So we were sitting in the writers’ room today, discussing health issues over lunch, when someone told us about a friend who had recently undergone heart surgery. Turns out his “chest was feeling funny” one day and he decided to get it checked it out. A series of tests revealed he was about to suffer a major heart attack and he was immediately rushed to the O.R.. Rewind to another conversation, days earlier, with my cousin Matt who’s an airline pilot. Someone he knew was suffering from minor leg pains one day and, at the insistence of his girlfriend, swung by the hospital to get it checked out. Turns out he had blood clot that, had it gone undiagnosed, could have killed him. The lesson here? “If you ever have a strange pain,”my cousin advised me, “get it checked out.”

A strange pain? Anywhere? Come on! My day wouldn’t be complete without an assortment of strange pains and at least one funny feeling in either my chest, back, or inner skull region.

The truth is, I used to be a hypochondriac. When I was younger, my bedside companion was my mother’s well-worn Encyclopedia of Diseases. Whether it was ulcers, the mumps, or the early onset of river blindness, between the ages of 10 and 15, I was sure I had it. And the more exotic and incurable, the better. I’m feverish! It’s typhoid! I‘m sleepy! It’s trypanosomiasis! I’ve had quite a few nosebleeds of late! Could it be a touch of the ebola?!   Eventually, it just grew so tiresome that I gave up my worrisome ways and, today, I’m at the opposite extreme – dismissing any potential symptom as either a weight-training injury or the consequence of last night’s double-dessert dinner.

Nevertheless, my experience back then did serve to educate.  By the time I was in high school, I was fairly well-versed in the wonderful world of awful afflictions, dreadful disorders, and curious conditions. Sure, there were the more common ones like scarlet fever or shingles, and even the more unfamiliar ones like Lassa fever and Guinea worm disease. But the ones that really interested me were those that were beyond bizarre; weirder than weird. The following are some of my favorites. They are real (I shit you not). If you or someone you know suspects they are suffering from one of the following (or have experienced a strange pain, funny feeling, or unusual sensation similar to an itch, pinch, scratch or branding by red hot iron) then please consult a physician immediately…

Moebius Sydrome: Due to a lack of developed facial nerves, the afflicted lack the ability to manifest and control facial expressions. As a result, they may often sleep with their eyes open. Contrary to rumor, Keanu Reeves does NOT suffer from this condition.

Odine’s Curse (aka: congenital central alveolar hypoventilation syndrome): Those afflicted cannot breathe automatically and must will each breath or risk respiratory arrest. One of those rare cases where those who threaten to hold their breath until they turn blue actually do.

Foreign Accent Sydrome: The afflicted begins speaking with a foreign accent after suffering a stroke or brain injury. No word on exactly which accept has proven most popular with the cerebrally-challenged.

Capgras Syndrome: Those afflicted are convinced that their loved ones have been replaced by imposters. A horrific condition – but one that certainly spices things up in the bedroom.

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (aka: Todd’s Syndrome): Those afflicted perceive objects are either larger (macrospia) or smaller (microspia) than they really are. Side view and rear view car mirrors are often used to compensate.

Pica: Those suffering from this condition are driven by the urge to consume non-food substances, everything from earth and paint to string and Arby’s.

56 thoughts on “February 16, 2009: Awful Afflictions, Dreadful Disorders, and Curious Conditions

  1. LOL, wow that’s pretty cool you were able to outgrow your hypochondria. But you had the right idea, you controlled it instead it controlling you – cool. I’m sure it didn’t happen overnight, but you got thru it.

    Holy Hanna – if I went to the doctor for every ache and pain… my insurance company would drop me. I think one knows when something is really wrong. I work with some people who are constantly, I mean constantly, from the time they walk in the door to the minute they leave, moaning about their aches and pains, I get to the point that I hear it so much, I’m not phased by it, my sympathy has dried up- one day they are going to be really, really sick and I’m not going to believe them. There’s no time for me to get sick, if I don’t stay healthy there wouldn’t be anyone there.

