The Psychology of Williams Syndrome, the “Cocktail Party” Disorder

According to a story from Psychology Today, one of the most unique genetic disorders known to science it called Williams syndrome. While the disorder causes intellectual disability and other chronic health issues, the syndrome is unique in that it fundamentally alters the personality of the people that live with it. Patients living with the disorder are known for their social openness and can fearlessly strike up a conversation with a total stranger.

About Williams Syndrome

Williams syndrome is a genetic disorder which can have a number of physical and mental impacts. It is most characterized by distinctive facial features and intellectual disability. The syndrome is linked to the microdeletion of some genetic material found on chromosome 7; only one chromosome of the pair is affected. Genes affected include LIMK1, CLIP2, ELN, GTF2IRD1, and GTF2I. Symptoms of Williams syndrome include heart defects, distinctive facial features, developmental delays, anxiety, phobias, low muscle tone, and failure to thrive. People with the syndrome are known for their friendly and sociable personality. They have an exceptional ability to empathize with others and have little fear of strangers. There is no cure for Williams syndrome; treatment focuses on addressing health concerns like heart defects; physical and behavioral therapy can also be beneficial. Patients often respond strongly to music that can help with anxiety. To learn more about Williams syndrome, click here.

A Social Paradox

In some ways, the openness and fearlessness of patients in social interactions is endearing, but their willingness to connect and trust others makes them vulnerable to exploitation or manipulation. Despite the fact that Williams syndrome patients are eager to socialize, they can still have a hard time forming healthy relationships. Often their level of friendliness may be not suited to the situation. While our culture often tends to favor “extroverts” and sociability, the eagerness exhibited by patients can be perceived as off-putting or overwhelming.

Still, the trusting and unconditional empathy that patients display represents a side to our psyches that longs for connection and acceptance, and this disposition of trust and friendliness can help make the world a better place.


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