Blueberry Muffin Rash

Not to be mistaken with our favorite high calorie breakfast pastry, blueberry muffin rash is a cutaneous (skin) finding in infants who were exposed in the womb to the rubella virus. This rash is a form of purpura (red or purple skin discoloration that does not blanch with fingertip pressure due to bleeding under the skin). Although no longer solely associated with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), it is best remembered as such. The classic triad (no, I am not referring to Asian organized crime here) of CRS is deafness, eye abnormalities and congenital heart disease.

Nutmeg Liver

No, congestion is not just reserved for your sinuses in the medical field. Nutmeg liver is another name for chronic passive congestion of the liver. It’s also known as congestive heapatopathy. This is a result of congestive heart failure, which in laypersons’ terms is a sick heart that cannot pump blood as well as it used to. With a poorly functioning heart, blood essentially “backs up” in the venous system (the half of your circulatory system that is responsible for bringing deoxygenated blood back to the heart). The intricate network of veins found in the liver becomes engorged with blood, giving the liver the microscopic appearance of a grated nutmeg. Unfortunately you can’t grate a nutmeg liver into your favorite apple pie or nip of eggnog; if heart function is not restored, the liver can become permanently damaged, resulting in fibrosis, which is scarring of diseased tissue.

Watermelon Stomach

Watermelon stomach is also known as gastric antral vascular ectasia (GAVE). Try saying that three times fast. It’s no wonder physicians would rather name it after one of our favorite summer fruits, instead. This is a very rare finding that involves dilated blood vessels in the last part of the stomach (antrum). GAVE is of unknown etiology (cause) and is a rare cause of gastrointestinal bleeding and iron deficiency anemia. Doctors call it watermelon stomach because of the characteristic red streaks of stomach lining that look like markings of a watermelon. Ok, well last time I checked watermelons don’t have red streaks, but what did rapper Dr. Dre say…”trust me, I’m a doctor.”

Cauliflower Ear

Mixed martial arts enthusiasts and angry drunks beware—cauliflower ear can be one’s worst enemy. This is a deformity that occurs after repeated trauma to the ear. With enough blows to the ears, the blood supply and underlying cartilage scaffolding gets damaged, to the point where the healing process runs amok, creating a cosmetically unappealing growth that looks a lot like albino broccoli, I mean cauliflower. This condition is not reversible, other than with an expensive visit to your plastic surgeon. Too bad medical ethics do not allow kickbacks for patient referrals.

Strawberry Gallbladder

Better known as cholesterolosis of gallbladder, strawberry gallbladder is a surgical finding of excessive cholesterol deposits in the gallbladder wall. As we all know, the gallbladder stores and releases bile (which is made in the liver) which helps us emulsify and subsequently digest the fats in our diet. The stippled appearance of the gallbladder is due to the cholesterol deposits, which I guess would represent the seeds of the strawberry. Like a lot of medicine, the cause of strawberry gallbladder is unknown. Luckily for all gallbladders out there, having high cholesterol does not seem to have any harmful effects.

Chocolate Cyst

This is one of the few cases where chocolate is not better than sex for the majority of women out there (well at least 52% of British women according to a 2007 survey by Cadbury, who makes chocolate, incidentally). Also known as endometriosis of the ovary, a chocolate cyst occurs when endometrial tissue (blood vessel laden tissue that lines the uterus and is shed monthly in the absence of an implanted fertilized egg) finds its way into the pelvic cavity and begins to grow on one or both ovaries. This tissue continues to proliferate, slough off, and proliferate again much like a regular menstrual cycle. The problem is this is now occurring within the ovary instead of the uterus. Blood accumulates over time and turns a brown chocolate color. Unfortunately, chocolate cysts often rupture, but not before causing a lot of pain and discomfort. Surgical removal of the ovary is definitive treatment, but hormonal treatments are available as well.

Port Wine Stain

A port wine stain is a relatively common birth mark caused by a collection of swollen blood vessels near the skin surface. It is usually innocuous, but may cause emotional distress in patients where the birthmark is especially prominent (hey, it didn’t stop Gorbachev from espousing Perestroika and Glasnost). The color is reddish-purple like the color of Port wine (sorry Sherry, there is no birthmark named after you) and can darken with age. Occasionally, a port wine stain may be an indication of a more serious disease such as Sturge-Weber syndrome, or Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome (I always wondered if doctors resented having to share a disease discovery with so many other doctors). If bothersome, port wine stains can be removed just like unwanted tattoos. Laser treatments are effective because it kills the offending blood vessels without damaging the skin. Repeated treatments are required and this can be an expensive and time consuming proposition.

