(WFLA) – An Arizona woman speaks with a British accent despite never having left the United States.
“Everybody only sees or hears Mary Poppins,” said Michelle Myers in a British accent.
She told ABC 15 she’s gone to sleep three times with throbbing headaches only to wake up with a different accent. At first, it was Irish, then Australian. Now Myers speaks with a British accent.
“They send in the psychiatrist at the hospital and make sure you’re not a loon,” said Myers.
Myers suffers from Foreign accent syndrome (FAS), a rare disorder that causes a sudden change to speech. Fewer than 100 people, including Myers, have ever been diagnosed.
“I found it really difficult to begin with and people would think it was a joke—saying things like, ‘You sound like a Spice Girl,’ or, ‘Are you Mary Poppins?’ It was hard, because I was really struggling,” said Michelle, according to The Mirror
The mother of seven said she is coming to terms with the disorder and has accepted she will sound like this for the rest of her life.
“Some people think it’s physiological; others think it’s psychological,” she said. “People like me—we don’t care which one it is. We just really want to be taken seriously and if it is something that’s going to hurt me, help me.”
FAS is usually caused by brain damage triggered by a stroke, a traumatic brain injury or a psychological experience, which is far less common than trauma-induced FAS.
“Stress can cause all kinds of physical symptoms, called conversion disorders,” Keith Johnson, director of the UC Berkeley phonetics and phonology lab, told Wired.com. “Stressed people can fall into convulsions that look like epileptic seizures.”
Young said after World War I some British soldiers developed German accents. “Even if they had no head trauma, the experience would have been enough to produce this problem,” he said.
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