Top 10 Bizarre Mental Disorders

Top 10 Bizarre Mental Disorders

Mental disorders effect millions of people in the world and can lead to years of psychotherapy. In some cases, the psychological problem suffered is extremely rare or bizarre. This is a list of the ten most bizarre mental disorders.


Stockholm Syndrome


Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of sympathy, loyalty or even voluntary compliance with the hostage taker, regardless of the risk in which the hostage has been placed. The syndrome is also discussed in other cases, including those of wife-beating, rape and child abuse.

The syndrome is named after a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to August 28 in 1973. In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their victimizers, and even defended their captors after they were freed from their six-day ordeal, refusing to testify against them. Later, after the gang were tried and sentenced to jail, one of them married a woman who had been his hostage.

A famous example of Stockholm syndrome is the story of Patty Hearst, a millionaire’s daughter who was kidnapped in 1974, seemed to develop sympathy with her captors, and later took part in a robbery they were orchestrating.


Lima Syndrome


The exact opposite of Stockholm syndrome – this is where the hostage takers become more sympathetic to the plights and needs of the hostages.

It is named after the Japanese embassy hostage crisis in Lima, Peru where 14 members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) took hundreds of people hostage at a party at the official residence of Japan’s ambassador to Peru. The hostages consisted of diplomats, government and military officials, and business executives of many nationalities who happened to be at the party at the time. It began on December 17, 1996 and ended on April 22, 1997.

Within a few days of the hostage crisis, the militants had released most of the captives, with seeming disregard for their importance, including the future President of Peru, and the mother of the current President.

After months of unsuccessful negotiations, all remaining hostages were freed by a raid by Peruvian commandos, although one hostage was killed.


Diogenes Syndrome


Diogenes was an ancient Greek philosopher, who lived in a wine barrel and promoted ideas of nihilism and animalism. Famously, when he was asked by Alexander the Great what he wanted most in the world, he replied, “For you to get out of my sunlight!”

Diogenes syndrome is a condition characterised by extreme self neglect, reclusive tendencies, and compulsive hoarding, sometimes of animals. It is found mainly in old people and is associated with senile breakdown.

The syndrome is actually a misnomer since Diogenes lived an ascetic and transient life, and there are no sources to indicate that he neglected is own hygiene.


Paris Syndrome


Paris syndrome is a condition exclusive to Japanese tourists and nationals, which causes them to have a mental breakdown while in the famous city. Of the millions of Japanese tourists that visit the city every year, around a dozen suffer this illness and have to be returned to their home country.

The condition is basically a severe form of ‘culture shock’. Polite Japanese tourists who come to the city are unable to separate their idyllic view of the city, seen in such films as Amelie, with the reality of a modern, bustling metropolis.

Japanese tourists who come into contact with, say, a rude French waiter, will be unable to argue back and be forced to bottle up their own anger which eventually leads to a full mental breakdown.

The Japanese embassy has a 24hr hotline for tourists suffering for severe culture shock, and can provide emergency hospital treatment if necessary.


Stendhal Syndrome


Stendhal Syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly ‘beautiful’ or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world.

It is named after the famous 19th century French author Stendhal who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.

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Jerusalem Syndrome


The Jerusalem syndrome is the name given to a group of mental phenomena involving the presence of either religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences that are triggered by, or lead to, a visit to the city of Jerusalem. It is not endemic to one single religion or denomination, but has affected Jews and Christians of many different backgrounds.

The condition seems to emerge while in Jerusalem and causes psychotic delusions which tend to dissipate after a few weeks. Of all the people who have suffered this spontaneous psychosis, all have had a history of previous mental illness, or where deemed not to have been ‘well’ before coming to the city.


Capgras Delusion


The Capgras delusion is a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that an acquaintance, usually a spouse or other close family member, has been replaced by an identical looking impostor.

It is most common in patients with schizophrenia, although it occur in those with dementia, or after a brain injury.

One case report said the following:

Mrs. D, a 74-year old married housewife, recently discharged from a local hospital after her first psychiatric admission, presented to our facility for a second opinion. At the time of her admission earlier in the year, she had received the diagnosis of atypical psychosis because of her belief that her husband had been replaced by another unrelated man. She refused to sleep with the impostor, locked her bedroom and door at night, asked her son for a gun, and finally fought with the police when attempts were made to hospitalize her. At times she believed her husband was her long deceased father. She easily recognized other family members and would misidentify her husband only.

The paranoia induced by this condition has made it a common tool in science fiction books and films, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Total Recall and The Stepford Wives.


Fregoli Delusion


The exact opposite of the Capgras delusion – the Fregoli delusion is a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that different people are in fact a single person who changes appearance or is in disguise.

The condition is named after the Italian actor Leopoldo Fregoli who was renowned for his ability to make quick changes of appearance during his stage act.

It was first reported 1927 by two psychiatrists who discussed the case study of a 27 year old woman who believed that she was being persecuted by two actors whom she often went to see at the theatre. She believed that these people “pursued her closely, taking the form of people she knows or meets.”


Cotard Delusion


The Cotard delusion is a rare psychiatric disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that he or she is dead, does not exist, is putrefying or has lost their blood or internal organs. Rarely, it can include delusions of immortality.