Bread and Butter Pericarditis

Also known as fibrinous pericarditis, this is the result of inflammation of the pericardium, or sac that encloses the heart. It is often caused by bacterial or viral infections, or after a heart attack. The pericardium takes on the appearance of butter on bread after it has been dropped (butter side down, of course) on the carpet. No, there are not stray hairs or dust bunnies found imbedded in the lining of the heart but there might as well be. The appearance is caused by fibrin (a type of protein) that is deposited as a result of injury. This causes a characteristic “friction rub” that is audible with a stethoscope. Another key finding is chest pain similar to a heart attack, that gets better when you lean forward. Treatment is usually with aspirin or anti inflammatory medication, with surgery rarely required. Of note, this is another one of those factlets that are pounded into your head in medical school, but never tested on because that would make things too easy.

Currant Jelly Sputum

This is not something you want to spread on your scones along with some clotted cream. Currant jelly sputum is a mass of blood, sputum, mucous and cellular debris that collects in lung passages as a result of untreated Klebsiella pneumoniae pneumonia. The incidence of Klebsiella infection is increasing, likely due to new strains with antibiotic resistance. This bacterium is the second most common cause of urinary tract infections, second to E. coli. However, before you start worrying that you are going to cough up something that looks like the blue ribbon prize at the 4-H meet, pneumonia due to Klebsiella usually occurs in people who already have other medical conditions such as diabetes, other chronic lung diseases and alcoholism. Other symptoms include high fever, chills and flu-like symptoms.

Café au Lait Spot

French for ‘my coffee is more sophisticated than your coffee’, café au lait spots are birthmarks. Like the port wine stain, they, in and of themselves, are not harmful and are called such due to their light brown color. However, café au lait spots can be an indication of the presence of many diseases, such as tuberous sclerosis, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome and Hunter syndrome. The presence of at least six café au lait spots, at least 5 millimeters in diameter (before puberty) or 15 mm (after puberty) aid in the diagnosis of Neurofibramatosis I (NF-1). NF-1 is a human genetic disorder that was once thought to be the Elephant Man’s diagnosis du jour, but has since fallen out of favor with medical historians.

diseases named after food

by Louis B. Lin, M.D.
 I, personally, found medical school to be a grueling and tedious regimen of rote memorization and sleep deprivation – the experience of which can be more or less distilled down to a masochistic exercise in self denial and deprivation for the sake of human well being (and Porsches and golf club memberships). One bright spot in my training was the quirky trivia and neat historical anecdotes that would pop up once in a while. Doctors throughout history have proven to be a very creative and resourceful bunch, and their naming conventions can often be downright tongue in cheek. Among my favorites are disease findings and symptoms that are named after food. I am morbidly fascinated about how gross and unpalatable these naming conventions can be, but I smile when I realize that such “culinary” descriptors may partially arise out of the dark humor that is a natural outcome of such rigorous training and prolonged exposure to human suffering. Without further delay, here is a list of ten disease findings from the emerging medical specialty of “culinary pathology and pathophysiology.” Where appropriate, a photograph of the disease is linked – be warned – they are not pretty.
  1. Café au Lait Spot
  2. Currant Jelly Sputum
  3. Bread and Butter Pericarditis
  4. Port Wine Stain
  5. Chocolate Cyst
  6. Strawberry Gallbladder
  7. Cauliflower Ear
  8.   Watermelon Stomach
  9. Nutmeg Liver
  10. Blueberry Muffin Rash

Peg Legs

Peg legs were the prosthetic limb of choice for pirates and Civil War-era amputees who wanted to get their hobble on. A crude hunk of wood fastened to the remaining leg-matter, a peg leg was an option for upright mobility that today is a lot better than was the case a few hundred years ago: nowadays artificial legs and prosthetics allow the legless to run in Olympic-caliber strides, and move about without looking distinctly “parrot less.”

