Sedative Meds

“I have difficulty distinguishing people’s faces”: How I live with prosopagnosia

IMAGINE THAT WAKING UP ONE MORNING , you don’t recognize the faces of family members, friends, partner, or even yourself. You can look at a person for a long time , but not understand who is in front of you. You find it difficult to follow the plot of the films, because you have a hard time distinguishing the characters from each other. Some people with prosopagnosia, or facial blindness, live something like this . It is a cognitive disorder in which the ability to recognize faces is impaired. It is difficult for people with prosopagnosia to assess whether they have seen someone’s face before, despite the fact that they may have encountered that person many times. Some people with the disorder may not recognize their own face.                  

In Depending on the extent of the violation, such people may have difficulty only with face detection, other heavy as to determine the age, sex and emotions. Prosopagnosia can affect a person’s ability to navigate, remember new places, and recognize familiar ones.      

Thus prosopagnosia do not affect in general to memory, vision, and mental abilities, but some people with this feature avoid social interactions due to embarrassment, have problems in personal or working relationship. In extreme cases, a person with prosopagnosia develops anxiety disorder and a fear of people.               

Facial blindness can be acquired and congenital. The first can occur as a result of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or some neurodegenerative diseases. Congenital prosopagnosia, according to scientists, is genetic in nature and is inherited.     

There is no special treatment for prosopagnosia, but a person with this feature, either independently or with a doctor, develops so-called compensatory strategies – skills that allow him to distinguish people by voice, dress, gait, and hairstyle. However, these strategies do not always work , for example, when a person with prosopagnosia meets someone in an unfamiliar place.          

Researchers believe that one in 50 people may have some form of prosopagnosia. Angelica Dobrovolskaya has been living with this disorder for several years, although it is difficult for her to remember some people since childhood. She told us about what makes her life easier , what funny situations she finds herself in and why prosopagnosia can be dangerous.           

Gait, hairstyle, style

I can hardly distinguish only the faces of people, this does not apply to objects or animals. I understand what kind of face is in front of me, and in general I see its features, just if a person leaves my field of vision, whatever he may be, I will not remember him.           

Plus , I have poor eyesight, I can’t see human faces at a distance of two meters. From a distance, for me, all faces are like a porcelain doll base with dark circles in place of the eyes and mouth.        

I ca n’t say for sure when I started prosopagnosia, because when I was a child, I didn’t really care that I didn’t recognize someone . As a teenager, I fell down stairs, started having headaches, and the problem with facial recognition worsened. Then I heard somewhere that Brad Pitt does not distinguish the faces of people. I realized that this is very close to me, read about prosopagnosia, went to the doctor. First to a therapist, then to a psychiatrist, a neurologist. One of the doctors suggested that maybe the headbutt was to blame, I told that it had been with me for a long time. We were unable to establish why prosopagnosia developed – after a blow or is it hereditary. My mom refuses to go to the doctor, although she has a similar problem. The doctor did not look surprised , he said that if it develops, he will need to see a doctor again . It is unlikely that he will be able to stop prosopagnosia, but he will teach what to look for.                                

I got used to it for a long time, I look at a person’s gait, hairstyle, style. I have a friend who dresses minimalist: these are plain, most often black or beige trousers, turtlenecks, a hat, nothing bright and catchy, besides, I know her gait and body type, so I will distinguish it from others. In another of my friend is very unusual style of clothing: he loves lurid things with diamonds, flowers, he may wear pants screaming colors in a circle and some multi-colored shirt, and from afar, seeing the bright spot, I know who is talking.            

But the problem occurs if there is a rethinking of human life, and he begins to dress up as something else, and if I do it more and not seen for several months, he was all for me to lose. And if the clothes of two people are the same, or in the same color scheme, or both have a bright feature, for example, green hair, then the next time after meeting I will no longer understand who is who. I pay more attention to sounds, voices are very important to me, I remember them . If I walk in a crowd and hear a familiar voice, I can turn my head and compare: aha, clothes that look like my friend’s, haircut too, then it’s him. But the first one will never fit, because I’m tired of getting into ridiculous situations.                               