One case study said the following:

[The patient’s] symptoms occurred in the context of more general feelings of unreality and being dead. In January, 1990, after his discharge from hospital in Edinburgh, his mother took him to South Africa. He was convinced that he had been taken to hell (which was confirmed by the heat), and that he had died of septicaemia (which had been a risk early in his recovery), or perhaps from AIDS (he had read a story in The Scotsman about someone with AIDS who died from septicaemia), or from an overdose of a yellow fever injection. He thought he had “borrowed my mother’s spirit to show me round hell”, and that he was asleep in Scotland.

It is named after Jules Cotard, a French neurologist who first described the condition, which he called “le délire de négation” (“negation delirium”), in a lecture in Paris in 1880.


Reduplicative Paramnesia


Reduplicative paramnesia is the delusional belief that a place or location has been duplicated, existing in two or more places simultaneously, or that it has been ‘relocated’ to another site. For example, a person may believe that they are in fact not in the hospital to which they were admitted, but an identical-looking hospital in a different part of the country, despite this being obviously false, as one case study reported:

A few days after admission to the Neurobehavioural Center, orientation for time was intact, he could give details of the accident (as related to him by others), could remember his doctors’ names and could learn new information and retain it indefinitely. He exhibited, however, a distinct abnormality of orientation for place. While he quickly learned and remembered that he was at the Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospital (also known as the Boston Veterans Administration Hospital), he insisted that the hospital was located in Taunton, Massachusetts, his home town. Under close questioning, he acknowledged that Jamaica Plain was part of Boston and admitted it would be strange for there to be two Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospitals. Nonetheless, he insisted that he was presently hospitalized in a branch of the Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospital located in Taunton. At one time he stated that the hospital was located in the spare bedroom of his house.

The term ‘reduplicative paramnesia’ was first used in 1903 by the Czechoslovakian neurologist Arnold Pick to describe a condition in a patient with suspected Alzheimer’s disease who insisted that she had been moved from Pick’s city clinic, to one she claimed looked identical but was in a familiar suburb. To explain the discrepancy she further claimed that Pick and the medical staff worked at both locations

10 Ancient Prosthetics

10 Ancient Prosthetics

Prosthetics are not a modern invention. For millennia, physicians and craftsmen have built replacements for body parts that people have lost through injury, amputation, or disease.

Today, few ancient examples survive because their construction of wood and organic material decayed quickly. Of those that remain, many are elegantly engineered machines, resembling cybernetics more than peg legs. Other ancient prostheses are shrouded in mystery, and our knowledge of them has only come through legend.

10 Cairo Toe


Photo credit: Archaeology

Dated between 950 and 710 BC, the “Cairo toe” is the oldest prosthesis in the world. Archaeologists discovered this artificial big toe on a female mummy near Luxor.

The Cairo toe is composed of leather, molded and stained wood, and thread. Ancient Egyptians frequently created false body parts for burials. However, tests on toeless volunteers revealed that this ancient prosthesis was functional as well. It made walking in Egyptian-style sandals significantly easier, and the lack of pressure points made it comfortable for extended use.

Archaeologists have discovered other ancient prosthetic toes in Egyptian graves. One dated to 600 BC is composed of a paper-mache mixture known as cartonnage. Experiments revealed that this style of prosthesis was uncomfortable and could not bend. However, they made excellent cosmetic replacements for missing digits.

9 Golden Eye


Photo credit:

In 1998, archaeologists unearthed the oldest artificial eye in the world. Dated to 5,000 years ago, the prosthesis was discovered at the necropolis of Shahr-i-Sokhta in the Sistan desert on the Iran-Afghan border.

A half-sphere with a diameter of just over 2.5 centimeters (1 in), the lightweight eye was made from bitumen paste. Intricate engravings create a central iris bursting with rays of golden light. Traces of gold are still present, suggesting that the eye was once cloaked in the material.

Between 25 and 30 years old, the woman who wore the eye was nearly 183 centimeters (6′) tall, making her a giant in 2900 BC. She was also buried with an ornate bronze hand mirror.

Initially, the research team thought that the artificial eye had been placed in the grave after her death. However, a microscopic investigation revealed an imprint on her left eye socket from extended contact with the prosthesis.

8 Gotz Of The Iron Hand


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Gottfried “Gotz” von Berlichingen was an infamous German mercenary with a prosthetic arm that matched his fearsome reputation. During the 1504 siege of Landshut, Gotz lost his right arm to a cannon blast. He survived and commissioned armor with an artificial iron limb.

Internal gears controlled the articulated fingers of the iron prosthesis. The new limb was strong enough to handle a sword and delicate enough to clutch a quill. For 40 years, “Gotz of the Iron Hand” continued to terrorize the German countryside.

Born nearly 500 years ago in Wurttemberg, Gotz was a knight of the Holy Roman Emperor but spent much of his time robbing merchants and noblemen. He is now remembered as a Robin Hood–like figure. Gotz’s groundbreaking prosthesis is celebrated by Germans as a symbol of their national ingenuity.

7 Hoofed Prosthetic Leg


Photo credit: Live Science

In 2007, archaeologists unearthed a 2,200-year-old hoofed artificial leg in Turpan, China. The prosthesis was attached to a man between 50 and 65 years old.

His patella, femur, and tibia were fused together at an 80-degree angle, making it impossible to walk normally. The prosthetic leg contained a horse foot at the bottom. Wear at the top of the prosthesis revealed that it had been used for years.