    So I have a question about office etiquette, ( has nothing to do with illness) when one is leaving their desk, for i.e. a break, lunch, to use the restroom, shouldn’t one make sure that one isn’t leaving their fellow co-workers with multiple calls in queue to answer??? This happens frequently to me and I am left to answer 3 or 4 calls and then I have to hear the callers complain about how long they have been on hold. Am I wrong?

  2. all these conditions should be used on ‘house’. 😛

    there’s another super strange one, when someone wishes to have a limb removed. they’ll even go so far as to damage the limb (like putting their leg into something like dry ice) so that it’ll have to be cut off.

    i watched an episode of 20/20 (i think) on it. 😯 😛

  3. Foreign Accent Syndrome sounds awesome.

    Actually, funny you should mention this. I normally don’t go to the doctor unless I absolutely have to. Yesterday I got another headache, as I too often due, from bending/crouching and then standing up. It’s been going on for some time, and always in the same place, too. I began to panic that I might have a brain tumor and have only months to live. … I really should get that checked out at some point.

  4. I will consider my career as a medic complete the day I run into a case of Thyroid Storm. Something we learn about in class, and which we will probably never see in real life. Even if we do, the odds of recognising it in the field are almost nil. Still, I periodically review the symptoms just in case….
    Congratulations on your change from hypochondriac to uncaring. The fact is, we’re all doomed. And for every case where someone finds a life threatening condition lurking behind that excess flatulence or post nasal drip, there are 20-50 people who clog up the health care system with something that could be relieved with a better diet or tissues. The best advice is to know yourself well enough to recognise if something feels different enough to be worth checking out. And for goodness sake, if ever ANYONE feels like they are about to die, please call 911. I’ve seen too many cases where patients waited too long, or almost too long, to get the medical care they needed. (sheepishly slinking down from my soapbox and tiptoeing away)

  5. My Irish Terrier has Pica. If only he would settle for Arby’s. I finally had to get him a dog for his birthday last year and we’ve only had one emergency since. It’s time to rejoice when you have only one vet bill over $500 in a calendar year. (Riley will be 3 in March.)

  6. Sad person that I am I couldn’t resist adding these conditions to your list.

    Kawasaki disease, no not a fear of motorbikes but an autoimmune disease. One of the signs of which is a peeling of the skin of the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.

    Kuru also known as laughing disease characterised by shaking fits of laughter. It was at one point endemic in the tribes of Papua New Guinea due to funeral practices, in which relatives consumed the deceased to return the “life force” of the deceased to his people.

    Angelman syndrome was also known as Happy Puppet syndrome because of the happy appearance of the sufferer. Reminiscent of High School Musical!

    Obscure as some of these are I know someone who has Kawasaki and someone who has Angelman syndrome, I also nursed someone with Ondine’s curse were if they fall asleep they forget to breath….people who play World of War Craft all night beware.


  7. Years ago, I used to love an Arby’s roast beef while in grad school. Must have been that short bout of undiagnosed Pica or the result of long-term brain melting many grad students experience. Maybe that’s why I became a vegetarian–side effect of consumption of bad roast beef

    Joe, a while ago you posted something about your top ten favorite SF books of late. I can’t find the entry but there was a book or two in the list I wanted to check out. I looked at Baron Destructo’s list but didn’t spot it. So, this is my long winded request for you to list your favorite SF books, besides Scalzi.

  8. Hi Joe, one of my son-in-law’s friends married an American girl, moved her to England from some two-horse town in Ohio and now, slap my ass and call me Sally – she’s come down with Foreign Accent Syndrome after a year. At my daughter’s wedding, all I could do was bite my lip from bursting out laughing at her newly acquired horrible English accent. Oi.

