5 Bizarre Mental Illnesses That Turn Reality Into a TV Show

Let's face it: The minutiae of your day-to-day life would bore the absolute crap out of anyone watching it. The closest thing to a character arc most of us have is slowly learning how to use the popcorn button on the microwave. We are not Truman-caliber protagonists. But thanks to the wondrous misfires of the human brain, everybody can feel like the star of their own TV show! All the time! Every minute of every day, for the rest of your life. Whether you like it or not.

#5. You See Subtitles When People Talk

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Subtitles are a great way to make Sylvester Stallone movies intelligible for the English-speaking viewer. Of course, if you already speak fluent Stallone or think reading is for nerds, you can simply pull up the menu options, turn the subtitles off, and let the punches speak for themselves. But what if we weren't talking about movies at all? What if you saw subtitles during real-life conversations, like when Jason Statham starts flipping out in Crank? What if you could never turn them off?

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"What the hell is this? No, I mean it, I'm functionally illiterate."

It happened to septuagenarian Dorothy Latham. When she has a conversation, the words appear as a brightly colored ticker tape in front of whoever's speaking. It is likely the one and only thing she has in common with the teen blogger known as Cath. They both have a rare form of synesthesia, a bizarre condition in which one of your senses becomes tightly linked to another. Seeing the color blue might make you taste cheeseburgers, or hearing the music of Nirvana might make you smell teen spirit (which is mostly old socks and stale semen, for the record).

In certain cases, the part of your brain that processes text joins the party and you end up with ticker tape synesthesia, which causes your brain to produce lines of text in your visual field whenever you hear someone talking. These real-life closed captions might scroll past your vision like a colorful marquee, or the words might spill out of the speaker's mouth like they're violently hurling a bowl of Alpha-Bits.

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And only occasionally do the messages come with lucky numbers.

Sounds like fun, right? But unlike movie subtitles, it's of absolutely no use with a language you don't already know (it's not a babel fish, just a brain condition). And situations where many people are talking at once quickly devolve from pleasantly colored subtitles into a Sesame Street-style nightmare of furious letters rioting all throughout the room.

#4. All of the Dialogue You Hear Is Out of Sync

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Imagine yourself in a kung fu movie. Masters need avenging, honor needs restoring, jump kicks are a form of currency, and absolutely nobody's voice is matching up to their lips. Awesome, right? Now, remove all of that stuff but the shoddy dubbing. That's your life, 24/7. How long until you change the channel on reality?

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Cutting your service provider isn't really the best option.

After undergoing routine heart surgery, a British man known only as "PH" noticed something strange: The voices on TV didn't match up with the people's lip movements. Then he noticed something stranger: neither did his daughter's. "It wasn't the TV," he said. "It was me. It was happening in real life." And, perhaps strangest of all, he heard the sound of the voice a fraction of a second before perceiving the movement of the lips, giving him the dizzying sensation of hearing from the future.

This bad dubbing effect happens because visual input and audio input take different lengths of time to reach our eyes and ears, respectively. In normal brains, this difference is resolved by a magical brain clock that basically just lies to us until we perceive sight and sound in peaceful harmony (we're only being slightly facetious there -- scientists have no idea how the brain accomplishes this neat little trick). But if that timing mechanism breaks -- in PH's case, a brain scan "showed two lesions in areas thought to play a role in hearing, timing, and movement" -- the audio channel gets all out of sync, and suddenly your entire world transforms into a poorly encoded torrent you cannot delete.

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"At least it's the HD version."

PH may not be alone in his badly dubbed world: A Vanderbilt study revealed that some autistic children suffer from this same kind of audio/visual separation, to the point that they may even cover their ears to "minimize the confusion between the senses." That's a mighty depressing way to end an entry in a comedy article, but unfortunately brain disorders aren't always fun and games. Who knew, right?

#3. Your Life Follows a Script You Did Not Write

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Every once in a while, a fictional character breaks the fourth wall and acknowledges that they're on screen. It's mostly used as a one-off gag played for laughs, but if the camera didn't pan away quite so quickly, you just might have caught a glance of the inevitable existential breakdown that befalls every Mel Brooks character mere seconds after the audience finishes chuckling. After all, put yourself in that character's shoes. How does it feel to know that all the world's a stage, and you're the one gettin' played?

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That's why you're still alive. They'd never kill off the main character!

Ask Louise Airey, who was only 8 years old when she first felt like she'd been pulled outside of herself. "All of a sudden you're hyper aware," she said, "and everything else in the world seems unreal, like a movie." At 19, a migraine triggered what felt to her like living through an 18-month-long movie (eat your heart out, Peter Jackson), and she's dealt with similar episodes ever since. Lucky her! She gets to experience all the sensations of starring in a movie without any of the pesky side effects like fame and fortune.

Welcome to the hell known as depersonalization disorder. It's a condition that can happen with no apparent cause, but often results from intense anxiety or extreme trauma. After a stressful situation, your sense of self can come unplugged from your own experience, and you end up with the deeply disturbing feeling that something else is controlling your actions. If you wave your hand in front of your face, it's not really "you" waving it -- you're just watching it happen. And maybe it's not even your hand at all, but that of a foreign body that you just happen to be inside of, like in Being John Malkovich.

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The upside is you now have the perfect excuse for everything ever.

Then there's derealization, the pervading sense that the world you live in and the people in it are artificial, just props and actors on a stage. In severe cases, the whole world can look like the two-dimensional background of a low-budget off-Broadway show. And like many anxiety disorders, the fear of having a depersonalization experience can actually trigger one. So if you suffer from depersonalization disorder and your greatest fear also happens to be that your entire life might be a work of fiction, well, you're basically doomed to life as a fictional character. Your crippling mental illness makes for a pretty sweet narrative device, though. Try to take some thin comfort in that.

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