When we hear yet another suspicious news story of this one patient who woke up with a foreign accent or one about that one patient getting drunk on bread or arguing they’re dead, we can’t help but be skeptical. Realistically, though, there are some really strange rare diseases out there that sound unbelievable but are painfully real for the people suffering from them. In fact, all the diseases we’ve mentioned in the first sentence are very real, just like all the others we describe in this article.
1. Auto-Brewery Syndrome Makes a Person Feel Drunk after Eating Bread
The overwhelming majority of people experience drunkenness after consuming alcohol, but individuals who suffer from auto-brewery syndrome get drunk from just eating carbs (and especially gluten). This is because of yeast living in these patients’ gut that converts the carbohydrates we consume into ethanol (alcohol), which can lead to intoxication.
Just imagine waking up with a hangover after one-too-many croissants… Admittedly, the majority of people suffering from this condition don’t get hammered after eating a piece of cake, but those with a more severe form of the disease can suffer from chronic fatigue, headaches, vomiting, and even liver damage, not to mention sudden changes in behavior.
2. Foreign Accent Syndrome Patients Wake up Speaking with a Foreign Accent
This rare speech impediment that usually appears after some form of damage to the brain makes a person suddenly acquire a foreign accent. So, a native American English speaker recovering from a brain injury may all of a sudden wake up speaking with a French or Chinese accent.
And while it may sound bizarre, neuroscientists can explain why this happens: a person who has sustained some damage to one of the language areas of the brain may have difficulties producing certain speech sounds, which we, the listeners, perceive as a foreign accent. And while these people are usually aware that they are pronouncing a sound incorrectly, they simply lack the ability to change the way they speak.
3. Tissues and Body Parts of Patients Suffering from Proteus Syndrome Grow Disproportionately
Proteus Syndrome is a rare genetic disease that makes the different tissues of our body (bones, skin, organs and blood vessels) grow out of proportion. This rare condition is not hereditary, and the abnormality in the genetic code is believed to be a random gene mutation during fetal development.
At birth, patients with Proteus Syndrome don’t exhibit any symptoms of the disease, and the excessive growth typically starts at 6-12 months of age. The condition is highly stigmatized, and throughout history, Proteus Syndrome sufferers have been often labeled freaks and outcasts, with one of the most famous examples of this stigma being a British man, Joseph Carey Merrick (1862-1890), sadly more known by the nickname “the Elephant Man”. Merrick himself wrote that people, even doctors, often treated him like an animal.
4. Cotard’s Syndrome Makes Patients Believe They’re Already Dead
This rare psychiatric condition, also called “the walking corpse syndrome,” makes patients believe that their body is decomposing. These patients are severely delusional, denying the presence of certain body parts and often refusing to eat because they believe they’re already dead and won’t be able to digest food.
Interestingly, patients suffering from the disease can successfully distinguish between alive and dead people, but they are convinced that they specifically are deceased. The condition is loosely linked to depression, with antidepressants generally helping recovery, but there were also reported cases of Cotard’s Delusion induced by brain damage and injury, which sometimes clear up spontaneously after the patients’ recovery.