Bare Dementia
August 3, 2006 3:18 PM   Subscribe

A young woman suddenly starts shouting, and tearing at her clothing. Moments later, she is stark naked and dancing all over the sidewalk right in front of my house. Why?

She was a young, good-looking lass in her early twenties, clean, dressed nicely, with curly brown hair. Her clothing was clean and neat, and there was nothing about her to suggest that she was a street person.

But in the blink of an eye, she went front standing sedately at the bus stop to shouting and yelping, plucking at her clothing and flinging it away as though it were full of angry bees. She quickly stripped down to just her bra and panties, flinging her shoes and clothing in the gutter, and danced around while slapping at her arms and legs. A moment later she tore off her bra and then her panties. It was quite clear by this point that there were no actual bugs on her; she was very clean and completely shaved from the neck down, a fact that was now on full display.

Throughout this latter stage I noticed several curious things: first, as she yelled she tended to thrust out her jaw and glare angrily about herself. Also, despite being completely naked on the corner of a busy San Francisco street, she kept one arm resolutely clamped across her full bosom. Despite whatever was going on, she retained an odd sense of decency -- odd when you consider her unwillingness to expose her breasts, yet at the same time she was kicking her legs high in the air. This last sense of modesty went by the wayside soon enough, as her leaping about quickly escalated into arm waving. She was sweating profusely, her nipples were hard, and loudly shouting while tears streamed down her face.

It took three cops and two paramedics to get her strapped down on a gurney, and even then, she fought on, throwing off a blanket they covered her with and if not for the paramedic’s hands, pounding her head on the gurney.

I've never before seen anything so sad in all my years of living in San Francisco, and a bit of Googling yielded nothing as to why she did all this. What possible causes are there for her actions?
posted by nlindstrom to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Er, um...

Hmmm... psychiatric problems, or any of half a dozen medical conditions that were detailed on House M.D. last season?

Or, she could have been a doper.
posted by baylink at 3:25 PM on August 3, 2006

posted by togdon at 3:28 PM on August 3, 2006

I'm afraid my first thought was the same as togdon's; too much methamphetamine.
posted by Justinian at 3:31 PM on August 3, 2006

yeah, meth...maybe with a little lsd or schizophrenia thrown in for good measure.
posted by milarepa at 3:33 PM on August 3, 2006

Sounds like Crack Bugs (aka formication) to me, tactile hallucinations stemming from being on a coke or crack binge, with associated paranoid aggression.

I worked as an undergrad on a substance abuse project with one of my teachers, which involved lengthy (3+ hours) interviews with crack addicts and other substance abusers. The picking at your clothes, getting very "antsy" was a common symptom of long term crack/cocaine use. I never saw anything like what you are talking about, though.
posted by gemmy at 3:41 PM on August 3, 2006

Early twenties is often when schizophrenia appears, and can appears with an acute sudden onset. That is, a person who seemed pretty normal up until that point can suddenly lose it entirely.
posted by malphigian at 3:42 PM on August 3, 2006

Another vote for Meth - I've read that a very common hallucination is that of bugs crawling all over you, or under your skin.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:42 PM on August 3, 2006

It sounds astonishingly like Year of the Jackpot (1952) Heinlein.
posted by b33j at 3:43 PM on August 3, 2006

My 17 year old daughter had a similar reaction to a hornet sting. Actually, there were 2 or 3 hornets involved. Within three minutes of the bites, she was ranting incoherently, tore off every stitch of clothing and was flailing around like mad. My wife and I, within a couple of minutes, poured some Benadryl cough syrup into her and managed to daub a hastily diluted solution of chlorox onto the bites. Fortunately, all this took place inside our house, so the materials were at hand. She did not tear or scratch at the obvious bite marks but instead appeared to be tearing at her skin in general. She was looking all around her, but evidently could not see us. Within about 10 minutes, she regained her senses and calmed down.

She recalled, vaguely, that her skin felt as though it were on "fire", but she recalled very little of the incident. She also has an allergy to shell fish.
posted by RMALCOLM at 3:48 PM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

It seems like if she was a meth user to such a degree that she would wig out like that, she would LOOK more like a meth user. Maybe.

A very high fever could cause those behaviors, and many things can cause fever. Let us know if you ever find out for sure what happened.
posted by peep at 3:55 PM on August 3, 2006

peep, I will, although I rather doubt I'll ever know for sure -- it's a big city, and I don't know anyone involved.
posted by nlindstrom at 4:01 PM on August 3, 2006

Aw, b33j; I *missed* that. Yes; that's exactly what it sounded like.

Didn't end as well, though.
posted by baylink at 4:11 PM on August 3, 2006

Maybe you could post something to craigslist with more local details; someone who knows her personally might see it.
posted by peep at 4:12 PM on August 3, 2006

It sounds astonishingly like Year of the Jackpot (1952) Heinlein.

My thought as well.
posted by redfoxtail at 4:46 PM on August 3, 2006

Poor girl. I'm glad the paramedics got there quickly.

This thread is useless without pictures background, unfortunately: without having some clue as to whether this was a one-time extravaganza or whether it's happened before, etcetera, it's going to be nearly impossible to figure out.

Leading candidates, taking a WAG and given the symptoms, could be:
  • Methamphetamine, cocaine or an overdose of another CNS stimulant.
  • Acute schizophrenia.
  • Intracranial neoplasm, otherwise known as brain tumor.
Also, I noticed someone upthread mentioned that she would look like a meth user: well, not if it was her first time, neh?

