73132254007 Picture 1

Victor Sharah has always been a social person, but over the past three years, he has found himself increasingly withdrawn.

Because one day in November 2020, 59-year-old Sharah woke up to see people’s faces distorted, or what she called “demons.”

“I woke up that way one morning and I was shocked,” Sharah told USA TODAY.

Sharah is one of the very few people in the world. Prosopometamorphopsia or PMOA recent study has revealed a rare condition that causes a person to see deeply strained features with deep dimples on the forehead, cheeks and chin. Published In The Lancet.

Afraid of what was happening, he texted a support group he was a member of for bipolar disorder.

“This woman came back to me and said, ‘If you give me five minutes and give me your phone number, I can explain what it is,'” Sharah recalled.

Desperate for answers and panicking, Sharah takes the call, and it brings some relief.

“It was scary, I was ready to commit suicide. I thought I had flipped my lid,” Sharah said.

How rare is PMO?

As a website in rarE disorderOnly about 75 cases were found of those confirmed by the PMO.

The condition varies from person to person but is characterized by facial distortions, including features that are distorted, small, large, stretched out or in a different position, according to the website.

It is not fully understood what causes a person to have PMO, but according to research, some cases may be related to head injury, stroke, epilepsy or migraine.

Sharah said that he suffered a head injury 17 years ago, which required hospitalization. In the year In 2007, while working as a long-distance driver, his trailer door jammed. As he tried to pull the handle off, he fell backwards and hit his head on the concrete.

According to the study, head trauma is one explanation for Sharrah’s PMO. The other was carbon monoxide poisoning, which Sharah experienced four months before the onset of symptoms.

In addition, MRI tests found a lesion in the hippocampus of the brain.

Researchers create a distorted view of Sharah

According to the study, PMO typically makes faces look distorted all the time. However, in Sharah’s case, the distortions only occurred when he was looking at someone in real life — not in photographs or on a computer screen.

This allowed researchers to create visualizations to test and understand the distortions Sharah was seeing.

“In the process, we were able to visualize the patient’s perception of the facial distortion,” said the lead author Antonio MelloA doctoral student in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth University said in an article. Published At the university.

Researchers took a picture of a person and showed that image to Sarah on a computer screen. It then looks at the person’s face in real life and compares it to the photo on the screen and tells the researchers what differences they see. That information was then used to create enhanced images to match what Sharah described.

While the images give an idea of ​​what Sharah is seeing, he says they don’t tell the whole story of how horrific the experience was.

“I mean, the facial expressions move with them. I don’t know how to say it. It’s like talking to a character in an episode of Star Trek,” he explained.

Raising awareness

Sharah says he’s speaking publicly about his experience with PMO, hoping to raise awareness and help anyone who is experiencing these symptoms and isn’t sure what’s going on with them.

“It’s higher than I expected. It’s a little weird to think that, but at the same time, it’s exciting, maybe it can help someone,” he said.

Research shows that it is not uncommon for someone with PMO to be misdiagnosed.

“We’ve heard from many people with PMO who have been diagnosed by psychiatrists as having schizophrenia and are on anti-psychotics. Their condition is a problem with the visual system.” Brad DuchaineThe author and principal investigator of the study Social Awareness Lab He spoke at Dartmouth University.

Sharah says the most important thing for him is to “get the word out so that people are not institutionalized and given medication for psychosis when they have visual impairment.”