Rest Cure

Pioneered by Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell in the latter half of the 19th century, this controversial treatment was prescribed mostly to women who were seen as “hysterical.” The treatment called for a virtual surrendering of autonomy of women seen as some generic form of “not well.” Resting, in these terms, meant no reading, movement, talking, or imagination of any sort. As such, women striving for empowerment were rightfully taken aback by such medical suggestion (e.g. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” which emphasizes the mad tyranny in perpetually being told to stay in bed by a better-knowing man).


Even while leeches are still used to this day, it’s not often you go to the doctor complaining of a sore throat and he pulls out a juicy leech as a remedy. Barber-surgeons relied on this natural blood-letter to fix virtually every medieval ailment, thinking it could drain all impurities in a really good suck session. While it sounds barbaric, leeches do have true medical merit; they are used in some kinds of reconstructive surgery to prevent clotting, as the leeches produce a special anti-coagulant enzyme (called hirudin) in their saliva for that very purpose

Radiated Water

Before radium was seen as a radioactive health hazard, even while it’s used as a form of cancer treatment, it was inserted into water and marketed as a possible fountain of youth. (There was also a time when smoking was thought good for you.) It was suggested that it provided an undefinable “spark of life” when consumed, a death-defying miracle treatment of sorts. It was even put into toothpaste and other household goods. We still sell extremely dangerous substances(i.e. any not-yet-recalled prescription drug) under the pretense that it’ll make life so much better, that is assuming it doesn’t kill you.


Blood-letting stems back to an ancient Greek tradition, where in which blood would be drained from an afflicted individual in order to balance the bodily “humors” which were thought to be the determining factors of one’s health. This practice was kept up in medieval Europe as barber-surgeons would drain blood to rid toxins.


You may notice whenever you go to get a haircut by some lost-in-time WWII vet who really loves baseball, something that looks like a slice of a giant candy cane marking the door. What you may not realize is the origin of such a universal staple which goes back to when haircuts and major surgery shared a common denominator: the barber-surgeon. The red and white striping hails directly from the bloody bandages which said hack-artist would drape around a pole. Thankfully barbers these days only operate with a pair of hair clippers and the occasional lollipop.


The ultimate painkiller, cocaine used to be prescribed for a variety of mundane ailments, ranging from depression to headaches, and was naturally the best sought way to make all bad feelings turn to good ones. That was before it became illegal, or any kind of official evaluation or prolonged study turned out any possible negative effect of treating the stuff like aspirin, such as the addictive qualities, possibilities of overdose, and psychological/cardiological detriments. Freud himself had more than a bad habit, which explained all his vivid dreams, and saw no reason his patients couldn’t benefit themselves from his favorite nose candy. While it may have lost its favor in medical science, it maintained its popularity in nightclubs straight into the eighties.

Human/Animal Testing

While such is necessary as an ultimate step, going straight from hypothesis to dissection is wildly reckless, not to mention inhumane. This fact wasn’t learned without making some mistakes along the way: in testing the effectiveness the first polio vaccine, human subjects were used with little to no discrepancy. Few were able to live to tell about it. Now precautions are observed with great fastidiousness and humans are only called in when certainty is closely realized. The fact remains that animals are often used as a human substitute, which is no less cruel if you believe in animal rights. There are alternatives to animal testing, championed by most activist groups, such as plants and bacteria, lifeforms that don’t feel pain, where the only sacrifice is timeliness.

Insulin Shock Therapy

One of several controversial forms of “shock therapy” which involve, essentially, shocking a patient’s system into making a desirable change. Oftentimes such procedures apply to schizophrenics and those with severe cases of mental illness. With this particular example a patient is administered gradually increased doses of insulin until they seize and sink into a several day coma. The thinking is that some kind of normalization will lie on the other side of the coma, when more likely it’s just death. Here we have another “Try Anything” treatment that feigns to be medical science, and not just a bunch of intrusive tinkering, the likes of which aren’t unlike kicking a TV to get it to work right.

