3 of The Rarest Psychiatric Illnesses & Their Treatment Options

The increased awareness of mental health disorders allowed people to get themselves diagnosed and treated. Approximately 19.86% of American adults had a mental illness in 2022, as compared to 17.7% in 2008. Among them, 4.91% had severe symptoms from their conditions.

There are over two hundred psychiatric illnesses known to man. Mental health issues go beyond phobias, depression, or anxiety. People can suffer from rare conditions like histrionic personality disorder, apotemnophilia, etc. Unfortunately, these conditions are so rare that there is minimal research, and most doctors won’t even come across them.

In this blog, we’ll discuss three rare mental health illnesses and their possible treatment options.

1. Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)

Anyone with HPD will behave dramatically just to get attention. Patients will constantly seek society’s approval due to an overwhelming need to feel noticed. They might also exhibit unstable and distorted emotional outbursts.

Their self-esteem and self-worth wholly depend on social acceptance and approval. HPD only affects 1% of the population. Young adults and people in their 20s are most likely to develop HPD and show symptoms like:

  • Feeling depressed when they aren’t the center of attention
  • Constantly shifting emotions and dramatic emotional expressiveness
  • Exhibiting a persistent charm, flirtatious behavior, and inappropriate actions
  • Being overly concerned about physical appearance

People develop HPD because of childhood trauma, genetics, or parenting styles. Usually, mental health professionals wait until the patient is 18 to diagnose this condition based on their past psychiatric state, family history, impulse control, etc.

How Is HPD Treated?

cognitive behvioral therapy

Since HPD is hard to diagnose, there are no medications to treat this disorder. However, some forms of psychotherapy can reduce the effects of HPD symptoms.

Examples include group therapy, supportive psychotherapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, and cognitive behvioral therapy (CBT). These aim to understand the patient’s fears and motivations associated with behavior and thought.

The medical professionals will then use this information to help patients self-reflect and self-examine their patterns. Doing this will allow them to learn productive ways to deal with their triggering thoughts, situations, and behaviors.

2. Apotemnophilia

Apotemnophilia is a psychiatric syndrome that leads people to develop a desire to amputate their healthy body parts. Sometimes referred to as body integrity identity disorder, this neurological illness compels people to damage their limbs. The patient might attempt to cut off healthy limbs by themselves or get them surgically amputated.

People might develop this disorder if they’ve received any damage to their right parietal lobe, leading to irrational thoughts. Moreover, it can be the cause of suppressed psychological disturbance, emotional distress, and a misperception of one’s identity. Patients think that they’ll feel relieved and free after amputation.

The clinical symptoms of apotemnophilia include the following:

  • A persistent desire to amputate their limbs
  • Pretending to be disabled to gain sympathy
  • Improper social interactions and disturbed occupational functioning
  • An indecent sexual attraction to amputees

Unfortunately, apotemnophilia is quite hard to diagnose because there aren’t any established criteria. However, doctors have developed some ways to identify this challenging condition:

  • An early-onset desire to acquire some form of disability.
  • Discomfort with their current body schema
  • Overbearing interest in amputation as a child

If left untreated, people with apotemnophilia might resort to self-amputation, leading to excessive bleeding, complications, and death.

Do People With Apotemnophilia Require Hospitalization?


Unfortunately, there are no specific treatment options that have proven to be effective. Hence, someone with a serious case of apotemnophilia might need hospital admission. That’s mostly because the patient is likely to be a danger to themselves and their family.

When admitted, they’ll be under the constant supervision of trained mental health nurse practitioners. According to onlinedegrees.rockhurst.edu, these professionals have enough clinical experience and have gone through rigorous coursework before starting their residency. They’ve probably completed a master of science in nursing-psychiatric mental health (MSN-PMH) course, making them fully qualified to treat someone with apotemnophilia.

With the help of doctors, these nurses will start CBT treatment to psychologically intervene in the patient’s thought process. If CBT succeeds, then it’ll help stop them from having intrusive thoughts about amputation.

In some severe cases, psychotherapy might not work. That’s why the patients will require pharmacological treatment. In that case, the nurse will administer a selective dosage of serotonin inhibitors and antidepressant medications at proper intervals.

3. Autocannibalism

People usually bite their nails to cope with stressful situations and boredom. However, having a compulsive desire to eat them all the time isn’t healthy. There’s a rare condition called autocannibalism, or self-cannibalism, where people cannot stop eating their boogers, nails, hair, scabs, etc. This habit of eating damaged skin could sometimes lead to infections.

Research suggests that a traumatic brain injury might be the underlying reason for people to develop autocannibalism. Even schizophrenia and crippling anxiety could be the causes. If left untreated and unmanaged, this could become repetitive and cause traumatic damage to the body.

Symptoms of autocannibalism include the following:

  • Willingly damaging the body
  • Undiagnosed and untreated anxiety
  • Persistent gastrointestinal issues
  • Sudden mental distress from stressful situations

Usually, people with self-cannibalism tendencies are embarrassed by their behavior. Hence, they cut themselves off from social settings and withdraw from conversations.

How Can Doctors Treat this Disorder?

habit reversal training (HRT)

According to Healthline, there is minimal research on autocannibalism and its treatment options. Hence, people with this condition rely on therapy and medication used to treat similar body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs).

For example, medical professionals will use CBT to help patients focus their thoughts and adjust their behaviors to avoid self-cannibalism. Similarly, the practice of mindfulness, acupuncture, and massage therapy could also help reduce the desire to eat scabs, nails, or hair.

Other than that, habit reversal training (HRT) will help patients manage their troublesome desires and find a positive outlet. The correct dosage of medications like Prozac or Lexapro could also help treat the condition.

In conclusion, rare mental health disorders don’t receive the recognition they deserve. That’s mostly because researchers cannot find enough evidence to support any studies. Due to that, there’s a possibility of misdiagnosis for people with conditions like apotemnophilia, autocannibalism, and BPD. Thankfully, mental health professionals have successfully found various ways to treat these conditions using medication or behavioral therapy.