Mind over matter: Four mental health conditions you’ve probably never heard of

The mind is a powerful thing. That’s why even a slight change in its chemical balance or structure can make us see and feel things that are not there.

Myupchar December 11, 2019 17:40:17 IST
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Mind over matter: Four mental health conditions you’ve probably never heard of

Every minute, millions of neurons come to life in the brain. They are responsible for all our bodily functions - from our tiniest movements to our most profound actions. Of course, the mind is a powerful thing. That’s why even a slight change in its chemical balance or structure can make us see and feel things that are not there. From hallucinations to multiple personalities and paranoia, it can lead to a range of mental health problems - most of which scientists are still trying to understand. 

Let's take a look at some mental health disorders that have baffled scientists for years:

Mind over matter Four mental health conditions youve probably never heard of

Representational image.
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Capgras syndrome

A rare psychological condition in which a person believes that their near and dear ones are replaced by an imposter, Capgras Syndrome is named after French psychiatrist Joseph Capgras.

Though doctors don’t know what causes this syndrome, it is often accompanied by schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, epilepsy or a traumatic brain injury.

Dr V.S. Ramachandran, a neuroscientist of Indian origin, has given one possible explanation for why this happens: a breakdown in communication between the parts of the brain that recognise someone by sight and the part that brings up our emotions about that person. For example, a patient might see his mom and recognise that the person he’s looking at resembles his mom but the patient won’t feel like this person is, in fact, his mom.

Apotemnophilia

Also known as body integrity dysphoria, a person with this disorder feels a strong urge to cut off his or her limbs (healthy ones). Scientists say neurological damage to the right parietal lobe of the brain might be the cause of this disorder.

More often than not, a patient with apotemnophilia tends to resist treatment. When they do cooperate, however, behavioural therapy and aversion therapy (to discourage self-harm) are usually effective.

Cotard delusion

First explained by neurologist Jules Cotard in 1880, Cotard delusion is a rare disorder in which the patient feels like he or she is already dead, that their body has been drained of blood and their internal organs are dying, and that their flesh is rotting. Usually, patients with Cotard delusion have severe depression. This rare condition can result in death by starvation - patients stop eating because they think their life is over.

Alien hand syndrome

As the name suggests, people with this mental disorder believe that one of their limbs is not their’s and they don't have control over it.

Patients with alien hand syndrome often report that their alien hand does not follow their commands - some patients have reported instances when the alien hand tried to choke them or others around them. Patients have also been known to scratch the alien hand (possibly in an attempt to severe it) until it starts to bleed. 

The most widely accepted explanation of this mental state is damage to the corpus callosum - the bridge connecting the left and the right side of the brain.

It is usually seen in patients with Alzheimer's disease or Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or post brain surgery in which the left and right hemispheres of the brain have been separated. 

Currently, there is no treatment for alien hand syndrome.

For more information, please read our article on Mental Illness: Symptoms and Treatment.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. 

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