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PMO, a Disorder that Causes People to see “Demon” Faces

Edited faces that show how Victor Sharrah sees faces (A. Mello)
Edited faces that show how Victor Sharrah sees faces (A. Mello)

Imagine one day you wake up, same as you have every day of your life, but the first person you see looks like a demon.  This may sound like the pitch for a scary story, but this was the reality for a man named Victor Sharrah, 59. His condition is called prosopometamorphopsia, or PMO for short, it is an extremely rare neurological condition that, since 1904, has had less than 100 cases reported. As a result, there is doubt on whether or not this condition exists.

This condition’s cause is mostly unknown, but it seems to come from different head injuries, stroke, or epilepsy. Sharrah suffered a head injury prior to developing PMO, and MRI scans revealed a cut on his hippocampus.

When Sharrah woke up, his world was suddenly changed; he went from a social man who loved being around people to not wanting to be around them at all. PMO turned out to be a debilitating disease for him and completely wrecked his life.

People have questioned the legitimacy of this disease, due to the fact that causes are unknown and it’s so rare. PMO is not yet listed on the American Health Association or the American Psychiatric Association, but neither lists are extensive. However, it is unjust to accuse people of lying without evidence, and there is evidence in similar head traumas and similar experiences among people. 

Not to mention the lack of cases could be attributed to stigma around mental disorders, especially this one. Even extremely widespread mental disorders (depression and anxiety) that have been around for years and people still believe they are made up and people who have them are just crazy.

PMO could also be underdiagnosed as a result of its rarity. It obviously is not a well known disorder, so some doctors may misdiagnose it or simply disregard their patients symptoms, assuming they are making it up. Doctors obviously can’t be aware of every small condition that exists, therefore making PMO harder to diagnose. The Smithonian even said that “Doctors often mistake PMO for mental health conditions like schizophrenia or psychosis.” The article continues to explain that the difference between these conditions is that people with PMO don’t think their world is normal, they are aware that what they see isn’t real. While, people with schizophrenia and psychosis believe they see the world differently. 

Overall PMO is a very real, very scary condition that is rare but the numbers have been rising in recent years. Hopefully PMO will soon get the recognition it deserves so that awareness and proper diagnosis can increase.

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About the Contributor
Avery Colinas
Avery Colinas, Journalist
I'm currently in 9th grade, and my favorite things to do are write and listen to music. I mostly enjoy fiction writing and poetry but I am also excited to write journalism.

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