Bizarre Afflictions That Don’t Seem Real

6 minute read

By Jordana Weiss

There are certain conditions that everyone knows like cancer. If you’re diagnosed with one of these, the response is clear. Sometimes the diagnosis is puzzling, though. Fortunately, you can learn about bizarre afflictions with a search online.

To spark your curiosity, here’s a list of some of the rarest diseases in the world. Hopefully, if you’re lucky, you’ll go your entire life without having to deal with one of these conditions up close and personal.

Cotard Delusion

Cotard Delusion was most featured on one of the first episodes of the Hannibal TV series. This mental illness causes people who have it to believe that they are already dead. People with Cotard Delusion (named after the neurologist who discovered the first few patients, Jules Cotard) often refuse to participate in the most basic necessities of life because they believe that they are already dead. In one early case study, the patient starved to death because she didn’t believe that she needed to eat.

Exploding Head Syndrome

If you’ve ever had a bad headache come on suddenly, you may have some idea of what it’s like to have exploding head syndrome. This condition causes sufferers to hear and feel explosions that aren’t actually happening. It usually occurs immediately before sleep or when they first wake up in the morning. Luckily, this condition isn’t fatal, but people with the syndrome often report heart arrhythmias and palpitations because of the shock. Doctors aren’t exactly sure what causes exploding head syndrome. Some theories suggest that the imagined noises are the result of tiny temporal lobe seizures, but it also could be related to dysfunction of the inner ear.


Hypertrichosis is characterized by an abnormal amount of hair growth all over the body, which is why it is colloquially known as werewolf syndrome. People who have performed with traveling circuses in the past are now known to have suffered from hypertrichosis. There are many different types of hypertrichosis, and it can either be present from birth or acquired later. It is an obscure side effect of various different types of medication, but can also be indicative of an internal ailment or malignancy.

Alien Hand Syndrome

Imagine losing control over your body and not being able to explain why you were moving in a certain way. This is what sufferers of alien hand syndrome experience on a daily basis. This syndrome often occurs as a result of an extreme solution to epilepsy, which is to split the hemispheres of the brain. It can also occur as a symptom of different motor-neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, or an aneurysm. Doctors have recently discovered that alien hand syndrome most frequently affects the left hand.

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland syndrome is a phenomenon that happens when a person cannot distinguish between the distance and size of objects in their field of view. It is called Alice in Wonderland syndrome because of the scene in the book where Alice grows and shrinks after drinking different liquids. People who have this condition often find that it’s brought on by lack of sleep and often children who suffer from it grow out of it once they reach adulthood. It can be a symptom of a virus or medical condition but has also been associated with the use of psychoactive drugs.

Water Allergy

People who are allergic to water spend a large part of their day trying to avoid something that other humans require to live! Water allergy is formally called aquagenic urticaria and it is a rare disease with less than 100 cases in reported history. People with a water allergy find water intolerable and will break out in skin rashes if they are exposed to it. They can also have the same reaction to their own sweat, which makes summer unbearable. Showering is also similarly unpleasant. Most people find that occasional dips into cold water don’t bother them too much.

Tree Man Disorder

Tree Man Disorder (scientifically known as Epidermodysplasia verruciformis) is an extremely rare condition where the body does not produce antibodies to fight human papillomavirus of the skin. This results in continual infections which leave the skin on the hands completely covered in hard growths that resemble tree bark. There have only been a few cases reported worldwide. They are primarily men, although one young Bangladeshi girl was recently diagnosed with the disorder. There are some treatment options available, but doctors are not sure at this point if they will ever be able to completely cure it.

Stone Man Syndrome

Stone man syndrome – formally known as fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva — is a horrible condition where the body repairs injured tissue as bone. Eventually, the body is rigidly locked and the person dies of either complications or trauma. There are only about 800 people worldwide with this syndrome, and unfortunately, their prognosis is grim. Surgeries have been attempted to remove bone growth, but after the surgery, the bones have only regrown exponentially in response to the invasion.

Cold Urticaria

Imagine being so sensitive to cold that you get itchy red skin and hives just from exposure to a cold breeze. People who suffer from cold urticaria deal with this issue their entire lives. As with most diseases, it does vary in intensity. Some people who are diagnosed find that they suffer minor skin irritations, but a rare few people have died from an extreme reaction to cold. The few deaths attributed to cold urticaria that have occurred throughout history have been as a result of the person being submerged in cold water. Often, people are able to grow out of cold urticaria or minimize the effects of it by taking antihistamines.

Peruvian Meteorite Illness

This affliction had a very limited scope, but it was talked about widely as one of the most bizarre meteorite-related side effects ever noted in history. After a meteorite impacted near the village of Carancas, Peru, in 2007, many villagers started exhibiting similar and bizarre symptoms- skin problems, nausea, diarrhea, and headaches. Many people believed for a long time that this mysterious illness was caused by the meteorite impact, although no one knew exactly why. Now, the leading theory is that the impact caused sulfur-based compounds in the meteorite to evaporate and inhalation of this compound caused the sickness.

Dancing Mania

No one knows what caused the dancing manias of the Medieval and Renaissance periods. This phenomenon of people spontaneously dancing together until they collapsed from exhaustion was, at the time, thought to be caused by a mysterious illness. The theories range in scope from mass psychogenic illness to epilepsy to a simple way of releasing the stresses of life at the time. Dancing mania could affect only one person at a time, but most of the documented cases involve large groups of up to 400 people frantically dancing until they collapse or even die.

Nodding Disease

This horrific disease is, luckily, restricted to a very small area in the southern part of Sudan and the northern area of Uganda. This disease affects only young children and pre-teens, and is characterized by the sudden onset of a nodding seizure when a child is eating or exposed to cold. The seizures were noted to be worse when a child was exposed to a familiar food, not when they were introduced to a new type of food. Although the seizures may only have a moderate effect on the child’s life, the disease itself is eventually fatal.

Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Syndrome

This unusually named affliction was initially found in an isolated segment of the French-Canadian population living in Maine in the late 1800s. It was first named for these French people — primarily men who worked in logging camps — who were the first sufferers of the syndrome. Their unusual symptoms caught the attention of doctors immediately. The men exhibited an incredibly exaggerated startle reflex. Any sudden action around them could cause them to jump suddenly or even lash out if frightened. The syndrome was even more dangerous because the extreme startle reflex often caused some people to obey suggestions or commands if they were given suddenly enough.

Jordana Weiss