  9. My abnormal psych teacher told a story about her experience with Pica. She was supervising a group of children outside, one of which suffered from Pica. She routinely prevented this child from eating rocks, sticks, dirt, and on one occasion, a dead bird. Apparently, there’s a special facility in Missouri (probaby other places, too; Missouri was the only one she spoke of) for Pica sufferers who require 24 hour supervision.

    I can remember this, but I can’t spell “judgment” right on the first try. My brain is disappointing at times.

  10. The modern version of your mother’s well-worn Encyclopedia of Diseases seems to be watching too much House.

    “It’s never Lupus. House said so.”

    “Way to go. Your vomitting is caused by that foul decaf. House would agree.”

    “It’s the nicotine gum. Trust me, I’ve been watching House.”

    Ok, so that last one probably wouldn’t go down well with my job as a quit advisor.

  11. crazymom1 – Prayers going out for Emma, and for those who love her.

    (Major) Anne Teldy – always good to hear an update. Hang in there!

    Joe, glad you got over your irrational fears as you grew up … or did you?

  12. Huh. I have Todd’s Syndrome, but it is TOTALLY different… 😛

    Joe, I was a lot like you when I was younger, too…thought I had rabies once. 🙄 It’s one reason I can’t watch House – I’ll surely have whatever weirdo disease he’s investigating. So, I bury my head in the sand, and now I ignore stuff until I’m almost dead (recent bout of pneumonia, for instance). But then when I do go to the doctor for something – for those ‘funny feelings’ – they brush it off as anxiety. So why bother? Women are often misdiagnosed for anxiety when they are having heart attacks, or suffering from serious diseases, such as ovarian cancer, because doctors are SO convinced that every woman simply suffers from anxiety attacks.

    This thought goes back centuries. Back then, when a woman was suffering from whatever was afflicting her at the time, doctors would diagnose them with ‘hysteria’, which basically meant that their ‘hystera’, or uterus, was aggitated (even jumping about inside), and the recommended cure was said to be pregnancy. Yup. That’s how you fix women’s troubles – knock ’em all the hell up!


    Foreign Accent Syndrome – didn’t Kirk Douglas develop an Italian accent after his stroke? My husband has this syndrome naturally – he’s a great mimic, and whenever he’s around someone with an accent, he immediately picks it up. I tell him to be careful because people might think he’s mocking them, but he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it – he’s just very good with languages, accents, and impersonations.

    Pica – ugh. Don’t get me started on that one. I have a couple friends who would with the mentally challenged, and this is one disorder that they are always dealing with – the vomit eaters, the glove eaters, the poo eaters…yeah. NOT a nice disorder. 😛

    One of the more interesting conditions are those caused by parasites and stuff…like the guinea worm:

    And the bestest of all – the famous bot fly video!

    That last one…you might NOT want to watch…it just made me kinda dizzy…


  13. Hey Joe.

    Who do you think would win in a fight: A Wraith or a Borg from Star Trek? Furthermore, in a space battle which do you think would come out victorious: Wraith hive or a Borg Cube??

    My vote would go for the Wraith…maybe…

  14. I know several kids with autism with pica. It makes you appreciate that your kid just has classical autism. Interesting that there is a greater incidence of pica in people with autism.

  15. Hi Joe
    i’ve been out of town for the last couple days and am just playing catch up on whats going. Glad to hear that the writers that have moved on are doing well. i guess it must feel weird, like that feeling when all your friends from college have moved on and gotten married.
    well i had a really “stop, wow” moment. I just recently started watching NCIS the other day. I am not a big fan of CSI type shows, but i do like Mark Harmon’s work. But thats not what brought this moment about, i was watching this episode and there out of the blue is Don S. Davis in a minor role. Kind what i need at that moment.
    I know you have said you don’t watch much TV, but when you do, do you enjoy seeing familiar faces that you have worked with in the past????

    thanks for all the hard work you do!