Anyway, hope she got the help she needed.
posted by scrump at 4:47 PM on August 3, 2006

acid or meth or both.

I've seen some craaaaaazy shit.

i knew a bagboy from the raley's near my house who kicked in a windshield with his BARE FUCKING FEET (after he'd stripped down to boxers). We drove his (equally fried) friend around for an hour looking to see where they had taken him*, without success.

I think he ended up being ok, though.

I've seen plenty of other people take off clothes or try to take off clothes at parties, usually when there's a ton of psychedelics going around.

man, late nineties rave scene. good times.

(the 'security' handcuffed him -- because he was freaking out -- and met an ambulance at the street corner away from the party)
posted by fishfucker at 4:50 PM on August 3, 2006

fwiw the bagboy was on an acid and speed cocktail. one of the most frightening flip-outs i've ever seen.
posted by fishfucker at 4:50 PM on August 3, 2006

Is it really meth? It seems like stuff like this is blamed on whatever the problem-drug-of-the-decade is. Back in the 1980s we'd be blaming it on PCP; in the 1990s we'd be blaming this on crack.
posted by chef_boyardee at 4:53 PM on August 3, 2006

The motives behind it are irrelivent, chef_boyardee.
posted by ed\26h at 5:10 PM on August 3, 2006

I wouldn't rule out Performance Art, but the Meth theory seems likely. And who knows... maybe its both.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:10 PM on August 3, 2006

It probably doesn't matter.... but what time of day was this?
posted by fireflies to stars at 5:13 PM on August 3, 2006


I would cite that. I've seen a girl running topless and shouting to publicize her theater play, but (1) it was in a university cafeteria (okay, this one's in SanFran, not so different...) and (2) she didn't wait for paramedics to sedate her before calming down.

Has she been playing lots of Ouija recently, and talking to a certain Captain Howdy?
posted by qvantamon at 5:19 PM on August 3, 2006

qvantamon: what makes you think the medics weren't in on it? :)

...but then again, I'm an artist and an EMT and I'd never go along with crap like that so you're right - its probably not a perfomance...
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:27 PM on August 3, 2006

It sounds astonishingly like Year of the Jackpot (1952) Heinlein.

Yep. Everyone grab your girl and head for the hills.

It could be anything from drugs to chemical imbalances ("mental problems"). There's really no way to tell.
posted by muddgirl at 5:30 PM on August 3, 2006

Eh, could be hallucigens -- though it'd be an odd place to be. I've seen plenty of guys and girls trip really bad when they took too much shrooms and get naked rather quickly. Never aggressive, so it could have been MDMA/shrooms which is a pretty common combination. That would explain the emotional intensity and the strangeness of the behavior.

Of course it could be a large dose of amphetamines or cocaine but in my experience the people who do such a large dose or go that overboards are not what you describe (a fact of driving through the ghetto everyday for 4 years I found out that those talknig or shouting to themselves looked generally like the people you'd expect to be shouting and yelling at themselves -- even more so the more middle of the day it got).
posted by geoff. at 6:05 PM on August 3, 2006

I saw a girl freak out on acid who went this crazy. It was really, really scary. Pure, unadulterated terror grips you to your core, even when you are listening to someone else's very pure terror. I will never forget that sound as long as I live.
posted by caddis at 6:09 PM on August 3, 2006

Maybe you could post something to craigslist with more local details

Yes, this definitely sounds like a Missed Connection to me.
posted by MrZero at 6:55 PM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Brain worms.
posted by oxford blue at 8:35 PM on August 3, 2006

..her nipples were hard, and loudly shouting..
This wasn't somewhere near Barstow, on the edge of the desert was it?
posted by peacay at 8:50 PM on August 3, 2006

Vivian Leigh (Scarlett, Blanche) had episodes like this many times. After her fit subsided and she was back to normal, she'd go around apologizing to everybody she'd disturbed, by her manic behavior.

And yeah, chef_boyardee, I'm also annoyed at how everybody's so quick to blame The Drugs -- that's usually a specious explanation, IMO.
posted by Rash at 10:28 PM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

A not uncomon psychotic acting out.
posted by zackdog at 12:12 AM on August 4, 2006

This is all pure speculation, unless somebody here actually knows this person. This is not what AskMe is for.
posted by number9dream at 12:23 AM on August 4, 2006

Well, the whole story is strange but the one part that really says something to me is that she thrust out her jaw. Angry people clench their jaw, not thrust it out. The only times I've seen that are in folks in TMJ pain, on drugs, or trying to do some stupid trick. Given the behavior I'm leaning towards drugs being the most likely of the three, but really this is all conjecture without knowing more about her.

re: the breasts - if they were large enough she might have been holding them not due to modesty but because they would hurt given all of the movement. She would have let go if she decided that pain was less bad than whatever was troubling her on her arms.
posted by jwells at 5:27 AM on August 4, 2006

In the line of pure speculation ( and completely seriously ) has anyone considered demonic infestation?
( no I'm not crazy, just seen some weird stuff that can't be explained any other way... )
posted by tdreyer1 at 6:27 AM on August 4, 2006

Delerium tremens?
posted by Carol Anne at 6:39 AM on August 4, 2006

« Older Running Clubs for Los Angeles Marathon   |   Help me find a play about angels? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.