Conversion Therapy

Championed by conservatives and conservative-minded people, conversion theory is anything but a joke, that is actually valid as a school of medical thought. Also known as the “gay cure,” this treatment is alleged to reverse the onset of homosexuality as if it were a kind of disability or acquired trait. A big gray area in psychological study, homosexuality has been probed for ages, by both Freud and his daughter Anna, and hasn’t come up with any valid conclusiveness that can be pinpointed under a microscope. Obviously controversial, the therapy has resulted in pulverized self-esteem/worth and the occasional chance of suicide. After all, what can be expected when a child is told something he can’t control is “not right” with him. What comes to mind is Nazi scientists measuring Jewishness against intelligence level: xenophobia is a terrible inspiration for scientific research.


Hoodia Gordonii is marketed as an appetite suppressant. It is supposed to simply make the user “not hungry.” In theory, if you had enough Hoodia in your system you could go for days without eating. There is no published scientific evidence that Hoodia works as an appetite suppressant in humans. The safety and/or effectiveness of Hoodia Gordonii as a dietary supplement must thus be considered as unsubstantiated.


Hydroxycut is marketed as a metabolism booster and appetite suppressant. Early on, Hydroxycut was extremely popular due to ephedra in the product. Since the ban of ephedra in the U.S. the popularity of Hydroxycut has dropped dramatically. Though still claiming to be “clinically proven” to be a “fat Burner” there is no actual clinical study to support this fact.


TrimSpa is marketed as an appetite suppressant. TrimSpa formerly contained ephedra until that ingredient was banned in the U.S. The new TrimSpa formula X32 contains no ephedra. Its active ingredient is Hoodia gordonii, along with the stimulants caffeine and theobromine. Interestingly enough, TrimSpa’s spokesperson, Anna Nicole Smith, died with much controversy as to the cause.

CortiSlim / Relacore

Cortislim and Relacore are not actually marked as “weight loss pills.” The main thing these dietary supplements do is reduce “cortisol,” often referred to as the “stress hormone.” The theory behind Cortislim and Relacore is that stress creates “belly fat” and by reducing stress you can reduce fat. To achieve this stress reduction the pills claim to reduce cortisol levels.

Stacker 2

Stacker 2 is unique on this list in that it is marketed solely as a metabolism booster. The original Stacker 2 was based on the common stack known to many athletes and body builders of Aspirin (white willow bark), ephedrine (ma huang), and caffeine. These three components together create thermogenesis in the body, which speeds up metabolism and therefore burns calories at a higher rate. Since the ban of ephedra Stacker 2 has added other stimulant ingredients as substitutes.


Of all the items on the list, Propolene is perhaps the most credible. The main active ingredient in Propolene is glucomannan, a water-soluble polysaccharide composing 40% by dry weight of the roots or corm of the konjac plant. In a nutshell, it absorbs water to form a gel-like mass. This makes you feel full without actually eating. In obese patients, taking 1 gram of glucomannan with 8 ounces of water 1 hour before each of 3 meals daily over 8 weeks resulted in an average weight loss of 5.5 pounds. This product also boasts a clinical study published on a government website.

Alli / Xenical / Orlistat

Alli started out as the prescription drug Xenical. It is marketed as a fat burner though this is not precisely what it does. Its primary function is preventing the absorption of fats from the human diet, thereby reducing caloric intake. It also comes with a reduced calorie, low-fat diet. The major drawback of this pill is the “treatment effects.” Basically, if you don’t follow the diet, all that excess fat comes out the other end; uncontrollably. It’s suggested that you wear dark pants when first starting out and don’t go anywhere public for a couple days. It should also be noted that Alli is the only product, which is FDA, approved as a weight loss product, though the FDA regulates all dietary supplements.

Leptoprin / Leptopril / Formula 9

Leptoprin is marketed specifically towards people who are “significantly overweight.” Leptopril is the exact same formula and is marketed by the same company as a generic. Although much the same as many diet pills, it is most known for costing a whopping $153 per month. Originally, the product was called Anorex and the formula was based on the ECA Stack (see number 6 on this list), with an almost identical ingredients list. After the ban of ephedra, the name was changed to Leptoprin and the formula was changed (still containing almost exactly the same ingredients as Stacker 2). Then in 2007, the formula was changed once more as the parent company of “A. G. Waterhouse” and “Generix Labs” discontinued a failing product known as “Formula 9.” The current formula of Leptoprin/Leptopril is the same as Formula 9. As a fun side fact, a short while after the new formula went into effect you could actually get Leptoprin/Leptopril with “Formula 9” stamped on the capsules.


