There was a study in Russia of a man (left unnamed, referred to as Mr. X in the study) who had hyperthymesia, meaning he was born without the ability to forget anything. Phone numbers, bank accounts, scripts and books, snippets of conversation, emotions both good and bad, sensations both good and bad... well, you get the picture. He was almost normal until his mid-20s, when the information overload started getting to him. He committed suicide at the age of 32.
Jill Price is famous for having the same ability as the man above. Initially, the ability to remember everything in your life sounds tremendously useful. Teacher gives a lecture? Hey, no problem, you remember it! Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Jill's ability, as with most people who have this, is autobiographical memory only. She can remember that on X date thirty years before she was sitting in a high-school class at 10:15 AM listening to a lecture on history. But she can't remember the lecture itself, she only remembers where she was, what she was doing, what she was wearing, etc. — autobiographical information. Actual useful information? No.
Cells in the body, for various reasons, can only divide a certain number of times; this is essentially why we age. But some cells are blessed with the ability to keep dividing forever! The downside? Well, they're called cancer cells.
Henrietta Lacks found a way to live forever — as a spreading strain of immortal human cells! Now the HeLa cells are seen as more of a nuisance since they're apparently all over the place — and they like to corrupt other samples of other cells.
And note that even the 'found' part was much less cheerful then it sounds. Namely, Lacks got cancer, doctors took her cells for diagnosis, but ended up using them for extensive biological testing- without her permission. She died in poverty, without ever knowing that her cell line was being used all around the world, often used to help develop very profitable drugs. To this day, her family is fighting for a share of the profit.
People with the rare condition CIPA: Congenital Insensibility to Pain with Anhidrosis, which essentially takes the form of a complete loss of the sense of touch. Can't feel heat or cold, aren't even slowed down by sucking chest wounds, pretty awesome crimefighting power right? Well, it would be if they also had a healing factor to go with it. As is, they risk permanently destroying their bodies at any time because they don't even notice it's hurt. Or that their hand in sizzling on the grill at the moment. Or that they haven't eaten in 5 days. Or that they need to pee. On a hot day, they may pass out or even die because their body doesn't figure it should be sweating.
There's an article on the NYT about a girl with CIPA. Imagine having a child who's chewed off part of her own tongue, or runs on broken ankles, or sits covered in biting ants. There's then an anecdote from an adult woman with CIPA whose pelvis shattered during childbirth and was bleeding internally, and only felt a kind of stiffness.
Because of their lack of a pain response, People with this condition also have reduced reflexes. One patient with CIPA, known as 'Ms. C,' mentioned that not only did she have no memory of experiencing pain, but she also had no memory of sneezing or coughing. Ever.
On the other hand, blood plasma inverts the recipient/donor relationship. Oľ blood plasma can only be donated to other Oľ people and Oľ people can take blood plasma of any type. AB+ blood plasma becomes the universal donor and also can only take blood plasma from other AB+ donors. It's good to donate blood whatever your blood type is!
Savant syndrome, in come cases. The notable being Kim Peek (the "real-life" basis for the Rain Man).
Having absolute pitch has a few downsides, leading some people to regard it as this. One twentieth-century musicologist actually tried to get rid of it, by playing the developments of Beethoven piano sonatas over and over in all possible keys.
Relative pitch really helps when it comes to singing, especially from memory. It sucks whenever someone is singing around a person with relative pitch, and the singer is slightly (or not-so-slightly) flat or sharp. The person with relative pitch can ALWAYS tell.
Lizzie Velasquez is a woman who suffers from a rare disease called neonatal progeroid syndrome (NPS). She consumes as much as 8,000 calories a day, yet is still extremely thin at only 56 lbs (25.4 kg or 4 stone).
Brooke Greenberg may hold the secret to immortality, or the very least how aging works. She has stayed the same physical and mental age for years. That age? 9 months to 1 year old. Unfortunately she passed away on October 23, 2013, but due to a disease unrelated to her age (actually it's semi-related, but it's because it affects all toddlers biologically 9 months to a year old).
