• Thu. May 30th, 2024

The Bizarre Visual Disorder of Prosopometamorphopsia: Living in a Prolonged Nightmare


Mar 26, 2024

Victor Sharrah woke up one morning feeling terrified as he saw his roommate with pointy ears, gigantic eyes, and a slanted mouth that extended to the edges of his face. Trying to remain calm, Sharrah took her dog for a walk, but the people she passed on the street had equally strange and twisted faces. Feeling like she had entered a demonic world, Sharrah began to panic and even considered being admitted to a psychiatric unit.

The 58-year-old chef from Clarksville, Tennessee, soon discovered that she was not losing her mind as she feared. With the help of experts, she learned that she suffers from a rare vision condition called prosopometamorphopsia, or PMO. People with this condition see distorted faces in various ways. While Sharrah sees demons, others may see elves or faces that constantly move.

Despite experiencing PMO for over three years, Sharrah’s condition is unique in that faces on flat screens appear normal to her. Researchers at Dartmouth College have created photorealistic images to depict how individuals with PMO perceive distorted faces. The exact cause of prosopometamorphopsia remains unknown, but it is believed to be a symptom rather than a disorder with multiple potential causes.

Sharrah, who has a brain injury from a previous accident, found relief in learning about PMO through an online support group. She now wears glasses with a green tint to alleviate the severity of the distortions. While she has largely adapted to her strange new world, crowded places can still be overwhelming with “demons” surrounding her.

Many individuals with PMO face a difficult decision on whether to tell others about their distorted perceptions. Some choose to remain silent to avoid being perceived as crazy. Sharrah shared her experience to help others with PMO avoid unnecessary hospitalizations for psychosis. By raising awareness about this condition, she hopes to prevent others from experiencing the trauma she went through.

By editor

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