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

Eyes Wide Shut: Prosopometamorphopsia Survivor Finds Hope and Relief through Support Groups and Awareness

Chef Victor Sharrah from Clarksville, Tennessee, woke up one morning to a terrifying sight. His roommate had pointy ears, gigantic eyes, and a slanted mouth that extended to the edges of his face. Feeling scared and confused, Sharrah took his dog for a walk but passed people with equally strange faces on the street. He thought he had entered a demonic world and even considered being admitted to a psychiatric unit.

It was only after speaking with experts that Sharrah discovered he suffered from prosopometamorphopsia or PMO, a rare vision condition where people see distorted faces in different ways. While he saw demons, others might see elves or constantly moving faces. Despite experiencing PMO for over three years, Sharrah’s condition was unique in that flat-screen faces appeared normal to him. 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 found relief in learning about PMO through an online support group and now wears glasses with a green tint to alleviate the severity of the distortions. Although he has adapted to his strange new world, crowded places can still be overwhelming as “demons” surround him. Many individuals with PMO face difficult decisions about telling others about their distorted perceptions; some choose to remain silent out of fear of being perceived as crazy. However, Sharrah chose to share his experience in hopes of helping others with PMO avoid unnecessary hospitalizations for psychosis and raising awareness about this condition.

By sharing his story, Sharrah hopes to prevent others from experiencing the trauma he went through while living with prosopometamorphopsia or PMO.

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