  16. Hi Joe:

    Pica is also very common in cats who feel the need to consume things like fur coats, house plants, cooked vegetables, my freshly baked cheese cake and my left out make-up. Sadly, this particular feline hasn’t quite got the knack for applying my make-up properly and comes across looking like a furry clown.

    A question:

    How has writing a script for the Atlantis movie differed from writing a script for a weekly show, besides the length of the script, of course?

    Patricia (AG)

  17. A former friend of mine, Sylvia, had a relative with Moebius Syndrome.

    It was interesting, when she described her to me, the social effects of not having the ability to express emotions through the face from birth had on the girl. Sylvia described her as very bland and very awkward socially. She couldn’t smile or frown or even look surprised. She was also very dependent on her parents and had no desires to be independent in the future.

    Odine’s Curse sounds terrible. Guess that would teach one to not let their mind wander. But if they get knocked unconscious. Whew.

    I saw a woman on tv who had suffered a severe concussion that had her in a coma for a long while and woke up not able to speak in any other accent but a British one (she’d grown up in the U.S. ). A valid reason to pull a Madonna, I think.


  18. Joe,

    Without giving any embarrassing details, I think you’re a terrific guy. And I knew that all along. Well, for as long as I’ve been reading this blog.



  19. “Foreign Accent Sydrome: The afflicted begins speaking with a foreign accent after suffering a stroke or brain injury. No word on exactly which accept has proven most popular with the cerebrally-challenged.”

    Uh, funny you should mention FAS…. My grandmother suffers from it. When she has her ‘lapses'(she has suffered for nearly 40 years, due to a car accident) her accent is a curious mix between Polish, French-Canadian(a Quebecois accent as I’ve been informed by my Canadian relatives) and some other non-identified dialect.

    It’s actually rather interesting to speak to her when she is in ‘full accent’ mode(hers is triggered by stress that irritates the whatever that triggers the thingamagig{in other words *insert long medical diatribe here*}).

  20. Hmm, I used to be a bit of a worrier in my childhood/pre-teen years. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was a “hypochondriac”, but my parents were always sighing when I expressed concerns over possibly being bitten by a vampire bat or having rabies (not exactly common in Australia back then…I don’t even think it is now actually).

    The ones you just wrote out really take the cake when it comes to bizarre. I think, perhaps, once I had Capgras Syndrome actually (or maybe that was from the lack of sleep? Or too much to drink??).

    Thanks for the laugh.


  21. HEY!!! I worked at Arby’s… oh wait your right nothing of actual food there. I could tell you an awesome story about the sause but they made me sign a form.

  22. But doesn’t it seem a little too easy to write off somebody’s random fear that their loved ones have been replaced by pod people as crazy? You know that the one time you completely sign off on them, they’re gonna be right.

  23. Apparently my cat has pica, as well. He will not stop eating the rags I try to leave in their crates, I can’t have plastic bags anywhere where he can get to them, and so far he’s eaten the straps off of two tank tops I’ve left on my bed. I suppose I should be grateful only one of my cats does this.

  24. bonjour Joseph!

    Vous allez bien? moi aussi je suis hypocondriaque mais pas avec que les amis, un peu avec tout^^, en ce moment ma grande phobie c’est qu’il est un attentat térroriste dans le métro, moi je dit on est plus en sécurité chez sois^^!

    Bon je m’envol pour Paris en début d’aprés midi, passez une bonne semaine, et souhaitez moi bonne chance pour que la convention ce passe bien =)

    Bisou bisou, je vous adore!

  25. Oh thanks Joe, that’s just what I needed. Like you, not a day goes by for me without something hurting or feeling odd, and now you’re telling me I could die because of them? Haven’t my conversation with das shown how much of a hypochondriac some us were?! Gaaaah!!