There are genetic conditions which result in increased muscle mass in comparison to the general public. The downside? Your heart and lungs do not scale accordingly, putting constant increased stress on them, which guarantees a shorter life expectancy.
Conversely, anacondas and other large constrictors can swallow prey as big as they are, and go for months without eating. The catch? They need that downtime in order to regenerate their stomach lining, which tears itself apart with ulcers trying to digest its meal before it starts rotting inside the snake.
Flying is generally considered awesome. Unfortunately for the birds, this requires extensive adaptation with hollow, fragile bones, extensive lungs, and a hyperactive diet to fuel everything (sparrows are said to eat twenty-five times their own weight each day). They literally have no room for anything else but flying.
Synesthesia. This is when peoples' senses are linked in intricate ways, like seeing a different colour every time you hear a different sound, or associating a certain emotion with a number. The variations are possibly endless. Sounds cool at first, but it can also be negative. For example, you might taste chocolate every time you saw the colour brown, but what if you associated it with poop instead?
Even if you do associate the colour brown with chocolate, you have to remember not everyone likes chocolate so that could be a negative experience, probably not as bad as poop, but...
Louis Gossett Jr. said his Best Supporting Actor Academy Award (for An Officer and a Gentleman) ended up being this. Sure, an Oscar is a wonderful achievement for an actor, but Gossett said that it put him in acting limbo, since smaller productions didn't think they could afford him (since he's an Oscar winner) and big productions didn't think he could carry a movie on his own (since he won for Supporting Actor). A lot of Best Supporting Actor/Actress winners have trouble finding work afterwards.
Sir Alec Guinness's work in Star Wars. He was perhaps the only person associated with the film, aside from George Lucas, who actually thought the film would be successful, but he never imagined it would become one of the biggest movies of all time, overshadowing the entire rest of his career to the point where he ended up equated in the popular consciousness exclusively with the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi. He was not happy about that bit.
Being a genius also sucks. A lot of people with extreme high I.Q.'s or intelligence suffer from depression because they don't have anybody on their level to talk to. Many also don't see the point of using their talent for higher benefits as they would rather have a normal life. And a lot of people with extreme high intelligence are often loners who have trouble living together with more average people.
The Myers Briggs type indicator shows explains this with the perceiving function. A person is either sensing or intuitive. Sensors just look at the information that is there. Intuitive people think in terms of ideas, abstracts and things that lie beneath the surface. Often, intuitive people get frustrated that sensors cannot understand their ideas.
Gifted children are especially vulnerable to this trope, since they seem to be in a sort of lose-lose situation. Either they are encouraged to stimulate their intellectual capacities (meaning that they have to skip entire years of school and go directly to University at an early age, meaning they have to be in a completely foreign environment for them) or they are kept in their school year (which, while benefits them due to the fact that they can interact with children their age, can cause them to be problematic, since they are sitting in a class learning things they already know).
There's also the tendency of gifted kids to grow into extreme motivation problems. They don't usually have to work very hard in school because the material is easy, and are rarely rewarded proportionally for it because they can't do better than "perfect" and "perfect" is their "average". This means that if they ever do find something difficult, they feel like failures because they're supposed to be smart enough to handle anything, or get put under such pressure to succeed that they run themselves ragged just to avoid the punishment that comes from being less than perfect. This usually ends with the gifted kid growing into an adult who shuts down when something doesn't come easily, either because they feel like a failure and are too ashamed to continue, or because they've been doing perfectly all their lives and have nothing to show for it except being eligible to be expected to be perfect somewhere else.
A rare genetic condition called Urbach-Wiethe disease can, in some cases, cause damage to the amygdala, dampening or removing the victim's ability to feel fear. Which, on top of all the dermatological and neurological problems caused by Urbach-Wiethe diease, means you're not afraid of anything... including things that could be potentially dangerous.
Having a job that involves frequent travel. On the one hand being able to visit all sorts of other places and having your employer pay for it all sounds great...but this also will uproot you from home and your family quite a bit, makes scheduling your social life far more complicated and can make real vacations less enjoyable.