Zantrex-3 is marketed toward people under 30 as an energy boosting, fat burning diet pill. The ingredients of Zantrex contain about three types of caffeine with a whopping estimated total of 300 mg per serving. That’s about the equivalent of 3-4 cups of coffee. This is the cause of the majority of the side effects associated with Zantrex. It’s effectiveness as a diet pill though comes into question due to the company’s official stance that Zantrex-3 is designed specifically for people who only want to lose 5-10 lbs. As a fun side fact, Dustin Diamond claimed to have used Zantrex-3 and lost 13 lbs. in 2 weeks, while he was on the VH1 television show “Celebrity Fit Club.”

Estrin-D / Akavar 20/50

Estrin-D is marketed as the first diet pill designed specifically for premenopausal and menopausal women. Akavar 20/50 is marketed as “the fastest, easiest weight loss ever” and also boasts the claim “eat all you want and still loose weight.” You might be wondering why they are in the same listing. Well, get this; they are the exact same product. That’s right. They both contain the exact same list of ingredients save one. It should be noted that when Akavar was released in March 2007 it contained exactly the same ingredients as Estrin-D. However, due to a phenomenal marketing campaign the company soon sold out of Akavar containing DHEA (the differing ingredient). Thus, by the beginning of May 2007 Akavar was being manufactured without DHEA and is therefore technically different from Estrin-D. The product claims to work through “automatic calorie restriction” aka you feel full faster. The company will also claim that preliminary studies show an affect on ghrelin, the “hunger hormone.”
Honorable Mention: These products didn’t make the list due to the fact they are not pills. L. A. Weight Loss, Nutrisystem, Enviga Tea.
Afterword: Neither the contributor nor the List Universe endorse any of these products and would suggest that if you decide to try any of them do so only after checking the guarantee and under medical supervision. In the world of miracle pills, take nothing at face value. I feel that I should also mention that Relacore, the same company makes all Leptoprin/Leptopril/Formula 9, Zantrex-3, and Estrin-D/Akavar 20/50.


Milk is an excellent compress for minor burns; simply soak the burned area in milk for 15 minutes or so, or apply a milk-soaked washcloth to the area. Whole milk is effective: Its fat content soothes burns and promotes healing. But make sure to rinse your skin and the washcloth in cool water afterward, because the milk will smell. Additionally, Preparation H, the hemorrhoid treatment cream, is also incredibly effective when treating minor burns – just dab it on the area and you can cut 3 or more days off the healing time. This is because it contains a yeast derivative that speeds healing.
A word of warning about burns: You probably will instinctively reach for cold water to soothe a new burn. But don’t make it too cold. Using ice water can risk making the burn even worse, because extreme cold can kill just as many skin cells as extreme heat. (That’s why frostbite damage is very similar to the skin damage caused by a bad burn.) Cool, not cold, water will stop the burning from spreading through your tissues and will act as a temporary painkiller. So instead of running to the freezer, head to the kitchen faucet.

Cold Sores

Cold sores (also known as fever blisters) are uninvited guests. You may be free of them for months or even years … until one day when they drop in on you, usually at the worst possible time. Their stay may be merely inconvenient or downright painful, but it’s never pleasant. And once you get them, they stay a lot longer than a weekend. In fact, once you have the herpes simplex virus–which is what causes cold sores–you never permanently get rid of it. A compress of whole milk placed directly on the cold sore can ease pain and speed the healing process. Allow the milk to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before placing the compress on your skin. Be sure to rinse your skin afterward, because the milk can become sour smelling. Note: Whole milk, with its extra protein, works–other kinds don’t have the same healing effect. Alternatively, you can apply a high-alcohol content perfume to the area to dry it out. You will need to repeat this often and it can sting.


A typical earache begins when a congested eustachian tube-which runs from the back of the throat to the eardrum-can’t regulate pressure or fluids in the ear. Pain starts when mucus or pus builds up behind the eardrum. The more the fluid builds, the greater the pressure and pain. Some people swear by old-time heat treatments like this: warm up an oven-safe plate, wrap it in a towel, and rest your aching ear right on it. The plate should be warm and comforting, not hot. If you get an insect stuck in your ear, flush it out with alcohol – do not try to work it out with your finger or other objects as it is likely to push it further in. Once you have flushed it out, rinse your ear out with warm water.


