur, like being allergic to Belarus’ national deficit or attracted to Miles Teller. However, it’s a real condition, and it’s quite serious. Cold urticaria, or “cold hives,” is an allergy to low temperatures in any form. An icy drink, a sudden gust of cold air, or the wrong aisle at the supermarket are all enough to trigger a reaction.
The frosty reception at your next family gathering might be enough to kill you.
The consequences go beyond a mild discomfort: Skin gets hot and irritated, fingers swell up, and it’s reportedly quite painful. Getting into a big body of water can trigger pain all over. In some cases, the reaction can even drop your blood pressure and cause trouble breathing. Being constantly on the lookout for peanuts or gluten is bad enough, but at least it’s doable — you can’t always ask the waiter if any cold breezes are on the menu tonight.
Cold urticaria can be caused by some infections, but other times there’s no discernible reason other than your body suddenly deciding it hates you. The condition is potentially life-threatening if the reaction happens in the wrong area. An icy drink could cut off the airways, or a full-body reaction from a body of water could set off anaphylactic shock. Just being outdoors can be a danger. Then again, so can being indoors if the AC is turned up enough.
Patients with cold urticaria usually need to carry an EpiPen at all times, and take regular medication to ward off the severity of the attacks. Perhaps that’s the most painful part of the condition: Cold cannot be avoided, so like The Simpsons, a never-ending series of painful episodes is inevitable.
For more reasons you should never trust yourself ever, check out 5 Things A Body Can Spontaneously Do (Worse Than Combustion) and 5 Mind-Blowing Ways Your Senses Lie to You Every Day. Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out When Body Switching Movies Collide, and other videos you won’t see on the site! Follow us on Facebook, and we’ll follow you everywhere.