Could your partner ever convince you that you were cheating on them when you had no recollection of the on-going affair?
A healthy human brain is capable of significant backflips and even some interesting delusions. In today’s political climate, these tricks of the brain have become more and more obvious, as strong beliefs can distort the information that reaches our mind.
But an unhealthy brain can demonstrate some truly amazing feats.
A case report in the Archives of Sexual Behavior reveals the story of a 64-year-old retired academic who sought psychiatric treatment and a civil commitment, as he thought his mistress was exploiting him for financial gain. She would meet him at night while his wife was sleeping, and would feed him Viagra and narcotics and have sex him with him in her car. She would also coerce him into signing documents that would financially benefit her. The only problem? All of this information had been fed to the husband by his wife. He had no recollection of doing any of this.
Truly, this gives new meaning to the expression “unmemorable sex”.
The story gets more complicated when the wife told a psychiatrist that a previous hospitalization had to be cut short, as the famed mistress had arranged for the hospital staff to release the husband at night for some moonlit cavorting. This mystery woman had even followed the married couple to Greece on holiday!
The couple was diagnosed with “shared psychotic disorder”. You may be more familiar with its original description of folie à deux, French for “madness of two”. It is a very peculiar psychiatric condition in which one person essentially imposes a psychosis on a close partner, often a sibling or spouse, who comes to believe it is true. If you think this is strange, wait until you hear about the psychotic disorder shared with… a dog.
An 83-year-old widow was living alone with her dog and came to believe that her upstairs neighbour was transmitting “violet rays” through the ceiling of her apartment, and that these rays were causing her back and chest pains. She built a shelter out of furniture for her dog to sleep in while she spent her nights sleeping underneath the kitchen table for protection. Her psychosis had an impact on her canine companion’s behaviour: whenever the dog would hear a sound from the apartment upstairs, it would run to its shelter.
Should this be referred to as a folie à dog?
In all seriousness, these extremes may be easy to dismiss as the outcomes of bad brain chemistry, but even so-called healthy thinking is dense with gut reactions, shortcuts, and downright illogical arguments. Those of us who do not believe in “violet rays” or in forgetting infidelity could still stand to listen to a friend, once in a while, who challenges our thinking. They may have caught one of our brain’s many, many farts.