Mild chafing happens to everyone, and usually just applying baby powder or talc to the problem area will help keep your skin happy, however if the problem persists – or you don’t have talc at home, try this: take cornstarch, spread it out across a baking pan and warm it in an oven at 150° F for about ten minutes, so it’s really dry. Test the temperature first. Then lightly dust it onto the problem area.

Upset stomach

The cheapest home remedy (which is also available in most homes) is a glass of water with baking soda mixed in to it. This relieves stomach ache caused by gas, and helps to neutralize stomach acids.

Bee Stings

One of the best ways to remove a stinger–and avoid any additional pain–is to “scrape”–it out of the skin with a credit card, a knife or a long fingernail, advises John Yunginger, M.D., professor and pediatrics consultant at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “The biggest mistake people make is trying to pull the stinger out. In doing that, you squeeze the tiny venom sac attached to the stinger and accidentally release more venom into your skin.” If you scrape the stinger out, this sac goes undisturbed. Some doctors say baking soda can help ease bee sting pain. Claude Frazier, M.D., an allergist in Asheville, North Carolina, recommends applying a paste of baking soda and water directly on the sting for 15 or 20 minutes. Another cure is to make a paste with meat tenderizer and water and apply it to the sting – the tenderizer breaks down the proteins in the venom, speeding up recovery.


Boils are the result of bacteria that invade through a microscopic break in the skin and infect a blocked oil gland or hair follicle. An abscess results when white blood cells, sent to kill the invaders, produce pus. Sounds nasty, but even though boils are sometimes painful and ugly, they’re rarely dangerous. A good home remedy for boils is using compresses of heated slices of tomato–or raw onion, mashed garlic or the outer leaves of cabbage. You can press these cut vegetables directly on the boil and see for yourself how well they work. Another kitchen compress: place a warm tea bag of black tea directly on the boil for 15 minutes several times a day.


Chilblains are acral ulcers that occur when a predisposed individual is exposed to cold and humidity. Causes are idiopathic or manifestations of serious medical conditions that need to be investigated. A time proven method to reduce the itching and pain that goes with chilblain is to soak your feet in a pot of warm urine. Yes – that’s right – pee. Urine is highly alkaline.


Americans spend more than $400 million a year on over-the-counter pain relievers, says Seymour Diamond, M.D., executive director of the National Headache Foundation and director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago. But before you spend yet another buck on pills that put down pain, here’s how to head off headaches the drug-free way. “You can ‘massage’ away headaches by pressing on certain acupressure spots,” says Dr. Sheftell. “One way is to squeeze the web of skin between your thumb and forefinger. Another area is the tiny ridge between your neck and the back of your head (approximately parallel with your earlobes).” You should also try to avoid bright lights and apply a cold compress to your head.


Most toothaches are due to bacteria and decay that have penetrated the tissue at the tooth’s center, according to Kenneth H. Burrell, D.D.S., director of the American Dental Association’s Council on Dental Therapeutics in Chicago. The subsequent inflammation causes pressure, which causes pain. Eugenol (oil of cloves) is available over the counter and provides exceptional temporary relief, especially for toothaches that are temperature-sensitive. Most drugstores sell eugenol toothache kits. You can even mix liquid eugenol with zinc oxide to create your own temporary fillings for painful cavities. A few drops on the tooth surface or in a cavity or crack should do the job until you can get to the dentist.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

The Myth: Somebody who avoids social interaction is “antisocial”.
This is mostly a semantic error, which is why I put it in tenth place. Many people refer to someone who is reluctant to participate in social situations as “antisocial”. In fact, these people are often pro-social, even unusually so.
Antisocial Personality Disorder is diagnosed in adults who consistently ignore the rights of others by behaving violently, lying, stealing, or generally acting recklessly with no concern for the safety of themselves or others. They are often extroverted and very much the opposite of the type of people who are so often called “antisocial”, who usually care very much about other people’s feelings. These people are usually just shy or have some form of autism, depression, social anxiety disorder, or avoidant personality disorder (AvPD). AvPD, which is diagnosed in people who avoid social interaction because of an intense fear of being rejected, is probably part of the reason for this confusion. The two personality disorders, after all, have pretty similar names, even if they are entirely different things.

