You’re sitting in a stuffy meeting. Suddenly, your boss starts sporting a snout and black, pointy ears. His eyes gleam red, and scales form all over his skin.
Sounds like the plot of an awesome horror movie—or maybe a twisted workplace fantasy. But for one woman from the Netherlands, this was totally real life, according to a recent case report in the Lancet.
After decades of seeing people’s heads transform into dragons, the woman finally sought medical help. Docs diagnosed her with “prosopometamorphopsia,” a rare disorder that causes faces to appear severely distorted, like if you were to look at them through a funhouse mirror.
Experts classify the disorder as neurological problem that distorts your vision.
“It’s not that people are imagining what they’re seeing—they’re actually seeing it,” says Kirsten Dalrymple, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota, who published a scientific case report on prosopometamorphopsia last spring.
The condition is so rare that researchers can’t even pinpoint how many cases exist. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes it, but they believe it strikes when the parts of your brain involved in facial recognition kick into overdrive.
We bet you’d hightail it to your doc if your wife started looking like a fire-breathing beast. (We’ll save the jokes.) But you should book an appointment ASAP if you experience any kind of distorted visual perception, Dalrymple says.
These cues might also signal another neurological problem, like epilepsy, or a neuropsychological disorder, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Your doctor will probably order an MRI to rule out any acute neurological issues, such as a stroke, and evaluate other symptoms—like depression or drug use—to eliminate other possible causes.
We highly doubt your diagnosis will point to prosopometamorphopsia. But in the extremely unlikely event that it does, your doc may prescribe meds that have been shown to help ease symptoms, like anti-epileptics.