Fiction or Reality?
These medical conditions sound fake but they’re very real. Their names have been inspired by Disney princesses, superheroes, mythical creatures, and other well-known fictional characters to raise awareness among common people as most of these cases go undiagnosed.
Imagine that the world around you is suddenly getting bigger and you feel like you’re growing smaller, but you have no recollection of meeting a caterpillar who gave you a magic mushroom. This is what happens to patients suffering from Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, also known as Todd’s syndrome. People with the condition may have distorted vision or perceptions that make it seem like parts of their body are much bigger or smaller than expected, or that one body part is taller or shorter than they are in reality. Objects could appear closer or farther away from their actual position and people may experience a distorted perception of time accompanied by other symptoms such as migraines and epileptic seizures. The misperceptions that individuals experience is similar to what happened to Alice in the book.
Another condition named ‘the mad Hatter’s disorder’ is characterized by behavioral changes, emotional disturbances, leg weakness, or partial leg paralysis. It earned its name from its tendency to affect hat makers in the 19th century as the workers were exposed to high levels of mercury.
“Rapunzel……… Don’t eat your hair!!”
Rapunzel syndrome is associated with hair eating disorder and hair-pulling behavior. Hair being indigestible has to be removed surgically as it leads to gastric outlet obstruction.
Talking about Disney princesses, people with the neurological condition called the Sleeping Beauty syndrome experience periods of excessive sleep. These episodes can last for 20 hours or could go on for days, sometimes even weeks. All this without even coming in contact with a witch-cursed needle. Even though the disease is named after a princess, this condition is more commonly observed in adolescent males.
The Y chromosome is characteristic of males as their cells have XY chromosomes. But what happens if there are two Y chromosomes? The Superman syndrome, which affects males with two Y chromosomes (XYY), is a rare genetic disorder that affects 1 in 10,000 newborn boys. These males are more likely to have learning disabilities and a variety of physical differences such as large head, above average height, clinodactyly, and more.
Imagine feeling like you’re a dead person like a zombie. Cotard’s syndrome or the walking corpse syndrome involves a person believing that they are dead and soulless, or parts of their body like organs or blood are missing, despite being intact. It can happen to people at any age most commonly in their early 50s and is often seen in patients suffering from severe depression.
Another condition termed Sudden Unexplained Death Syndrome is where people die in their sleep without any identifiable cause. A series of young men from Southeast Asia were dying in their sleep after complaining about disturbing nightmares. This was the real-life inspiration for ‘Nightmare on Elm street’.
People who have Ambras syndrome have excessive hair growth all over their body which makes them resemble a werewolf. This rare skin disease, also known as werewolf syndrome, is a dominant trait, so if one parent has it, the child can inherit it.
In Harry Potter the spell “Petrificus Totalus” binds the full body like it’s made of stone, making it impossible for the victim to move. Something similar happens to people suffering from Stone man’s disease, as their joints get locked in place or ‘petrified’ so they are unable to move. This condition, also known as Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), is a disorder of the connective tissue where tendons, ligaments, and skeletal muscles essentially turn into bone.
Another example of uncooperative limbs is the Alien Hand Syndrome, also known as Dr. Strangelove syndrome. Named after the title character in the classic 1964 film, this condition involves uncontrollable hand or limb movement. The hand isn’t under the control of the mind and moves as though it has its mind. Since patients can’t control what the hand does, it usually interferes with tasks and the two hands often end up fighting with each other!
Even though these diseases have been named after fictional characters, they can affect people in ways that are far from fictional. Most of these disorders don’t have a cure. Associating them with known characters can help raise awareness and interest, thus promoting research towards finding a cure.