    I might as well start writing my eulogy! :p

    So anyway, been very busy the last few days working on assignments and studying for midterms; have been able to check in every day though, just to at least take in in general what each entry is about. It seems like you guys are really keeping SGU under wraps for now; hopefully you guys (or someone) can release at least some info soon so that the fandom doesn’t stagnate on old info.

  26. HMMM I used to be like that for a while ..a worry wart but it Faded off figure if its my time oh well!

  27. Hi there Mr M!!

    Curious Afllictions and the like? Hmmmm…. Well, many moons ago, when I was at University, we had to study alot of the rarer syndromes and disorders, which lead to us trying to create fancy syndrome names with varying degrees of illness/incapacity…..though in a jokey way.

    Example: There was a particular classmate (who shall remain nameless) who had….let’s say….. a rather inflated impression of himself/ and his circle of “friends”.
    Student 1: Hey, check it out, I got myself a new bike!
    Particular Classmate: Oh, well I have three of those in assorted colours, with more gears

    Student 2: You’ll never guess who I just met!!! The head gaffer on the set of MacGyver
    Particular Classmate: I have lunch with RDA Every day..

    Any-hoo, we (the class) came up with the perfect affliction title:

    Hans Christian Andersen Syndrome.

    Symptoms Include:

    Verbal diarrhoea, excessive bragging, inflated ego, diva-esque demands, and generally living in a fantasy.

    Treatment Includes:

    A short sharp contact of shoe leather with the posterior.

    Suffice it to say, we had other syndromes/afflictions but they are for pints/scoops in an Irish Pub some day in the future.

    Best to all


  28. We were learning about weird diseases in college the other day. Apparently Beaver Fever (Giardiasis) is quite common in America.

    People who spend time in institutional or day-care environments are more susceptible – like Stargate production offices!

    Symptoms include loss of appetite, fever, explosive diarrhea, hematuria (blood in urine), loose or watery stool, stomach cramps, upset stomach, projectile vomiting (uncommon), bloating, flatulence, and burping (often sulphurous)

    I know it takes alot to put you off your food but if you ever are then maybe you could suggest this to your doc.

  29. What I find curious is that people seek out MY advice for their aches, pains & general maladies. While my brother might be a doctor (married to a nurse) & everyone else in the family went on to pursue a medical field of some kind, I, in fact, am a Broadcast major, specializing in writing & production.

    Maybe it is because people trust the media more than doctors. Or, they trust “media doctors” (see varied House references) more than real ones.

    Self-diagnosis, alive & well on the internet!

  30. I also do not have everything, or for that matter anything, checked out. If I did, sometimes I think I would be too busy running to the Doctors all the time.

    Are you pulling our legs on those syndromes listed? I am very gullable and am not sure right now (I am at work and confused because of you, lol).

  31. Aphasia (is that the name in English?) looks like a fun one. You could cry out loud whatever you want, that it’ll come out like cryptographed and no one will understand you, even if it sounds good to you.
    And yes, I saw that in a House episode hahaha.
    The combination of medicine and ass remarks are just too fun.


  32. Odd pains? No thanks, I have as many as I can handle for now. No unusual diseases in the family, just rare cancers. I think it is from living on the Naval weapons Station in the high desert in the early 60s.

    When I began studying psychology, our class was warned that we’d see evidence of every disorder in ourselves. Took some time to shake it, especially as I really did have lock-up crazy relatives. Being part and parcel of their delusions and hallucinations was quite the experience. The relatives, not the psych class.

  33. @Dadvid: Not that you were asking me, but I think a Borg would kick a Wraith’s ass any day, but a Wraith ship would destroy a Borg cube. Crap, I’m way too old for this 🙂

  34. Hello Mr Malozzi,

    Hey! Welcome to the club of hypochondriacs !

    But three weeks ago I woke up with no chest feeling at all and had seven cardiac arrests!

    Now, with a pacemaker I am happy to live today !! and a little bit less hypochondriac !

    I do not whish you this kind of treatment ! A little bit too radical.

    Have a nice day.