Some speculate his knee condition was the result of inflammation. The man once suffered from tuberculosis, which may have resulted in bony growth with the potential to fuse the knee together.

The bone’s smooth surface suggests that the inflammation stopped years before his death. Modest grave goods indicate that the man was of modest means. Based on radiocarbon dating, experts believe he belonged to the ancient Gushi people, who were conquered by the Han dynasty in the first century BC.

6 Tycho Brahe’s ‘Silver’ Nose


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Born in 1546, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe made the most accurate measurements of planetary bodies without a telescope and discovered that comets were beyond our atmosphere. In 1566, Brahe lost his nose in a duel with Manderup Parsberg. They had fought over a math formula. For the remainder of his life, Brahe wore a prosthetic nose that historians believed to be made of silver.

When Brahe was exhumed in 2010, researchers discovered that his famous “silver” nose was not really silver. Although they were not able to locate the actual prosthesis, traces of zinc and copper were found in greenish colorations around the nasal cavity.

Researchers concluded that his prosthetic nose must have been made of bronze. Brahe had inherited a vast sum of money from his foster father, Jorgen. With one percent of Denmark’s wealth after his inheritance, Brahe may have had a gold nose for special occasions.

5 Anglesey Leg


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Sir Henry Paget, Lord of Uxbridge, lost his leg to a cannon blast while commanding the British cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo. Uxbridge was carried from the field and survived an above-knee amputation.

During the procedure, which was performed without antiseptics or anesthesia, the stoic nobleman noted simply that “the knives appear somewhat blunt.” Stored at Waterloo, his severed leg was a popular tourist attraction for decades.

James Potts designed the patented “Anglesey Leg” to replace Uxbridge’s missing limb. Most prostheses of the time were peg legs. However, the Anglesey Leg was a work of art.

Constructed of carved fruitwood, the articulated leg was controlled by a delicate system of kangaroo tendon strips, allowing flexibility of the knee, ankle, and toes. Less limber prosthetics frequently got tripped up on cobblestones.

4 Recycled Teeth


Photo credit: The Telegraph

While investigating Tuscany’s San Francesco monastery, archaeologists discovered the earliest known dental prosthesis in the world. The 400-year-old dentures were made of real human teeth — three central incisors and two lateral canines — bound together with a golden band.

The roots of the teeth were partially removed before incisions were made along their base. The teeth were then aligned and secured into place with a gold lamina. A CT scan revealed minute gold pins fixing the teeth to the internal gold band.

Archaeologists have long known about ancient dentures through written accounts. However, this is the first tangible discovery. The teeth were found in a noble family’s tomb containing 100 corpses.

Researchers have been unable to match the dentures to any of the mandibles. The owner remains a mystery. The buildup of plaque and calcium on the dentures suggests that they were worn for an extended period of time, perhaps years.

3 Ancient Austrian Peg Leg


Photo credit: Ancient Origins

In an ancient Austrian cemetery, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a sixth-century warrior who had a prosthetic leg. Experts believe the limb was amputated in battle. The evidence of the ancient prosthesis came from an iron ring above where the foot should have been attached.

Detecting osteoarthritis, experts believe the man once used a crutch. Experts speculate that the prosthesis was a wooden peg leg reinforced with an iron band at the bottom. Stains on the leg bones suggest that leather was used to secure the prosthesis.

Researchers believe the knight was between 35 and 50 years old. He was buried with an ornate brooch and a short sword. A CT scan revealed that he had a healed broken nose, multiple cavities, and arthritis in his hip, shoulder, spine, and left knee. Two lower leg bones contained cavities, suggesting an infection.

Although amputations predate the sixth century, the knight’s mid-bone severing remains unique.

2 Barbarossa’s Silver Arm


Photo credit: Ancient Origins

In the 16th century, the infamous Barbary Coast pirate Aruj Barbarossa was known as “Silver Arm” for his glimmering prosthetic limb. During a battle with the Spanish in Algeria in 1512, he sustained a cannon shot that blew away his left arm above the elbow.

His men carried their unconscious commander to Tunis, where highly skilled Arab surgeons amputated the shattered limb. Then Barbarossa was outfitted with a special prosthesis made of shimmering metal.

Barbarossa eventually became sultan of Algiers. To protect his possession, he allied with the Ottomans, becoming a governor of their new province.

1 Capua Leg


Photo credit:

In 1910, archaeologists unearthed a prosthetic leg in an ancient Roman tomb in Capua, Italy. At the time of its discovery, the Capua leg was the oldest artificial limb in the world.

Dated to 300 BC, the Roman prosthesis was constructed of bronze. Its function was to replace the lower portion of the leg below the knee. Researchers believe that a sheet metal waistband secured the leg in place.

The Capua leg was housed in London at the Royal College of Surgeons until it was destroyed in an air raid during World War II. A copy exists at the Science Museum, London.

Artificial limbs were not commonplace in ancient Rome. However, there were a few famous examples. General Marcus Sergius lost his arm during the Second Punic War. He commissioned an iron replacement. The new limb allowed him to hold a shield and continue engaging in combat.

Abraham Rinquist is the executive director of the Winooski, Vermont, branch of the Helen Hartness Flanders Folklore Society. He is the coauthor of Codex Exotica and Song-Catcher: The Adventures of Blackwater Jukebox.

