Never let yourself forget how much we still don't know about our brains and bodies. Specifically, the relationship between the two. Not only can a placebo fool the body into thinking sugar is a pain reliever, but the brain can fool the body into thinking it's sick, complete with physical symptoms.
And we're not talking about bullshit symptoms like headaches, either. We're talking ...
You're a woman. You missed your period, and now you have morning sickness. Congratulations! Or not! After a few weeks, your abdomen swells. Eventually, you start having labor pains ...
... but the doctor says there is no baby, and that there never was one. Either you are having a ghost baby, or it was all in your head.
"Yup, that's your problem: You have a baby embedded in your brain."
They used to call it "hysterical pregnancy" -- a term that dates back to when male scientists had declared that all mental disorders radiated from female lady parts. It's now referred to as pseudocyesis, and it's shockingly common -- as many as one out of every few hundred pregnancies turns out to be pseudocyesis. That is, nonexistent.
What causes it? Were you impregnated by an incubus, and are you about to give birth to an invisible spiritual entity? Probably not. But that guess is as good as anybody's.
"Girl or boy? I don't care as long as it's healthy and filled with inhuman rage."
After all, it'd be one thing if these false pregnancies just caused some nausea and weight gain -- it's easy to imagine somebody tricking themselves into some stomach issues. But the condition also disrupts menstruation and causes other common pregnancy symptoms such as breast sensitivity. In the weirdest cases -- such as this 1960s case of a woman in Rochester -- the abdomen will become distended as if there's a fetus pushing out (doctors have found they can make this go away with anesthesia. Apparently, while awake, the mother is involuntarily forcing the belly out with her abdominal muscles ... or something).
Sufferers even claim they feel the baby "kick." What the hell?
We'll let Sigourney Weaver handle this one.
It's not like we haven't had time to study it; reports of false pregnancy have been around as far back as recorded history goes. Hippocrates (the dude the Hippocratic oath comes from) wrote about women with the disorder around 300 BC. In one of the most famous cases, the Queen of England, Mary I or Bloody Mary, was so desperate to bear a child that she had a fake pregnancy. The disease reemerged again in the famous case of "Anne O," who developed a fake pregnancy after imagining being impregnated by her doctor Josef Breuer. Breuer later talked about the strange case to the famous psychologist Sigmund "you want to bone your mother" Freud, who was so fascinated by it that it became the basis of his work in the field of psychotherapy.
"A ghost baby told me you secretly want to kill your father."
But we've saved the weirdest part for last. Pseudocyesis doesn't just affect women.
Yep, false pregnancy has turned up in men who duplicate the symptoms of their partners' pregnancy. They go through the same morning sickness, muscle cramps and, in one case, the same abdominal swelling as their pregnant wives. Again we say, what the hell?
Now all we need is for a woman to grow balls and we will finally see which is worse!
Here's a fun experiment: Wait until a pregnant friend or girlfriend is in labor, and then ask her if she's sure the whole pregnancy isn't all in her head. See if she stabs you!