If a person has tattoos on their face, I will remember them. At my friend full of flower on the face, and that’s thanks to him that I can remember what she looks like. But I don’t pay attention to glasses, freckles, moles . I have been dating a young man for two years and only recently noticed that he has freckles.                

I know that there are people who are attractive to me – I can walk down the street and admire the beauty of a girl. Although for the most part I am attracted not by looks, but by charisma, outwardly I like completely different types.       

When I look in the mirror, I recognize myself, but sometimes I want to dream, and at me is not produced. For example, can you imagine dancing with a guy? I am not. I try, but in my place I see some other girl, because I can not reproduce my face and figure in memory .              

Recognize a stranger

I hardly remember my childhood . Often for offenses I was sent into exile – to a village in Siberia to my grandmother, and there are not very many people there, so it was quite easy for me. There were no problems either at school or at the university , perhaps because with these people I spent several hours every day in the same room – the voices and clothes were remembered very quickly and for a long time. My worst nightmare is a meeting of classmates, they all grew up and outwardly changed, and I will never be able to distinguish between them.                     

Especially difficult with men. Do women have the features: blond, brunette, long hair, square, fashion, figure. And men, in my opinion, mostly cut their hair and dress the same way. I remember a very shameful incident. About five years ago I had a young man, and we agreed to walk towards each other along the same street. I saw he stopped and was talking to someone. Well, I think I’ll surprise him, ran up, kissed him, the man didn’t even resist. Then I see that he is looking at me inquiringly, but I do not understand why, I turn around and see that my boyfriend is standing behind him with a very surprised expression on his face.                      

With people who just come into my life, and then appear again three days later, I have problems since childhood. It is difficult for one meeting to remember how a person dresses, what his voice is, and the next time you recognize him. I used to work as a waitress, and I was terribly enraged by people who hang out with us for an evening or two and then come like: “We are as usual.” I asked a guest leading questions: “And you seem to have us ? Were Friday”, “And in the ? How much”, “Came with a girl?”, “They drank vodka?” and so slowly recalled his behavior, what he was wearing. And the guests were pleased that I remember them , and I understood what they needed.                            

One of the few people I always recognize is my friend Indira, with whom I have been friends for thirteen years. She has a very special sharp face, therefore, despite the fact that she often dyes her hair and we may not meet for a year, I remember her. In my current young man in contrast to the order, with whom I have met before, a very memorable appearance: large eyes and lips, he is tall and thin. True, I get annoyed when he changes haircuts, then I can confuse him with someone else.                       

There are people who remain in the memory forever. If in a few years I come to my Siberian village, I see one friend there, then I will immediately understand: “Ah, Ilya, it ‘s you who crap on the river!”       

“Who are you anyway?” 

From time to time, strange situations happen to me. I worked as a manager in the restaurant, so I need to know their employees in the face, and in this big problem. We had trainee bartenders, and it turns out there were two of them. And I thought that the same boy came every day . And then, when I needed to write a report on their work, I realized that there were two of them . I had to ask my colleagues who was on shift when .                     

I made my young man buy a red down jacket so that I could at least find it in Auchan. But it turned out that the employees of “Ashan” also had red jackets, and in general they all began to be worn. This winter I followed the man in the store for about twenty minutes because I thought he was my boyfriend. And she was also angry: “I ‘m going after you, where are you running to?” The man was clearly surprised when he noticed this.               

I’m constantly getting to know someone again . I worked in a restaurant, and when I moved to Moscow, I brought myself a replacement – a friend of my cousin. We talked with him for some time , and I left. Six months ago, he wrote to me on VKontakte, began to communicate with me, but I did not understand: “Who are you anyway? How did you get to be my friend? ” Then he reminded me, it turns out, we are with him and to how I arranged for him to work, were familiar. That is, it turns out that I met this guy three times.                              

