In a recent interview, actor Brad Pitt disclosed that he had prosopagnosia, a rare neurological condition commonly referred to as “facial blindness.” In a article, Dani Blum outlines the disorder’s symptoms, underlying causes, and treatment options.
Signs of prosopagnosia
The primary symptom of prosopagnosia, according to behavioral neurologist Borna Bonakdarpour of Northwestern Medicine, is face blindness rather than color blindness or general visual impairment.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, there is no link between the condition and intellectual difficulties, visual issues, or memory loss.
It is not the same as forgetting or occasionally having difficulties finding the right term, argues Blum.
Prosopagnosia can vary in severity from person to person. A close friend or relative’s face, for instance, could be difficult for some individuals to recognize, while their own reflection might be challenging for others to recognize. Furthermore, some persons might not be able to identify faces from things.
Notably, some evidence suggests that people with prosopagnosia may have persistent anxiety or depression as a result of the isolation and fear that are typically linked to the condition.
Blum points out that some people shy away from family members and other close friends out of worry that they won’t be able to identify or acknowledge them in a meaningful way. It can be challenging to navigate fundamental social interactions when one has prosopagnosia, she adds.
In a recent interview, Pitt said that he has had problems recognizing people’s faces for years despite never receiving an official prosopagnosia diagnosis.
In fact, Pitt stated in a 2013 interview that he regularly felt the need to distance himself because of how difficult it was for him to recognize people’s faces. That’s why I remain at home, he said.
What is the root of the problem?
Prosopagnosia can either be a genetic problem or an acquired one, and most people who are diagnosed with it fall into one of these two groups.
However, estimates show that up to one in every 50 individuals may battle with the illness throughout the course of their lives, and scientists theorize that it may run in families. Research “suggests that congenital, or lifelong, prosopagnosia is less frequent,” according to Blum.
Children who are born with the condition “don’t seem to have any evident structural abnormalities” in the brain, according to Andrey Stojic, director of general neurology at the Cleveland Clinic. Notably, because congenital prosopagnosia patients don’t have any evident brain abnormalities, medical professionals are unsure of what exactly causes the condition.
Those who experience prosopagnosia later in life, however, may have brain abnormalities brought on by a traumatic event or head injury. According to Bonakdarpour, people can also have prosopagnosia after having a stroke or when coping with Alzheimer’s disease.
What prosopagnosia treatments are available?
As of right moment, prosopagnosia cannot be treated, claims Bonakdarpour. But the issue can be resolved. People with the condition typically make an effort to tell people apart by focusing on physical traits like voice, stride, or hair color.
Neurologists often reach the diagnosis with the use of a series of exams that evaluate a person’s memory and facial recognition abilities. Blum continues, “it can be a drawn-out procedure since doctors frequently take care to confirm that a patient’s facial blindness is not a sign of a more severe degenerative neurological illness.
It’s interesting to note that many patients with the condition, like Pitt, won’t receive a formal diagnosis. According to Stojic, many of the challenges he is describing and the problems he is facing are common occurrences for people.
“It may be pretty crippling for some, others find it challenging to understand”, he continued.