10 Times Tainted Medical Products Caused Serious Harm

10 Times Tainted Medical Products Caused Serious Harm

The world isn’t perfect, so there will always be a certain number of tragedies that could be prevented. But in some cases, they are caused by glaring errors that could easily be stopped by the slightest degree of attention. When it comes to medicine and treatment, there are many safeguards to keep tainting and infections from happening. But in the following instances, contamination still happened.

10 Antibiotic-Resistant Duodenoscopes


Photo credit: Tech Times

Duodenoscopes are devices that are supposed to drain fluid from pancreatic and bile ducts. However, they are unruly when it comes to sterilization. The scopes have a sort of elevator-like movement which allows them to move within the body, draining fluid as needed. As a result, cleaning the scope is quite laborious. Although any good medical professional would clean such instruments, many did not — which was a mistake that proved deadly.

In 2016, two people in the Chicago area died from a bacterial disease that had been popping up around the United States. From 2012 to 2015, around 250 people were infected with this same illness, which had resulted from a flaw in the same machine: the duodenoscope.

The manufacturers of the scope never actually tested cleaning the device in a real-world setting. In turn, this caused a bacteria to spread that otherwise wouldn’t have developed if the instruments were properly sterilized. The illness that spread was a superbug called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).

CRE is an incredibly deadly family of bacteria that kills half of the people who become infected and is resistant to even the most potent antibiotics. CRE and similarly drug-resistant E. coli outbreaks occurred throughout the US and even across Europe in France and Germany. Because they failed to disclose the scope’s failings, the three producers — Olympus, Pentax, and Fujifilm — were investigated by the FDA and hospitals were warned not to use these products.

9 Drug-Laced Diet Supplements


Photo credit: Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office via USA Today

In 2013, a dietary supplement known as Dr. Larry’s Tranquility pills were tested by the FDA. The pills were supposed to cause sleep naturally by using substances such as figwort root and licorice. Out of thousands of other pills that claimed similar results, Dr. Larry’s Tranquility pills were tested and found to contain a lot more than claimed. There were powerful prescription drugs in them.

Two powerful sedatives were found in the pills: Thorazine, a potent antipsychotic, and doxepin, an antidepressant and sleeping medication. Dr. Larry was not a doctor at all but a convicted felon. Larry LeGunn, his real name, was a chiropractor whose license was taken away in 2010 for grand theft and insurance fraud.

He was not the only person to use strong drugs to sell diet supplements, though. Jeffrey Bolanos, who had an extensive history with drugs like crack cocaine and methamphetamine, became head of an Arizona company called Beamonstar Products. Three of the company’s sexual enhancement pills actually contained tadalafil, a main ingredient in the prescription drug Cialis. Later, the products were recalled by the company.

In 2009, another company, Kilo Sports, sold “natural” performance-enhancing drugs, only they weren’t natural. They contained steroids, and another was found to have anti-estrogen substances in 2010. Apparently, in 2004, Martin McDermott, the head of Kilo, had several criminal charges filed against him related to felony possession of testosterone, boldenone, and human growth hormones. He apparently used these drugs to illegally “boost” products that he sold over the years.

8 Bayer’s HIV Blood Plasma


Photo via Wikimedia

In 2003, after an investigation by The New York Times, it was shown that Cutter Biological, a unit of pharmaceutical company Bayer, engaged in controversial business practices in the 1980s that resulted in the spread of HIV among hemophiliacs overseas. Allegedly, in response to complaints about a medicine sold by Cutter, they produced a newer, safer one in 1984. The only problem is that they didn’t stop selling the dangerous, older product in other countries.

The product sold was called Factor VIII Concentrate, and it was produced from 10,000 donors’ blood plasma to help with the treatment of hemophiliacs. However, the donor plasma was not tested for HIV at the time since there was very little awareness of the disease. Because of this, the hemophiliacs who used the product contracted HIV.

In February 1984, the product was reformulated and the old product was supposedly taken off the market. However, according to company records, they continued to sell the drug in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, and Argentina. Cutter claimed that they did so because customers there doubted the new drug’s effectiveness and a shortage of plasma made creating the new product much harder.

When Hong Kong distributors became interested in the product in late 1984, Cutter told them to use the infected product before using the new formulation. Because of this, around 100 hemophiliacs contracted HIV. The fact that the infected product was still marketed in Asia and other less developed countries caused many customers to accuse Bayer of racial discrimination.

Later, Bayer quietly began to pay off foreign lawsuits related to the product. After the reports became public, Bayer sold their blood plasma business in October 2003.

7 Metal-Tainted Children’s Medication


Photo credit: The New York Times

In May 2009, Johnson & Johnson, the company that manufactures a variety of medications including Children’s Tylenol and Children’s Motrin, began to receive complaints about black specks inside bottles of medication. All the medication had been produced from McNeil’s plant in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. When the black specks were examined, they were found to be the metals nickel, iron, and chromium.

The medications were liquid and potentially deadly. In April 2010, Johnson & Johnson began a voluntary recall of the medications. The McNeil plant had been plagued with recalls since 2009, and the FDA later sourced the contamination to machinery used during production.

Despite the company discovering the metal particles around this, they continued to produce and sell liquid medication for several months afterward. In 2009, a death occurred due to the tainted medicine: Joshua Arndt, four years old, died after being given one dose of Children’s Tylenol. Although he was rushed to the emergency room, there was nothing that doctors could do to help him.

