Social Question

Aster's avatar

What is the name of and cause of this scary mental illness?

Asked by Aster (15864 points ) August 20th, 2014

I was wasting time online and found an entire page of people who see friends , family or co-workers out in public but don’t recognize them . They go into a panic when the person looks vaguely familiar since they’re afraid of being approached. Say if you work with “Dave’ and you see Dave in the store which is a new place to see Dave and you don’t know if it’s him or what his name is so you panic. What is this illness? And no; I do not have this problem.

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7 Answers

snowberry's avatar

It’s called Prosopagnosia. I have a friend who has that condition. She doesn’t recognize her husband’s face or even her children’s. Yet somehow she always recognizes me, and I don’t know how she manages it, but she greets me by name. She’s in her 40’s now, and is quite comfortable with it, but I’m sure it was difficult for her for a long time.

Mariah's avatar

Brad Pitt has this. Fun facts.

fluthernutter's avatar

Chuck Close also has this condition. Adds a whole new perspective to his work.

Buttonstc's avatar

The more common name for this is “face blindness” and it can be either inherited or acquired following some type of brain damage (for example a stroke or developing brain lesions.)

But to be more precise, it’s a neurological deficit rather than a mental illness.

Jane Goodall has it as does Oliver Sachs, a noted neurologist (as well as a few members of his family). Would they be considered “mentally ill”? I rather doubt it.

There really is go standard effective treatment and most people who have this develop various adaptive techniques.

In this way it’s not unlike dyslexia (also a neurological problem of perception but NOT a mental illness) and dyslexics find different methods to adapt to their deficit.

I don’t know that this is necessarily so frightening since many people with the congenital (inherited) form spend many years not knowing they have this.

Even tho he knew what this condition was (due to his profession as a Neurologist) Oliver Sachs didn’t recognize this in himself until it was pointed out to him by others.

So, it’s obvious it wasn’t scary to him since he didn’t even know he had it :)

I can think of a lot of scarier conditions to deal with but I guess it depends upon each individual and how they react.

I’ve heard several interview of people with face blindness and none of them sounded scared to me. To the contrary, they were usually quite proud of the various adaptive methods which they developed to deal with this deficit.

Adagio's avatar

I don’t know the name of the phenomenon but I’m almost certain it is not a mental illness, just something weird happening in the brain.

Stinley's avatar

I have it. I’ve got lots of stories about not recognising people. Some people get it after a brain injury and that is a lot harder to deal with than if you’ve always had it. I’ve never been able to recognise people by their faces so use a lot of other clues to recognise them. I use voices, mannerisms, gait, hairstyle, logic (it must be XX). Haircuts really throw me. Also it’s common in people with autism.

I went to Cambridge University and took a few tests with a professor there who was studying it – she also had it! Curiously she said that I was in the normal range for recognising people but my history did actually mean I had it. Caused her to re-examine the efficacy of those tests….

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