Multiple Personality Disorder

The Myth: People with Dissociative Identity Disorder radically change their behavior and lose their memory of what has just been happening when they switch personalities.
Some people would say that DID itself is the myth, since it’s, suspiciously, much more commonly diagnosed in North America than anywhere else, but let’s assume for today that it does exist.
People with DID have anywhere from two to over a hundred different personalities that alternately take over their bodies. These alternate personalities (“alters”) usually, but not always, form due to childhood trauma. The alters don’t always cause huge, noticeable changes in appearance or behavior, so observers might not even notice their existence. Many people with DID (“multiples”) realize that various alters are present and know who those people are, even before therapy, which wouldn’t work very well if they had no memory of switching. It’s possible that one personality has no knowledge of what happened while one of their alters was in charge, causing a sense of amnesia, but they might be entirely aware of what is happening and just not actively involved. The group of alters can usually communicate to some degree, and might even work together to hide the fact that they are multiple. Some multiples prefer not to have therapy to choose one personality and stop switching, because they are perfectly fine living as a team.


The Myth: All people with dyslexia are unable to read because they see letters in the wrong order.
This is actually two myths in one, but still only two of many myths about dyslexia. The first is that dyslexic people can’t read. Actually, most do learn to read, but if they don’t get appropriate help, they often learn slowly and stay well below their grade level in speed and comprehension. But even that’s not always true: many dyslexic children figure out how to cover up their difficulty reading until third or fourth grade or even longer. And if they are taught by someone who understands dyslexia, they can learn to read perfectly well.
The other half of this myth is that the problem dyslexics have with reading is because they see words backwards or out of order. This can seem to be the case because, in their confusion while they try to figure out a word, they mix up letters or sounds, and some dyslexic people confuse left and right or have a lot of trouble spelling. However, this is not the cause of their problem. Dyslexia is much more to do with a unique way of thinking than a problem with processing visual information.


The Myth: Schizophrenic people hear voices in their heads.
We all know about schizophrenia, and we’ve all read jokes about “the voices in my head”. But, contrary to what a lot of people believe, not all people with schizophrenia hear voices in their heads. Auditory hallucinations are very common in schizophrenic people, but they are more likely to hear voices coming from some object outside of their body than inside their mind. Plus, not everyone with schizophrenia experiences the same symptoms. They may have hallucinations (actually seeing or hearing things that don’t exist), delusions (believing unrealistic ideas), disordered thoughts, lack of affect (no appearance of emotions), or, in catatonic schizophrenia, even a lack of desire to move at all. Schizophrenia is a complicated disorder with a wide range of possible symptoms. (Note that alternate personalities is not one of the symptoms. We already covered that disorder.)

Autism Spectrum Disorders

The Myth: Autism is a devastating disorder that will stop someone from ever being able to function in society.
There are many myths and even more potential/disputed myths about autism, but this seems to be one of the most common. Many people hear “autism” and imagine children who are permanently in their own world where they can’t talk or interact with anyone else, who throw tantrums for no apparent reason, and who will never be part of normal society. However, autism is called a spectrum disorder for a reason: autistics range from people who are unable to communicate in any way with others, all the way to people who live ordinary, productive lives and just seem a bit eccentric to the rest of us.
Severe autism is not a life sentence, either. Even very low-functioning autistics can lead a perfectly happy life. There are also stories of low-functioning autistic children improving with therapy and almost entirely recovering from any autism-related problems they had, and many people and organizations are searching for a cure for autism. Unfortunately, those organizations pushing for a cure are usually the ones who spread this particular myth by only focusing on issues related to low-functioning autism, and almost entirely ignoring the existence of high-functioning autism and autistic people who would never want to be “cured”

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

The Myth: People with ADHD are unable to pay attention to anything.
ADHD is a disorder that has been becoming pretty famous in recent years, so I’m sure you all know what it is. For those of you who aren’t sure, people with ADHD have trouble concentrating on tasks and can be hyperactive or impulsive. But it isn’t true, as it sometimes seems, that people with ADHD just can’t pay attention. Many of them can pay attention to something that they find genuinely interesting, the same way all of us are much more willing to be distracted from a dull task than an enjoyable one. And, in fact, some people have trouble focusing because they actually pay too much attention. They think about all the sights, sounds, and smells around them, not just the task at hand. They have to learn to deal with all the other interesting stimuli and keep most of their attention on what is important.

