Amanda in the American TV show, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency has this Pararibulitis disease.
I am curious how does this disease work. In the show, we see that Amanda has some visions and she is really desperate and needs to take a pill.

I can imagine that the visions aren't exactly pleasant, but I don't think that it could cause so much trouble for e.g. not going out. It it also physical? Why can't Amanda fully control herself during the attack? What does the Pararibulitis exactly do to the concerned person?

This part of the show inspired me for this question, it is visible that she doesn't control herself and that it is more than just a vision.


What does the Pararibulitis exactly do to the concerned person?

Trying to write an oversimplified answer if you want the details of how people would experience such a thing.

In a room, there is a light switch, which is connected to a light bulb. Somewhat obviously, turning the switch on will send electricity to the light bulb, causing it to turn on.

Imagine if I hacked into the wiring. I connected another cable to the system. I send electricity to the bulb using this new cable. Now, the light bulb is on even though the switch in the room is still off.

The human brain works the same way. Your nerves send an electrical signal to your brain. Let's say you crush your hand under something heavy. All the nerves in that region will send an electrical signal to the brain, and the brain will receive many "distress calls".

It's important to note that this electrical signal does not "contain" pain. It is simply a message. The brain, upon reading this message, will create the experience of pain in order to alert the person that their body is hurt.
Similarly, a letter does not carry literal tears or heartache. But if the letter tells the recipient that their loved one has died, they will still feel sad and hurt. Because the recipient interprets the message as sad.

And now we get to the pararibulitis. It has basically hacked the electrical wiring of a person's body. It makes it possible for an electrical signal to be sent to the brain without the nerve having actually sent a message.

In this case, the person's brain creates the experience of pain (the light bulb turns on) because it thinks the nerve (light switch) has sent a distress signal that the body is hurt.
But in reality, the pararibulitis (the electrical wire that was added) has sent the message; and the brain is not capable of recognizing this (just like the light bulb does not know where the electricity is coming from).

If I tell humanity that aliens are definitely invading Earth, there will be panic.

But suppose I lied about that. I have no proof. But I still claim that the aliens are coming. And humanity believes what I say, because they have no way of knowing that I'm lying.

The panic will be created regardless of whether aliens are invading or not. The panic is created because humanity thinks that it is happening. It doesn't need to be true, it just needs to be believable.

Just like how Amanda's brain thinks she is drowning (and therefore her body panics) even though there's actually no water in her lungs.

I hope the explanation was helpful.

  • Thanks! Both answers answer the question, I like this one better, it is real clear. But... You have no sources that your information about pararibulitis is corresponding with the show (or book). I would accept this if you add some of those. – TGar May 30 '17 at 12:05
  • My explanation is not focused on the show itself, but rather the biological possibility of how your brain can experience something that is not real. I can reference where the show talks about pararibulitis but the underlying explanation is never mentioned in the show. The show tends to stick to analogies and examples instead of an in depth medical explanation. – Flater May 30 '17 at 12:09
  • Hm, Ok. After I thought about it more I think it is acceptable :). – TGar May 31 '17 at 13:49

In an interview with the actress Hannah Marks, who plays Amanda, she comments that:

“Amanda has a fictional disease called Pararibulitis that causes hallucinations, so she’s always thinking that she’s in life-or-death scenarios,” said Marks. “But the hallucinations actually end up coming in handy when they’re solving cases.”

and also that:

Pararibulitis is a nerve disease where my character’s mind convinces her that she’s either drowning or lit on fire or something, and her nerves fire off as if it’s really happening.

So Pararibulitis is a fictional disease that affects the nervous system and causes very realistic hallucinations of life threatening situations and injuries. It has no physical manifestation but as the sufferer appears to fully experience the fire/knives/other horrifying injury as if it was real they react accordingly e.g. running around, collapsing on the ground.


In Season 2,

it turns out that the attacks provides power to Amanada and Todd in the land of Wendimoor. Amanada has better control over it, but Todd is able to work with her.

We also see in season 2:

The pool that the forest witch uses has been involved in the visions and when accessed by Todd or Amanda feels like a pararibulitis attack.

PS: Season 1 was awesome, Season 2 is possibly better. Very very well written.

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