I used to live in another city, and my mother came to me once every six months, respectively, we did not see each other very often. And somehow I was walking down the street, looked at her and thought: “Well, a woman and a woman” And she told me: “Are you stunned?” For the last two years we have been living together and there are no problems with recognition, but if we go to the store, for me it is a disaster and a nightmare, I can never find it.                        

My father died when I was thirteen years old, and until last year, while I have not found an album with photographs, I for some reason thought that he looks like Schwarzenegger. They have similar facial features, but in my memory there is a tall, strong man with tattoos, and in the photographs – a normal person, but not as macho as I thought. But I don’t remember any of my relatives whom I hadn’t seen for five years.                     

Putin, Ivleeva and Johnny Depp 

There are several celebrities that I always recognize. For example, the president. For some reason in our school, there was a portrait of him in every class, and when it was boring, I looked at him. And if I see him on the street, I can confidently say: “Yes, this is Putin!” I also recognize Nastya Ivleeva one hundred percent, because she is everywhere: on the Internet, on TV. And Aljay, because he has a memorable image: unusual clothes, glasses, hairstyle.               

Despite prosopagnosia, I go to the movies and have my top favorite actors. One of them is Johnny Depp. If the other actors don’t disguise themselves as Johnny Depp, I’ll know him for sure. He has a goatee and mustache, he has brown eyes, the characteristic demeanor and mannerisms of Jack Sparrow. In cinema, I always focus on hearing: I memorize voices. Plus I pay attention to gait, behavior. And I am terribly annoyed by films with a lot of heroes. You sit in the theater and there is a string of people: “This is me, this is my brother, and it is a second cousin, and at us at all have wives and children, and all of us are going to tell the story.” And I also don’t like detective stories: there are a kilometer of suspects and you need to pay attention to small details, but I don’t have time, because I’m trying to remember the characters.                                   

If I read books and male characters are not described in any specific and detailed way, they are all the same in my head, almost always with the face of Brad Pitt. By the way, I would never know him. But I represent women in great detail.            

“I can’t protect myself or others”   

People who are unpleasant to me are also quickly erased from memory. The situation may remain in the head, but who did it and why – no. On the one hand, this is good, but on the other, it can be dangerous. I’m late back from work to home – in two or three o’clock in the morning, and if to me someone will attack, I was not able to identify him. Once I was robbed, I went to the police, and I had to make a composite sketch. And I could n’t say anything about the thief at all. Mumbled: “Well, he was short and in a blue jacket.” The policeman was very surprised: “Well, you don’t know what his face was, you only saw him in the morning!” That is, I will not be able to protect myself or others.                                   

When I was 13-14 years old, I met a man who was hanging out with cosplayers, he was thirty-five years old. We talked for a whole year, threw parties in his apartment. He rolled up to me and to my friend, but we just said, “Dude, we can with the only friends you.” And he persuaded our third friend to have sex, she was thirteen years old – he bought her clothes for cosplay. But now I don’t remember what he looks like, at all. I only know that most of all he liked cosplay on some red bird and he had the nickname Ryu.                            

“I often hear that arrogant” 

Earlier, when I only realized my peculiarity, I warned people: “I will get to know you now and then I will not know.” But to understand the time that people do not care, I warn you of it or not, if they want to take offense at what you they are not recognized, they are offended. People say to me: “Here I passed you on the street, but you did not say hello.” I say: “And that thou did not greet?” Because of this, I am often told that I am arrogant.                       

Once I had a complex that I don’t remember faces, but now I don’t care. If a person is interesting and in my life on one day, I do not care for some particularly remember him. The only thing that makes me sad is that I don’t remember my grandmother’s face. She died when I was little, and over the years I felt her image begin to blur, and I was scared that I would completely forget how she looked. If I had been shown photographs of a bunch of grandmothers, I would not have found mine there.                     

I’m also sure that it hurts my mother, that I don’t recognize her. That is, I would like to get rid of it not so much for myself as for others. 

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