We associate diseases with something unpleasant and often dangerous, and there are reasons for this. However, there are diseases that, at first glance, can be compared with superpowers.
Bright Side found rare diseases that not only make scientists think a lot but also make people look like heroes of comic strips.
5. Super memory
Hyperthymesia is a memory condition whereby a person remembers an abnormally vast number of their life experiences in detail. There are only 60 people in the world with such a diagnosis. Patients can give a detailed description of any day from their life – even from their childhood. They can recite passages from books they read many years ago as well as news from any day of any year.
People suffering from hyperthymesia cannot misrepresent their memories or sugarcoat moments they would like to forget. They remember everything.
The BBC told the story of Rebecca Sharrock, an Australian writer, who remembers how she was wrapped in a pink blanket when she was only 7 days old. Her memory is unique: look at how she recites passages from Harry Potter without forgetting a word. However, she doesn’t consider hyperthymesia a “gift,” and she complains about headaches, insomnia, and getting tired quickly.
4. Insensitivity to pain
Congenital analgesia is a condition in which a person cannot feel physical pain. Surprisingly, despite the rareness of this syndrome, 40 cases have been stated in one village in Sweden.
At first glance, it seems that it’s a true superpower because the syndrome affects neither mental health nor appearance. The person just doesn’t feel any pain at all, perhaps a slight touch. The danger of the disease lies in the fact that a patient may not notice illnesses that cause pain. It’s especially dangerous for little children who can hurt themselves while playing, damage the cornea of their eye, bite a piece of their tongue, or not notice a broken bone.
3. The ability to do practically everything
Savant syndrome is a rare condition specific to individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and Asperger syndrome. People with this condition are extremely talented in music, painting, calculations, cartography, and constructing 3D models.
Savants can instantly calculate multiplications of 3-digit numbers or name the day of the week of May 5, 3017. Stephen Wiltshire drew a detailed map of London after only one flight over the city.
Many people call savants geniuses, and they possess extreme talents in some spheres. But despite these “islets of genius,” patients can show inferiority, including mental retardation. A famous example of a savant is Forrest Gump from the novel by Winston Groom.
2. Insensitivity to cold
In addition to people who don’t feel pain, there are people who don’t feel cold. For instance, Wim Hof is a Dutchman who puzzled doctors with his ability to withstand extreme cold. He stayed immersed in ice for 120 minutes, climbed Mont Blanc dressed in nothing but shorts, and even swam under the ice of frozen reservoirs.
Specialists claim him to be a unique phenomenon, but Wim himself thinks that the ability to withstand cold is the result of his training.
1. Complete absence of fear
Urbach–Wiethe disease is a rare genetic disorder that leads to a complete absence of fear. Only 300 cases are known, and a quarter of them occurred in South Africa.
The most famous patient “who knows no fear” is an American woman with the name S.M. (these initials were given to her to preserve her anonymity). Researchers tried to scare her in different ways: they gave her poisonous spiders and snakes, showed her horror films, and locked her in haunted houses. All the attempts were in vain.
Moreover, S.M. herself told about scary situations that didn’t frighten her: a night attack with a knife and a case of home violence after which she hardly managed to survive. The head of the research group finds it surprising that the woman is still alive because she has lost the ability to evaluate danger.
Which case surprised you most? Share with us in the comments!
Illustrated by Daniil Shubin for Bright Side