Chef too scared to leave the house after being called ‘ugly’ and ‘retarded’ due to rare neurological condition is finally cured of agoraphobia by hypnotherapy


  • Richard Savage has Moebius Syndrome, which causes facial paralysis 
  • Has been bullied and suffered prejudice his entire life due to his looks
  • He stopped leaving the house for two entire years due to fear of abuse
  • After a course of hypnotherapy he was able to go outside for the first time 

For years, Richard Savage suffered horrendous abuse about his looks.

He suffers from Moebius Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder which paralyses the facial muscles, affecting a person’s looks and speech.

Throughout his life he has endured cruel taunts, being bullied at school, called ‘retarded by a doctor’ and even turned down for a job after the interviewer said he was ‘too ugly.’

The insults eroded his self-esteem to such an extent that he began to retreat into himself, developing agoraphobia.

He became terrified of leaving the house, suffering panic attacks at the thought of going outside, and spent two entire years indoors, unable to work or socialise.

But after an intensive course of hypnotherapy, the 43-year-old has stepped out of his home for the first time since the summer of 2013.

Mr Savage, a trained chef who lives in Birmingham, said: ‘Can you imagine living a life where you are frightened to go out the door?

‘I never left my house. It was terrible. I had to get a doctor’s note and wasn’t able to work.

‘I have a genetic condition which means I can’t move the muscles in my face. It affects my speech.

‘I was never able to fit in with society and at school I was badly bullied. People said I was retarded and ugly. I felt worthless.

‘I became very dejected and withdrew. In my mind, leaving the house was too risky because almost every time I went outside I suffered prejudice.’

Moebius syndrome is a rare disorder present from birth, affecting the nerves that lead to the brain.

Those with the condition are unable to move their faces, meaning they can’t smile, frown, suck, grimace or blink their eyes.

It can also cause respiratory problems, difficulty swallowing, sleep disorders, weak upper body strength, and, as in Mr Savage’s case, problems with speech.

While he suffered abuse his entire life, he says the most shocking example was when he was verbally abused by a doctor he went to see while studying at university.

He added: ‘I was 22 when I went to see the doctor for a routine appointment.


Moebius syndrome is a rare neurological disorder that is present at birth.

It primarily affects the 6th and 7th cranial nerves – the nerves that lead to the brain – and leaves those with the condition struggling to move their faces.

They cannot smile, frown, suck, grimace or blink their eyes – and also move their eyes from side to side.

They may also suffer damage to other nerves, and the skeleton, causing hand and feet anomalies and possibly club foot.

Respiratory problems, speech and swallowing disorders, visual impairments, sensory problems – such as understanding the world around them, sleep disorders, and weak upper body strength may also be present.

Approximately 30 per cent of children with Moebius syndrome are on the autistic spectrum.

Source: Moebius Syndrome Foundation

‘The first thing he said, the first comment he made, was that I was “retarded”.

‘He left the room, I sat there and waited and I knew instantly what was going on. It was prejudice.’

When the doctor came back into the room, he began pressing and moving Mr Savage’s face, without asking.

Another time, he was turned down for a job as the interviewee said he was ‘too ugly’.

He continued: ‘I turned up in the room and sat in front of the panel.

‘After all the questions, they came out in the end and said “We are so sorry, we can’t accept you because, from our point of view, you are far too ugly”.

‘After that, I felt so small, I felt so intimidated and worthless. I was locked away for two years because I was so frightened to go out into society.’

He began to suffer panic attacks whenever he thought he had to leave the house, and so staying inside became a habit.

Mr Savage finally turned his life around after having home visits from a cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist.

He said: ‘A friend suggested I try and get help with my agoraphobia so I had one two-hour session.

‘I was very sceptical but I drifted off naturally, like a good night’s sleep.

‘It was like I had gone through a fog and there were no more worries, no more anxiety and no panicking.

‘It is almost like you peel away years of anxiety and that is a big, dramatic change.’

He says leaving his house for the first time was ‘amazing’. 

‘I just walked out the front door and down the street. It was a small thing to do but a huge step for me,’ he said.

‘I am now more confident and I am more alert and aware. I was a nervous wreck before. I achieve more now.’

Mr Savage is now planning to write his childhood memoirs in a book to inspire others.
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