Winter-over Syndrome & 9 Other Psychological Phenomenona

winter-over syndrome

Winter-over Syndrome

No, just because you’re in New England doesn’t mean you have winter-over syndrome.  Winter-over syndrome occurs for some who live in the Arctic, where winter is truly 7-8 months long.  The harsh physical environment, plus isolation, can lead to a heightened version of depressive like symptoms as in seasonal affective disorder.  With winter-over syndrome however,  mild hypnotic states, in which an individual appears stuck in a zombie like gaze, occur as well.  The term “Antarctic stare” has been coined to describe the former symptom.

500+ Phobias

Phobias refer to specific anxieties that are so severe that they significantly disrupt one’s life.  While only one phobia, agoraphobia (fear of leaving ones home), is specifically exclusive in the DSM-5, at least 500 others exist. An astonishing 12.5% of Americans will experience a phobia at some point in their lifetime.  Some less common phobias include, papyrophobia, or fear of paper, omphalophobia, fear of belly buttons.  Slightly more relatable phobias for many of us include ataxophobia, fear of disorder or untidyness.  

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland syndrome is a perception disorder in which objects are distorted- smaller or larger, closer or further away- than they really are.  AIWS is also dissociative, with hearing and timing distortions common for those who have it.  Causes of AIWS may be infectious disease or increased electric activity in the brain, but primarily, migraine headaches are pertinent to AIWS.  The connection and label to Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland, is particularly interesting and, some say, Carroll’s migraines influenced his work. 

Synesthesia

Synesthesia, a phenomenon I find particularly interesting, is actually much more common than the preceding ailments. I’ve actually met a couple folks who’ve experienced synesthesia.  This phenomenon occurs when senses cross, mixing a very common sensory input with a less common secondary effect.  Synesthesia is not a medical condition and, in fact, can be a positive experience for those who experience it.  Individuals with synesthesia sometimes have better capacity for memory and a vast threshold for creativity. Some examples of synesthesia include sound-color synesthesia (colors are associated with a specific sound, often musical), hearing-motion synesthesia (a sound is associated with movement, like a whoosh sound when someone walks by), and time-space synesthesia (an example is a person being able to map out an entire annual calendar in a vivid way).

The Halo Effect

The halo effect is one of many cognitive biases.  It explains why attractive people are at an advantage in areas of life that shouldn’t be appraised based on appearance, like job interviews.  The halo effect occurs when an initial judgement about a person colors the perceiver’s judgement of the person as a whole.  The halo effect is behind the proverbial phrase: “first impression is everything.”  The less well known opposite of the halo effect, is called the horn effect, in which a negative attribute demonizes a whole person. 

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect, named after the two researchers who coined it, is another cognitive bias I find fascinating.  The Dunning-Kruger effect occurs when people believe themselves to be more intelligent or capable than they really are.  Folks who experience this do not have the skill set, intellectually or in terms of self awareness, to recognize their limitations. An example of this cognitive bias that is all too common occurs when people on social media with little political knowledge spout off about their ‘expertise’ on complex political ideologies.  

Hallucinations

What makes hallucinations most fascinating, is their prevalance.  While modern society often associates hallucinations with major psychosis, often drug induced, at least 1 in 10 people experience some sort of hallucination in their lifetime, with slight visual hallucinations even more common than the former statistics.  Negative hallucinations (i.e. hearing suicidal voices) are common for those who experience clinical depression, delirium tremor from fever, as well as hormonal changes (i.e. postpartum) are some examples.  Treatment is possible and can include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Fregoli syndrome

One of the more frightening phenomena on this list, individuals who experience the Fregoli delusion, believe that a familiar person keeps following them, but in disguise. The afflicted individual believes the individual, taking on different forms, is following them to persecute them in some way.  Fregoli syndrome is named after Italian actor, Leopoldo Fregoli, who was known for switching roles and impersonations on stage at a rapid pace.  

Autocannibalism

It is what it sounds like, people.  Autocannibalism, a disorder in the DSM-5, is the practice of eating one’s own flesh.  Autocannibalism is a form of self harm, but in the past has been used as a form of body modification by choice, as well as punishment, like forcing punished servants to eat parts of their body.  To your surprise though, if you’ve ever bitten your nails or cuticles, you are also taking part in autocannibalic behavior. 

Aboulomania

Aboulomania is pathological indecisiveness, the inability to make decisions in day-to-day life.  While many people I work with struggle with decision making, those with aboulomania are truly restricted from living their lives by being paralyzed by decisions as small as whether or not to have dessert.  Research has shown that aboulomania is often a comorbidity to mental illnesses like PTSD.  From a behavioral perspective, aboulomania can occur in children with extremely overprotective parents, which leads to unhealthy dependency and self doubt. 

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