“Face blindness” is a medical problem
Prosopagnosia, also known as “face blindness”, is the inability to recognise faces.
Face blindness often affects people from birth and is usually a problem a person has for most or all of their life. It can have a severe impact on everyday life.
Many people with prosopagnosia aren’t able to recognise family members, partners or friends. They may cope by using alternative strategies to recognise people, such as remembering the way they walk, or their hairstyle, voice or clothing.
But these types of compensation strategies don’t always work, particularly when a person with pro-sopagnosia meets someone out of context, at a place or time they’re not used to seeing that person.
A person with pro-sopagnosia may avoid social interaction and develop social anxiety disorder (an overwhelming fear of social situations).They may also have difficulty forming relationships or experience problems with their career. Episodes of depression aren’t uncommon.
Some people with prosopagnosia are unable to recognise certain facial expressions, judge a person’s age or gender, or follow a person’s gaze. Others may not even recognise their own face in the mirror or in photos.
Prosopagnosia can affect a person’s ability to recognise objects, such as places or cars. Many people also have difficulty navigating. This can involve an inability to process angles or distance, or problems remembering places and landmarks.
Following the plot of films or television programmes can be almost impossible for someone with prosopagnosia because characters aren’t recognisable. Someone with prosopagnosia may worry that they appear rude or disinterested when they fail to recognise a person.
There’s no specific treatment for prosopagnosia, but researchers are continuing to investigate what causes the condition, and training programmes are being developed to help improve facial recognition.