In 2012, his father filed a lawsuit. But it was dismissed in 2014 because the two-year statute of limitations had passed. Johnson & Johnson did not go without punishment, though. In 2015, charges were brought against the company because they had knowingly sold the medication months after they learned that it was dangerous.

In the end, they had to pay $25 million to settle their legal problems. As for the McNeil plant where the medication was produced, the entire plant was demolished and rebuilt.

6 Deadly Heparin


In 2008, the blood thinner heparin was in such demand in the United States — around 300,000 doses a day — that producers in China began to engage in increasingly shady practices to meet it. Usually, heparin is produced from pig intestines. But according to the FDA, some Chinese producers were making it from cow and sheep intestines, which allowed for the spread of sicknesses unseen in the past.

According to doctors, the main symptom of the contaminated heparin was dangerously low blood pressure, and it was noticed in hospitals and by patients across the United States. By late 2008, 81 deaths had already been linked to the drug. What made this already disturbing situation even worse was the fact that the bad drug made its way through multiple screenings and finally onto the market.

When Baxter International, the distributor of half of all the heparin in the United States, discovered this, they issued an immediate recall. While officials at first believed that only the United States was affected by these contaminations, it became clear that even more countries had received the bad heparin. Eleven countries soon reported similar cases of heparin causing harm.

The contamination was caused by the chemical oversulfated chondroitin sulfate, which is created from non-pig material. Despite Chinese officials claiming that the heparin was not tainted, the FDA managed to trace the heparin to 12 Chinese producers. After this revelation, reforms were made among these companies.

Even though the FDA had been suspicious about Chinese practices since 2007, it wasn’t until 2012 that they began to create serious guidelines. Around 246 deaths have been traced to the heparin since 2007, and it’s believed that some of the contaminated drug may still be on the market nearly a decade later.

5 Bacteria-Infected IV Bags


In 2011, 19 people at six hospitals in Alabama became ill for a very specific reason: Their IV bags had been infected by Serratia marcescens bacteremia, a type of bacteria which can prove fatal when it enters the bloodstream. Many of the patients infected by the bacteria were high-risk patients who were given intravenous feeding because they were too sick to eat on their own.

The outbreak began at several Birmingham area hospitals in Alabama in March 2011. Soon, 19 people became ill, and nine of them would eventually die. The bacteria caused almost immediate effects upon entering the bloodstream, including blood pressure and temperature changes. However, once the surviving patients were treated, they managed to recover.

But this wasn’t the only time that infections in IV bags would cause illness in patients. In Minnesota, a series of painkiller thefts by nurses at hospitals would eventually cause infections in the patients. At St. Cloud Hospital, several patients who were supposed to get painkillers were actually given saltwater.

This caused rare bacterial infections in 25 patients. Six of them ended up in intensive care, and one died. Blake Zenner, a nurse who stole painkillers from 2010 to 2011, was found to be responsible for the outbreak and was finally caught in 2012.

4 Meningitis And Mold Steroid Shots


Photo credit: Newsweek

In 2011, the New England Compounding Center began sending out shipments of steroids that were infected with meningitis and fungus. Within a year, the CDC would estimate that 14,000 people had been exposed to the infected steroids. Meningitis could be contracted from the shots along with a mold that could incubate for months. The epidemic spread across 16 states and would infect hundreds of people.

The steroid involved was a formulation of methylprednisolone for injection, and it was tainted by a rare black fungus called Exserohilum rostratum that usually only affects plants. It’s so rare in humans that its incubation wasn’t even known at the time of the outbreak. However, within a year, 268 cases of fungal meningitis, three cases of fungal joint infections, and 21 deaths were reported that were related to the steroid shots.

While most of those with fungal infections reported incubation periods of a few weeks to two months, it was also known that the infections could incubate for several months. So even after the steroid shots were recalled, those who took them could still get sick.

A similar outbreak of fungal meningitis occurred in 2002 with the same type of steroids. This taught valuable lessons about the manufacturing of these substances. Without stringent standards when it comes to mixing them, it was found that fungus grows aggressively, which caused the two outbreaks.

In 2013, the number of fungal meningitis cases was 751 and there were 64 deaths. Even a full year after the outbreak, people still required treatment, which shows just how dangerous a lack of attention can be in the medical world.

3 Deadly Dirty Syringes


Photo credit: Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune via Pro Publica

Safety with syringes is commonplace for most patients and professionals: Syringes shouldn’t be reused or shared. But what happens when the people who make the syringes have accidentally contaminated them? This occurred in 2007 when over 100 people became sick with bacterial infections related to the use of contaminated saline syringes that were produced by the same company.

To keep such outbreaks from occurring, there are multiple safety checks that should be put into place by companies. But even after that, the FDA itself examines medical products. In the case of the syringes, evidence shows that the FDA failed to catch the contamination.

The syringes, prefilled with saline, were examined by an FDA inspector before they were shipped out in October 2007. According to the report, the inspector found black, brown, and red particles in the syringes but wrote it off as “rust” and said that the factory management had put a plan in place to take care of it.

Apparently, the factory had switched to an unreliable sterilization method around the time of the FDA inspection, but this wasn’t noted, either. Just one week later, a distributor recalled 1.3 million syringes, which should have caused the FDA to launch another thorough inspection. But they didn’t due to understaffing.