Some theorists of international relations have coined the term "resource curse". Sure, having a lot of natural resources (oil, gas, ores, you name it) may seem a huge advantage for a country, but it often leads to instability or fighting within the country over how to divide up the profits. And even where it doesn't, it has often lead to Crippling Overspecialization. Venezuela's export are over 90% crude oil. That's good news if oil hovers at $100 a barrel, but what if oil drops to $30 a barrel? And even the countries that avoid all this can still fall victim to what economists call the Dutch disease.
Buxom may be better in fiction, but in real life, it comes with a slew of a downsides including back pain, uncomfortable and expensive brassieres, difficulty finding comfortable clothes, excessive sweat, painful tugging at the chest during motion, etc. That doesn't stop many women from desiring bigger breasts anyway as logic tends to take a backseat to sexuality.
Same goes for the Spear Counterpart. Having a long schlong is pretty desirable, if you can get past the discomfort of keeping it in your pants, having to deal with the occasional unwanted Raging Stiffie and the common difficulty of lying down on your stomach. And yet, male enhancement is still going strong.
Winning the lottery. On one hand, you and your family have won a large enough sum of money to have you set for life. On the other hand, your taxes spike up quickly, and a lot of trust issues are had with people you were once close with or even just knew, all because there's that prospect of money in the way. Some lottery winners have had some real horror stories over this.
Certain teams consider leading a stage race in cycling, especially a Grand Tour, early on can be this a rider on said team is a contender for the win. While your rider is leading the race, and is in the position you want to be in when the race is over, your team is expected to do a lot of work in the front of the pack, while the other teams can stay in cover for the wind. The teams with serious contenders usually don't mind leaving the jersey to a non-threatening rider for that reason, and non-threatening riders usually don't mind the jersey either, as it provides sponsor exposure for their teams. Some say that Phonak tried this during the 2006 edition of Tour de France, allowing the breakaway to gain almost 30 minutes on the pack and allowing Oscar Pereiro to take the yellownote by a margin of 1.29, he was quite far behind before the stage. Pereiro ended up winning the race after Phonak captain Floyd Landis got busted for doping. In 2009, Astana seemed fine having the yellow jersey on Rinaldo Nocentini of AG2R for some stages as well.
Alecia Faith Pennington was born to a conservative family on a large rural property in Texas. Her parents specifically avoided creating any paper trail for the family with the goal of avoiding government involvement: children were born at home, home-schooled, and rarely visited the nearest town. At 17 Faith decided to join society at large to discover that due to her parents' efforts to keep her off the grid, she had no birth certificate or social security number. She was unable to go to school, get a job, apply for a driver's license, or even open a bank account.
A non-human example: the Supermarine Spitfire was one of the most famous fighter aircraft of World War Two. It was fast and exceptionally agile, partly on account of its high degree of engine torque, which meant you could easily roll it. Not surprisingly, when Britain was suffering from night air raids from the Luftwaffe, the Royal Air Force developed a night-fighter variant of the Spitfire, which basically involved painting it black. It turned out to be a crappy night-fighter, precisely because it was so agile. Because night-fighter pilots couldn't see the horizon and had to rely on their not entirely satisfactory instruments, it was very difficult to keep a Spitfire under steady flight in night conditions; if you rolled it, which it would do at the drop of a hat, it was harder to get it back into level flight because you couldn't instantly tell which way up you were. It was easily outclassed as a night-fighter by the much less glamorous Boulton Paul Defiant, which had been a not very good day fighter because it was relatively slow and clumsy, but which turned out to be a great night-fighter because it more or less wanted to fly in a straight line, and also because it was equipped with a turret, which enabled it to creep up on formations of German bombers and shoot them down from beneath.
Having high-end headphones may seem like an obvious blessing, but sound issues such as dynamic compression and the inherent drawbacks of lossy sound file formats such as MP3 and OGG become more apparent when you use such headphones, particularly if you also have music with better dynamic range or in lossless formats such as WAV and FLAC. You'll still have better audio experienced than with $10 drugstore headphones using the same sources, but the variations in quality will stand out more.