What's awesome about crazy people is they always find ways to surprise us. And there might not be anything stranger in the world of mental illness than culture-bound syndromes.
These are specific, and incredibly bizarre, forms of insanity that only happen in certain countries or cultures, for reasons that often leave experts baffled. Such as...
#5. Wendigo Psychosis: Normal Folks in a Man-Eating Frenzy
The Wendigo is a mythical monster that is featured in the folklore of some northern Native American and Canadian tribes. They all describe it as a "malevolent, cannibalistic, supernatural being of great spiritual power, associated with winter, coldness, famine and starvation." Basically, it's what vampires were before Anne Rice hand-stitched giant pussies into their mythos.
Pre-Rice Vampires. Thanks a lot, you bitch.
Now that we've cleared up what a true Wendigo is, you might be wondering in terror what exactly "Wendigo Psychosis" entails, and if you're not, you should probably start right about now.
It's when a person becomes convinced that they are a Wendigo... most prominently marked by an intense craving for human flesh. Yes, this is a real thing, that happened to real people.
Many tribal societies were familiar with cannibalism, having to eat human flesh during dire periods of starvation and all, but sometimes the guilt and fear associated with the act was so great that it drove them insane. When you end up snacking on a dude, it's not hard to imagine yourself as a kind of monster. After all, isn't it better to see yourself as a mythical beast than just a hungry guy with low standards?
That's the best guess as to where Wendigo Psychosis comes in. But understand that once it kicks in, the victim believes they're an invincible man-eating monster regardless of how much actual food is around. When people would start to feel the symptoms coming on, they would sometimes actually ask to be executed before they could go on a man-eating frenzy. Holy shit!
Today, Cracked declares that "Dammit, I'm about to go Wendigo on your asses!" is a new catchphrase. Try to use it today.
#4. Dhat Syndrome: Ejaculation Anxiety
Dhat Syndrome, seen pretty much in India and nowhere else, doesn't need a fancy setup to seem bizarre: it's semen-loss anxiety.
Dhat sufferers believe they are leaking semen (not like dripping into their pants, they think they're losing it when they urinate) and that this loss is weakening them both mentally and physically.
Guess what he's doing right now.
Dhat suffers are very worried about keeping as much semen as they possibly can inside of their bodies, which is the exact opposite goal of every other man in the world, who pretty much think of their sperm like the end of a garage sale: as long as you're willing to take it, you can have as much of it as you can carry.
To understand Dhat Syndrome, you must first consider traditional Hindu beliefs: food converts to blood, which converts to flesh, which converts to bone marrow and the marrow is eventually converted into semen. It is said that it takes 40 days for 40 drops of food to be converted to one drop of blood, 40 drops of blood to one drop of flesh and so on. To put it into terms you can understand, basically it takes 73 burritos to make just one sperm. At the very least, that's a lot of cash; you can see why they really want to keep it.
Combine that with the whole "loss of virility and thus manhood" thing and you can see how this unique and bizarre kind of anxiety can turn up. In most cases of Dhat, patients suffer from premature ejaculation, insomnia and anxiety. All of these symptoms, it should be noted, are also cited as reasons why other men masturbate, that is they're dispensing too little semen on the world, not the other way around.
With that in mind, we would like to write a prescription to all Dhat sufferers, and it's a little thing we like to call porn.
#3. Amok: The Random Killing of Dudes
You've heard the term "running amok," but the word "amok" is Malaysian, and originally described elephants going mad and separating from their herd. At that point the animal would run wild destroying, fighting, and making sweet crazy furious love to anything in its way, pretty much just re-enacting an average day in Sean Connery's life. And it is in Malaysia where the condition began cropping up in humans as well.
We're talking about random, kill-crazy outbursts by males with non-violent histories who, with absolutely no provocation, will suddenly up and decide that not enough of everything is dying and do their level best to rectify that situation.
No idea why he's wearing that mask, though. That's his thing, we're not here to judge.
Amok episodes are such a kill frenzy that they often only end when bystanders eventually kill the berserker. Those lucky enough to survive, report no memories of their carnage, presumably because laughing shamefully and saying, "Oh yeah, I totally killed that restaurant," doesn't look all that good in court.
In the year 2000 alone, 13 separate cases of people "running amok" were reported, during which 11 people were murdered and 29 more were wounded. That sounds a little scary, but just look at the bright side: those numbers tell us that yes, Malaysia may indeed be a terrifying place to live, but hey, at least only about 80 percent of the randomly triggered psychopathic berserkers are competent enough to succeed at murder.
Unlike the Wendigo thing where you can sort of draw a line between things going on in their culture and the occasional spontaneous madness, there is no such clear-cut explanation for running amok. Experts have suggested pretty much everything--drug abuse, alcoholism, heat, internal parasites or just good ol' fashioned devil possession--but there is not enough evidence to support any of these speculations.
Then again, the devil wouldn't actually leave any evidence behind, would he?