When they finally did another inspection of the factory, it was far below standards and was shut down in January 2008. But by then, the damage was done. Over 100 people had become sick from using the bad syringes, and six actually died. In 2016, B. Braun, the company that sold the syringes, agreed to pay $7.8 million in damages.

2 Bacteria-Infected Ultrasound Gel


In 2011, doctors in the emergency room at Beaumont Health Center near Detroit began to notice that large numbers of patients were testing positive for the bacteria P. aeruginosa. This particular sort of bacteria is not normal and usually comes from contamination. They began to investigate and found that all 16 patients had mostly identical histories: They became sick with respiratory illnesses after cardiovascular surgeries.

Ultrasound gel is used to improve images for surgeries or exams. In this case, the patients became sick after imaging gel was used on them for surgery and infected their respiratory tracts. In 2008, a study in Europe showed that many imaging bottles tested positive for contamination when cultures were grown.

When the researchers announced their findings at the 18th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, they warned that bacteria could contaminate gels during the production process. US manufacturers apparently didn’t heed these warnings.

When cultures were grown from the gel bottles used before the outbreak in the United States, they also showed strains of bacteria that came from the manufacturing process. Pharmaceutical Innovations, the New Jersey–based company behind the imaging gel, was raided by US Marshals, and their gel products were seized.

Because imaging gel is so common, it was unknown just how far the contaminated products had been distributed. All the FDA could do was issue a warning that would be known by everyone using the gel because once the gel was applied, the bacteria could infect rapidly. Luckily, no more outbreaks were reported, and new safety standards have since been put in place.

1 Toxic Cough Syrup


This is one of the most tragic stories of tainted medicine because of how widespread it was and the nature of the people it affected: sick patients in the Third World. It all started with chemical production in China where glycerine, one of the main ingredients in cough syrup, would be substituted with the sweet-tasting but highly deadly chemical diethylene glycol to make extra money.

Diethylene glycol is an industrial solvent and one of the main ingredients in antifreeze. When ingested, it causes kidney failure, paralysis, and finally, multiple organ failure.

Several decades ago, medicine produced with diethylene glycol caused over 100 deaths in the United States, which prompted the FDA to pass strict regulations. But in less developed countries, it has, over two decades, been substituted in a variety of syrups and medicines.

This has caused at least eight mass poisonings with one in Panama resulting in 365 reported deaths. A conservative estimate has put deaths in the thousands. Diethylene glycol first appeared in Bangladesh in 1992 when children died after using counterfeit syrups. Later, 88 children died in Haiti.

All the toxic products can be traced back to the Yangtze delta, colloquially known as “chemical country” by the Chinese because it so well-known for chemical production. There, many raw chemicals are produced and diethylene glycol is often sold in place of glycerol.

In many instances where mass deaths were reported from using these products, they went through multiple inspections by distributors. But none of them discovered the truth. Often, those creating the chemicals weren’t even licensed. But in an effort to make a few extra dollars, buyers will turn a blind eye.

Once they have purchased the product, they will falsely certify it so that distributors will accept it. It took many deaths before the Chinese government finally began to take action. In 2007, the World Health Organization reported that around 440 counterfeit operations had been shut down. Hopefully, these efforts by authorities will be enough to prevent any future tragedies.

Gordon Gora is a struggling author who is desperately trying to make it. He is working on several projects, but until he finishes one, he will write for Listverse for his bread and butter. You can write him at [email protected].

10 Fascinating Insights Into Loneliness

Weve all had those days where we just dont feel like were socially connecting with anyone and where the world seems so very big and were so very small. Loneliness affects some more than others, and for some people, it can be the start of an endless cycle. Its even deadly for some animals, but understanding loneliness might help keep you from sinking into the deep, dark hole.

10The Loneliest Place On Earth


So you want to get away from it allfrom everything and everyone. Sure, you could head out into the woods, but what if you wanted to be completely, absolutely alone? Whats the loneliest place on Earth?

Point Nemoif you can get thereis the point on the globe thats farthest away from any terrestrial organism. Its in the middle of the South Pacific, between Maher Island off the coast of the Antarctic, Motu Nui near Easter Island, and Ducie Island, an uninhabited island to the north. Point Nemonamed for the Jules Verne characterwas only discovered in 1992, when satellite technology was finally good enough to allow us to accurately map coastlines and chart just what point was equidistant from all of them. The point is 2,300 kilometers (1,450 mi) away from each of the islands, making it the loneliest place on Earth.

Its so lonely that its doubtful anyone has ever even been there. No one had ever been to Maher Island until it was discovered in the 1940s. Theres certainly no easy way to get to Point Nemo, and theres nothing to be found there even if you did make the trip. Theres not even a beacon or a buoy, just more endless ocean and more being alone.

9Feeling Lonely vs. Social Isolation


Humans are very social creatures. Weve always relied on each other to survive. That reliance on others makes defining loneliness a tricky thing. According to studies done by University College London, theres a big difference between being lonely and being socially isolated. Its only when you start to look at loneliness in the context of how socially connected we are that you see how subjective a feeling it really is. There are people that can live miles away from anyone, have little contact with their family, and not be lonely, while other people can live on a busy street, regularly meet for family dinners, have friends they see on a daily basis, and still feel lonely.