  35. Wow, that’s some crazy stuff. I think a few of those have appeared on Grey’s.

    Well, if you are ever feeling down and need a good laugh, not to mention something to taunt Peter DeLuise with, take a peek at my old time favourite: “Solarbabies”!

    Ha ha it came on TV last night and since I hadn’t seen it in years I gave it a watch. Nothing like Peter DeLuise roller skating around a desert in little 80’s shorts, it’s even better than his Sea Quest days. If that is not enough, check out Adrian Pasdar running around with an owl on his shoulder.

    All joking aside, I loved that movie when I was a kid and strangely enough still enjoy it.

  36. re: yesterday’s pic, I thought it was Pee-Wee Herman at first — all Martin needed was the bow-tie and a bicycle …. Not a criticism, I like Pee-Wee; just an observation. 🙂

    @crazymom ~ my thoughts are with little Emma and your family. 🙁

    @das ~ I heard that Chris Heyerdahl said at the Wolf convention that Todd/Sheppard totally exists, pointing out that they spent time in jail together …. *Evil grin*

  37. Hello Joe!
    I don’t want to bash you, but where are the news about the actresses? I know it is not your fault, but this delay is one of the worst PR for a tv series, what I’ve ever seen. How can MGM and SciFi handle the fans so? 🙁

  38. @ wolfenm – Ah, yes, yes, yes…Shodd. As I said, it’s a bit worrisome when the actors start shipping their own characters. 😆 He also said (most lasciviously, too) that Sheppard was ‘delicious’ – suggesting that Wraith derive sensual pleasure from feeding much as humans do through sex. So, I stand behind my belief that Todd is the 10,000-year-old virgin, and when he’s around humans – even Sheppard – he only has one thought on his mind:



  39. Here’s a true nightmare condition. Koro. It affects males only. The belief that one’s penis has been stolen or shrunk. It would be even funnier if people haven’t been killed after being accused of being the magic users who have done the stealing.

  40. Das: I was itching to email you Saturday evening.. but with bouncing around the place as I was and realising you maybe hadn’t seen the match yet, I decided against it. T’was absolutely wonderful to watch though and from what coherent speech I could get from my Dad over the phone, he enjoyed it too 😛

    Favourite Ref? Steve Walsh.. A Kiwi and former rugby player himself, I just love the way he handles the Teams when on pitch. I also have to give the guy dues for always managing to rub the English players up the wrong way. Gotta love that 😉

    Joe: Going back to yesterday’s blog entry.. Do you feel there ever comes a time when a good thing can be reset too often?

  41. I’ve heard of Pica – apparently many pregnant women develop it temporarily. Did Teyla have this urge??? 🙂

  42. Thank god I’m not the only kid who constantly looked up everything in the disease dictionary. The one time I caught pneumonia, my mother kept telling me to rest and wouldn’t let me read the book! I was miserable stuck with the not knowing.

    I convinced myself I had Parkinsons a few months ago. Turns out it was most likely just fatigue. *sheepish*

    Have the actresses not been announced because they have not been officially cast yet? Or have they been cast and you’re just waiting for the right moment?

  43. Dear joe,

    1.) Can we expect more brillant space ship battles for the upcoming Stargate Atlantis movie?
    2.) Will We get to see you making a Cameo appearance in the movie?
    3.) Will the Wraith still exist beyond project twilight?
    4.) What did John Sheppard mean when he told Todd the Wraith in the Enemy at the gates: “let’s make sure it won’t happen again…”

    Thanks buddy and greatings from soon to be snowy Montreal

  44. Does this mean that when my leg felt like the blood was flowing to slowly and I just hit it a few times because it was getting on my nerves I should have actually gone to the hospital in case of a clot?

    Hmmm….. not really worried cos hitting it worked like a charm.

  45. Do you always get stuck with the same wee squiggly monster when you post on this thing?

    Does anyone know how to change it?

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