Ganser Syndrome

Among the long list of mental illnesses lies one that is one of the rarest and truly befuddling ones. It is called Ganser syndrome and is characterized by some truly unusual symptoms and behavioral changes in the person suffering from it. However, due to its extreme rarity, it not only becomes difficult to diagnose, there has been no conclusive evidence to prove what causes the syndrome in people. This Buzzle article will attempt to highlight some of its salient features.


Ganser syndrome is so named because the person who characterized it was Sigbert Josef Maria Ganser. He was a German psychiatrist who conducted a study on prison inmates and analyzed their reactions to a very simple test and drew conclusions from these tests. The test involved asking some extremely simple and plain questions to them and checking what kind of responses they give. Given below are some of the main characteristics of the behavior observed in people who suffer from Ganser syndrome.

  • The person appears to periodically experience the symptoms of people who suffer from other mental illnesses like schizophrenia.
  • These symptoms include visual hallucinations, confusion, audio hallucinations, etc.
  • The person may also appear to act normally at times when he does not exhibit the said symptoms. Plus, he may or may not recollect behaving in the symptomatic manner mentioned above.
  • The most prominent feature of this syndrome though, which makes it fall under the factitious disorder category, is that the person deliberately seems to give incorrect, yet approximate answers to questions that he would normally know answers to. For instance, when asked what his name is, he may state a name that isn’t his or when asked what 2 + 2 is, he may say 5.
  • The person looks confused, dreamy and seems to have no consciousness of his surroundings when he is in this state.
  • The cause of this behavior is not clearly defined by experts, though many suspect that the person deliberately puts on a show to either gain sympathy or to escape from a mentally or physically unpleasant situation.
  • Prison inmates were known to behave in this odd manner very frequently and this gave the disorder another name: prison psychosis.
  • The reason why this rare and unusual disorder may crop up in a person is not really known, but it has been linked to excess physical and mental stress, alcoholism etc.
  • Head injuries causing damage to the brain may also cause the symptoms of this disorder to manifest themselves within a person.
  • The symptoms may also be seen if the person already suffers from another neurological disorder like Tourette’s syndrome or has suffered from a stroke in the past.
  • In addition to the mental symptoms, the person may also experience hysterical paralysis which is the inability to move a particular part of the person’s body for an interval of time.
  • People who have been diagnosed with other mental, behavioral and psychological disorders like anti-social personality disorder, histrionic personality, personality disorder, etc. are more prone to this disorder.
  • Due to the rare and unusual nature of the symptoms, which can be mistaken for some other disorder, diagnosing it becomes rather difficult.
  • Even after diagnosis, the treatment options are not really diverse. A neurological test may be advised to a person suspected of this disorder.
  • Hospitalization may also be advised if episodes of the patient seem to get violent or if they could harm people around him.

Ganser syndrome is a disorder that is extremely rare and also goes by the names pseudodementia, nonsense syndrome, hysterical pseudodementia, syndrome of approximate answers, etc. Since it is not a common mental illness, not even 100 cases have been reported, according to a case study published by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.