That all gets even more tricky when you look at it in the context of the elderly. When researchers wanted to find out which was potentially more dangerous, being lonely or being isolated, they looked at 6,500 men and women aged 52 and older and rated them based on their risk of death over the course of 12 years. They ultimately came to the conclusion that social isolation was potentially more dangerous than just feeling lonely. When they looked at social isolation, they could predict patterns in health and well-being that reports of loneliness didnt allow them to. In the end, the study found that even if youre lonely, maintaining social connections was necessary for long-term health.



Homesickness is a particular kind of loneliness we feel when were away from home. For some people, it can be crippling. While its estimated that about 70 percent of people who move away from home suffer from it in some way, for a smaller percentage, homesickness can mean sinking into the dark pit of depression that they can only crawl out of with help. The most severe cases can come with panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, and complete withdrawal from the surroundings that are new and completely unsettling.

Homesickness is certainly nothing new, either. Its described in Homers Odyssey, but it was only formally given a name when it was used to describe the feelings of loneliness and longing that Swiss soldiers got when they were far from home. In the 17th century, homesickness was thought to be an incredibly dangerous disease that would kill if left untreated. After that, popular opinion shifted. To be homesick was childish: It was what a grade-schooler felt during his first week at summer camp.

All of that meant that we stopped talking about it. We dont even know that much about homesickness, save for its very real effects. We know that some thingsanything, reallycan trigger it, and sometimes the tools we use to try to alleviate homesickness can make it worse. Hop on Facebook to keep in touch with friends back home, and its a cold reminder that youre not there to be in any of the pictures. And now, were also starting to think that homesickness never actually goes awaynot entirely, at least.

7The Social Surrogacy Hypothesis


Lonelinessand how we deal with itis a notoriously difficult bit of psychology to explore. Its only recently that researchers from the University of Buffalo and Miami University have started to explore what they call the Social Surrogacy Hypothesis.

The theory basically states that television can act as a surrogate for people who are longing to form meaningful social relationships. The researchers looked at when people turned to their favorite television shows, under what circumstances they tended to watch them, how they wrote about the shows and the characters, and how a persons current relationship status (including whether theyd just had a fight with a close friend or significant other) impacted their reactions to watching the shows.

They found that people who were lonely, had just experienced a blow to their self-esteem, or had been in an argument were craving social interaction that could be replaced with something called a parasocial relationship. Thats the relationship that develops between us and our favorite television characters when we become so invested in their lives that our brains view them as something of a close friend. We worry about them, we wait to find out what happens next, and we take it all very personally. The more lonely we are, the stronger that connection, and the more likely we are to be satisfied by these one-sided relationships.

6Loneliness Killed The Woolly Mammoth


Photo via: Wikimedia

Theres something incredibly heartbreaking about being among the last surviving handful of an entire species, and weve recently found out that thats exactly what happened to the woolly mammoth.

After two huge population declines, the last of the woolly mammoths lived on an island off the Russian coast. For 6,000 years, a tiny pocket of woolly mammoths scraped out a living on the rugged island. Without enough diversity in the population, they slowly got more inbred, and the species made its final decline. Its estimated that after the second major population decline, which killed off the mainland population and all but 3001,000 island-dwelling individuals, the population was never able to recover.

The island-dwelling mammoths were cut off from their mainland cousins by the rising sea levels that created their island and ultimately condemned the last surviving members to an incredibly lonely death. While the species recovered from the first population drop over the course of about 100,000 years, the isolation and inbreeding ultimately led to their extinction. Scientists still arent sure just what happened to the mainland population, but with the discovery of the complete mammoth genome, theyve learned just how inbred the final members of the species really were.

5Loneliness Makes Us See Inanimate Objects Differently


Researchers from Dartmouth College have found that extended periods of loneliness change the way we start to see inanimate objects. When were craving human contact and socialization, we start to have a slightly different relationship with things like online avatars and dollsespecially those with human faces. When subjects were shown photos of morphs that had varying degrees of human and animated features, those that were lonely were more likely to describe the faces as completely human.

The study even showed a pronounced difference in how our mood impacts our ability to see faces. Students were asked to fill out a questionnaire, then given feedback on what their answers suggested about their future. Feedback was completely random (even though students didnt know it). Those students that were given a prediction of a lonelier future were also more likely to see more human faces.

This impact can also be extended into the territory of the uncanny valley effect. Typically, we have a tendency to view animated people and robots who are too lifelike as creepy and unsettling. That reaction is partially negated in lonely people, though, who tend to find artificial faces more attractive.

4Electric Shock Is Preferable To 15 Minutes Of Loneliness

Man and electrical arc

Imagine, for a minute, that you have nothing to do, nowhere to be, and no one to talk to. Your assigned task is to just sit in a room and think. Daydream. Imagine. Whatever you like, as long as its in your own head. Sound awesome? Psychologists from Harvard University and University of Virginia conducted a series of 11 studies that demonstrated something pretty surprising. For most of us, its not awesome at all, and wed rather be doing anything elseeven if the only thing available to us hurts.

They tested people between the ages of 18 and 77 and asked them to sit in a room for periods of anywhere from 6 to 15 minutes. Regardless of age, the results were much the same: People found it hard to think, hard to concentrate, completely unenjoyable, and insanely difficult. Those that were put in a room with no outlet for entertainment outside of their own head found themselves restless and distracted, unable to concentrate. When they were in their own homes, most of them couldnt do it at all and cheated by playing music or playing with a cell phone.