Selective Mutism

The Myth: Somebody with selective mutism is either refusing to speak, or has been abused or traumatized in the past.
This is the only disorder on the list that you may have never heard of by name before, though I’m willing to bet you’ve heard of it and its myths. I don’t know of another disorder with myths more commonly believed, not just by society as a whole but actually by professionals.
Selective Mutism (formerly Elective Mutism) is a disorder that almost always first appears in early childhood. Someone with selective mutism can, and often does, speak perfectly well, but doesn’t speak, and sometimes doesn’t even communicate in other ways, in specific situations. A very large number of parents, teachers and psychologists who work with selectively mute people believe that these people are choosing not to speak, maybe in an attempt to control other people. However, it turns out that most selectively mute people do want to talk, but don’t because they’re actually afraid to. An overwhelming majority of selectively mute people also suffer from social anxiety disorder, and silence seems to be one way that they cope with stressful situations. Punishing a child for not speaking, as many people who believe in this myth do, paradoxically makes the child even more anxious and therefore even less likely to speak.
But if you don’t know someone with selective mutism, chances are you still believe in a myth very common in the media: some children and teenagers stop talking entirely, or to everyone but one or two people, because they were traumatized or repeatedly abused. While some people do become mute after trauma, this usually lasts a few weeks, not months or years. Most people do not develop selective mutism in later childhood or because of any kind of trauma or abuse.


The Myth: People who intentionally cut, burn, or otherwise injure themselves are either trying to kill themselves or looking for attention.
Many people, particularly teenagers, who suffer from a variety of mental disorders cope with their inner pain by physically harming themselves, most commonly by cutting. Self-injury seems to be becoming more common and well-known these days, but myths about the self-injurer’s intentions have not gone away.
No matter what it looks like, self-injury is not a failed suicide attempt. Some self-injurers harm themselves over and over for years without having a single injury that would threaten their life, which would be an amazing record of failure if they were actually trying to die. Many people who self-injure are actually trying to avoid suicide by letting out their feelings in a (somewhat) safer way.
Many people also believe that self-injurers are just seeking attention. This is true of a few people, especially since self-injury is becoming more well-known and almost popular, but most self-injurers actively try to hide their injuries by wearing long sleeves or pants, or by cutting in a place that is usually covered by clothing, like their upper thighs or stomach. Some self-injurers desperately want someone to find out about their behavior so they can get the help they need, but even many of them are too frightened of another person’s reactions, and ashamed of themselves, to actually point out their injuries. Besides, even if someone decided to injure themselves to get attention, shouldn’t you be very concerned about be what problem could be causing them to need attention so badly that they harm themselves to get it?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The Myth: People with OCD are always obsessed with the danger of germs, and usually are very particular about neatness.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people say that they’re OCD because they’re very neat or careful about cleanliness. Most people seem to think that people with OCD are neat freaks and/or germophobes, not realizing that it’s a lot more complicated than that.
OCD is an anxiety disorder with two characteristics. First, people with OCD have recurring unwanted thoughts (obsessions), usually of something they find disturbing or not at all in their character. It’s common to have an obsession about germs or contamination, or of not having properly locked their doors so burglars can’t get in, but it’s also common to have thoughts about something terrible happening to their families, about hurting or even killing someone, doing something forbidden in a religion they strongly believe in, or any other undesirable idea. Second, these people think that doing some certain ritual will get rid of the danger. It could be washing hands, keeping their house in perfect order, checking that the door is locked, thinking certain words, avoiding odd numbers, or just about anything imaginable. Doing this compulsion doesn’t make the thoughts go away for very long, so the ritual is repeated.
Not everyone who has OCD cares about germs, or does the rituals that we usually hear about. Not everyone even has compulsions an observer would actually notice, since a lot of them are mental. And perfectionism or neatness? While some people with OCD are perfectionists, this is more associated with another disorder. If you liked the first entry, you’ll love this: the disorder is called Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, and it’s actually a different thing. One major distinction is that people with OCPD consider their habits to be part of themselves and desirable, while people with OCD are often very disturbed by their disorder.