Screaming Penis Disorder (SPD) affects only a small number of men in the U.S., but for those it does, it can be devastating. Activities the rest of us take for granted — something as ordinary as going grocery shopping — can be fraught with difficulties. And because the much of the public is uneducated about the disorder, victims frequently find themselves subject to verbal abuse (often hurled at them over the cries of their own phalluses), harassment, and even incarceration.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been kicked out of stores and restaurants,” says Bill, who has been coping with SPD for years. “One time I was out on a date, and my dick started screaming right when the waiter brought out our salads.” The embarrassment is one thing, says Bill, but other consequences have been far worse. Another time, on his way to work, Bill’s troublesome organ began screaming obscenities when he was on a crowded city bus. “It was awful,” he says. “We were stuck in traffic between stops. I couldn’t get off the bus. Everyone thought I was frustrated about the bus being so slow. I held my hands over my crotch, but you could still hear it, and I tried yelling at everyone that it was okay, it was just my penis. But that only added to the chaos. My johnson started howling about hijacking the bus, and the driver thought I was going to assault him, so he called the police.” Bill ended up in a holding cell, where his penis continued to scream until he was able to see a lawyer.

Some victims report that stressful situations seem to set their peckers off, but some say the shouting can begin even in moments of calm, for no apparent reason. A man named Trevor claims that his penis would often wake him up in the middle of the night. “There was a period when I didn’t sleep for more than two or three hours at a stretch,” he says. “I’d wake up from a deep sleep because someone was screaming bloody murder. The first couple of times, I thought one of my kids was having a nightmare before I looked down and realized it was my willy, standing straight up and screaming through the sheet like a little ghost.”

Glen, another screaming penis sufferer, declares that his peter is “completely insane. Sometimes it hollers that it’s terrified Google or the government is out to get it. Other times it threatens to kill people around me.” Glen, who now works from home, says he orders most things he needs online, and rarely leaves the house anymore. Financial hardship is common among SPD sufferers. The condition usually leads to conflicts in the workplace and makes it difficult to hold down any job that involves other people. But most disability insurance does not cover screaming penis.

Some SPD-stricken men attempt to muffle their members by taping the apertures. Some wear codpieces or fashion their own by binding their schlongs with layers of rags and foam rubber. “But that can backfire,” says Simon, who was diagnosed a few months ago. “Once you take off whatever you’ve been using to muzzle your manhood, it’s like it’s been bottling up the squawks the whole time and it wails even louder and longer than it did before.”

Most men with SPD say that they have more or less given up on intimate relations. “It’s a serious turn-off,” says Bill. “You’re with a woman, she starts to take off her clothes, and your cock starts screaming at her.”

The cause of SPD remains unknown. As it is a relatively new disorder, clinical studies have only recently begun. Furthermore, it can be difficult for researchers to conduct studies, because most of the afflicted are reluctant to participate in anything that would entail repeated visits to a clinic. And many are fearful even of submitting to examinations by doctors. Speculation about the cause of SPD flies around the Internet — everything from water pollution to aliens has been blamed — but no one can say conclusively what it is that makes a penis scream.

One thing is certain. Victims of SPD are deserving of our sympathy. So the next time you are out in society and some prick starts shrieking, remember, it’s not its owner’s fault. He is likely much more dismayed than you are about the public tantrum his tool is having.