The experiment got epic when the only thing the subjects were given was a button that would administer an electric shock to them when they pushed it. Even though most people stated they would pay money to avoid being shocked before the experiment started, 67 percent of men and 25 percent of women were so overcome by the lack of sensory input that they found shocking themselves preferable to the lonely sensation of being inside their own heads for only 15 minutes.

3Loneliness Spreads Like A Disease


By now, weve watched enough shows and movies about the zombie apocalypse to know that it spreads across the world like a disease. Loneliness does, too.

Researchers from the University of Chicago looked at exactly how loneliness spreads, and they found that like the spread of a nasty germ, it all starts with a nasty encounter. Say youre already feeling pretty down, and a friend makes an offhand comment or does something that makes you uncomfortable. If you were in a better mood, you might not have even noticed it, but as it is, it strikes right at the heart of your gloomy day. When you get home, you remember that. It sticks with you, and the next time you might have called your friend to go grab a drink after work, you dont. From your friends point of view, you stopped calling them. That leads to the crumbling of a friendship and puts them in the same mood you were in when they accidentally offended you.

Sounds far-fetched? Its not. Lonely people can unintentionally make themselves lonelier by anticipating actions that are going to hurt them. In turn, this makes them drift to the social fringes. In a study of 5,000 subjects, researchers looked at how lonely people felt on particular days and their social interactions for those days. They found that loneliness is contagious to the third degree. People who are chronically lonely have been found to transmit that to other acquaintances, who then go on to similarly drift to the outskirts of their social groups as that network unravels.

This might have some very concrete implications for the treatment of mental illness, depression, and chronic loneliness. Knowing how social networks impact each other can allow people to become more proactive in mending relationships before they start to unravel and before loneliness leads to a post-apocalyptic mental wasteland.

2Comfort Food Fights Loneliness


Whats that favorite food that you always requested for your birthday? How about that special anniversary dinner? The meal that mom made when she knew you were going through a tough time? Theres a reason its called comfort food, and its been found that just thinking about it has a very real impact on our loneliness.

A study done at the University of Buffalo asked participants to write about a fight theyd had with someone they loved, in order to set a baseline of anxiety, sadness, and a threatened social status. Afterward, they were asked to either write about their favorite comfort food or a new food that theyd like to try. When they were asked to rate their loneliness after that, those that wrote about their comfort food felt significantly less lonely.

Another study had students eat chicken soup, then fill missing letters into words. Those that ate chicken soup and considered it one of their comfort foods were more likely to use letters that spelled out relationship-centric words. On the other hand, those that didnt consider chicken soup as comfort food (or werent given the soup) created words that were not related to social interaction or relationships.

That all seems to suggest that comfort foodeven if were just thinking about ithas a profound impact on our emotional state.

1Brains Of Lonely People Work Differently


Its been shown that the brains of lonely people are visibly different from the brains of those who dont suffer from chronic loneliness.

An admittedly small study conducted by the University of Chicago focused on people whose answers to a questionnaire identified them as socially isolated and lonely. When these people were shown pictures of others enjoying themselves, there was less activity in the part of the brain that typically reacts to rewards and pleasure. Researchers werent sure if the lack of activity in the brain led to feelings of loneliness or if prolonged social isolation had conditioned the brain to respond in a way that was likely to increase their isolation. Nevertheless, researchers are certain that it has the potential to be a major breakthroughand one that couldnt come at a better time. With more people having increasingly smaller families, its estimated that the number of people living alone will continue to climb. Knowing just how our brains are programmed may go a long way in helping those who suffer from chronic loneliness.

Loneliness has also been shown to impact how we process cold temperatures. A study from the University of Toronto found that when participants were asked to recount a situation in which they were isolated from a social group reported that the temperature in the room was, on average, much colder than those that were asked to talk about a time they were included in a group setting. Researchers also ran another experiment in which a group of people played catch, with some people being excluded more than others. Those that were excluded were more likely to gravitate toward hot drinks after the game. This suggests that we pick a hot cup of tea or coffeeor our favorite chicken soupbecause of a quite literal cold feeling we get from isolation. Researchers go on to state that they suspect this link forms in us during infancy, where babies associate warmth with social interaction.

+Animals Can Die From Loneliness


We think loneliness is a pretty sad feeling, and there are always going to be those cynical people that insist animals dont have the same feelings. But we know thats not trueand we can prove it.

A study of the effects of social isolation and loneliness on African gray parrots found something pretty heartbreaking. Telomeres are sections of DNA that are responsible for regulating the stability of chromosomes. As birds get older, their age is reflected in the length of the telomeres. Nine-year-old parrots who were kept in cages alone had the same telomere structures as socialized birds that were 23 years old, showing that the stress of isolation and loneliness is so real that it degrades the genetic makeup of birds at a staggering rate.

And recently, researchers have found another animal that suffers absolute agony from loneliness: the ant. Research from the University of Tokyo found that separating a single ant from its colony leaves it with a lifespan thats reduced by 91 percent, for a pretty bizarre reason. An ant thats alone is incapable of digesting its food. While ants regurgitate and share food in their nest, a single ant will simply pace back and forth and store its undigested food . . . until it dies from loneliness.