A great activity for everyone

Strange Disease Diagnosis

Unleash your inner detective in this wacky acting game, where you guess hilarious fictional illnesses based on clues given by patients!

Strange Disease Diagnosis
By Jon Zajac

What is Strange Disease Diagnosis?

The Strange Disease Diagnosis icebreaker is a fun and engaging game that involves acting and guessing. Its purpose is to encourage communication, creativity, and teamwork among participants. In this game, one person acts as the doctor while the other players take on the roles of patients with a shared, imaginary illness or condition. The doctor must then ask questions to diagnose the strange disease, and each patient provides clues through their actions and behaviors. The goal is for the doctor to correctly guess the made-up condition or for the patient to reveal it after a certain number of questions. This game can be played in teams, adding an extra layer of competition and collaboration. Overall, the Strange Disease Diagnosis icebreaker is an excellent way to foster interaction and entertainment at any gathering.

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Rules for Strange Disease Diagnosis

  1. Designate one person to be the doctor and the rest to be patients.
  2. The doctor must leave the room while the patients decide on a shared disease or syndrome.
  3. Patients give clues about their condition through acting and improvisation.
  4. The doctor may ask questions, with each question counting towards a potential guess of the condition.
  5. After each question, the doctor can make a diagnosis attempt.
  6. If the doctor’s guess is correct or they give up, the patient and doctor switch roles.
  7. Optionally, players can form teams where one team acts as doctors and patients while the other tries to guess the syndrome. The teams then switch roles after each round.

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Materials needed for Strange Disease Diagnosis

  • Patients: In this game, the patients are the individuals who will be acting out their assigned strange disease or illness. They will need to use improvisation and body language to give clues to the doctor about their condition.

  • Doctor: The doctor is the person responsible for guessing the strange disease or illness that the patients have come up with. They will ask questions to gather clues and make a diagnosis based on their observations.

  • Imagination and Creativity: Both patients and doctors will need a good dose of imagination and creativity to come up with interesting and challenging diseases, as well as to act them out effectively.

  • Question-asking Skills: The doctor will need to be skilled at asking questions that will help them narrow down the possibilities for the strange disease or illness. They should also keep track of the number of questions they ask.

  • Deductive Reasoning Skills: Both patients and doctors will need to use deductive reasoning skills to make educated guesses about the condition at hand. Patients can give clues through their actions, while doctors must interpret those clues and make informed diagnoses.


  • Timer or Timekeeper: If you want to add a time limit to the game, you may need a timer or a timekeeper to keep track of how long each round lasts. This can increase the challenge and excitement of the game.

  • Team Division: To play the game in teams, you will need to divide players into two groups: one team playing as doctors and patients, while the other team tries to guess the syndrome. You may also consider having a referee or judge to ensure fairness and accuracy in the diagnosis process.

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Setting up for Strange Disease Diagnosis

To set up for the Strange Disease Diagnosis icebreaker activity, you will need to first decide on the groups of people. One person will be the doctor and the rest will be patients. The doctor should leave the room or be otherwise occupied while the patients decide on a shared syndrome or illness that they will all act out. They can choose something funny, absurd, or based on real medical conditions. The key is to come up with distinct symptoms or behaviors that can be acted out and give clues about the diagnosis. Once the patients have agreed on their condition, they should signal that they are ready for the doctor to return and begin guessing.

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How to play Strange Disease Diagnosis

  1. Decide who will be the doctor: I start by choosing one person to be the doctor, while everyone else will be patients. The doctor should leave the room for now.
  2. Choose a shared condition: As patients, we need to come up with a strange syndrome or disease that we all pretend to have. This could be anything, like thinking we’re chickens, Sarah Palin, secret agents, or anything else we can agree on.
  3. Prepare clues: We act out our shared condition through subtle (or not-so-subtle) actions and behaviors, giving the doctor clues about our condition without directly stating it. For example, a person acting as a chicken might suddenly cluck without reason.
  4. Invite the doctor back: Once we’ve decided on our condition and prepared our clues, we call the doctor back into the room.
  5. Ask questions and make guesses: The doctor can now ask any patient a question, but we keep track of the number of questions asked. After each question, the doctor makes a guess about our condition. As patients, we cannot simply tell the doctor what our condition is; we need to give clues through our actions and responses.
  6. Switch roles: When the doctor correctly guesses our condition (or gives up and we reveal it), we switch roles. The patient becomes the doctor, and the doctor becomes a patient with a new condition to diagnose.
  7. Play in teams (optional): If desired, we can form teams of two, with one team acting as doctor and patient while the other team tries to guess the syndrome. After some time, the teams switch roles.

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Benefits of Strange Disease Diagnosis

  • Improves Active Listening Skills: As the doctor, you must carefully listen to each patient’s responses and clues in order to make an accurate diagnosis. This helps enhance active listening skills and attention to detail.

  • Boosts Creativity and Imagination: The game encourages players to think outside the box and come up with unique symptoms and behaviors for their characters, promoting creativity and imaginative thinking.

  • Enhances Teamwork and Collaboration: In team variations of the game, working together as a team to diagnose a patient’s condition can improve collaboration and cooperation skills among players.

  • Builds Empathy and Understanding: By putting themselves in the role of a doctor or patient, participants gain insight into the perspectives and experiences of others, fostering empathy and understanding.

  • Promotes Communication Skills: The game requires clear and concise communication from both the patients giving clues through their actions and the doctors asking questions to diagnose the condition. This can help improve overall communication skills and confidence in expressing oneself.

  • Encourages Active Engagement: With its interactive nature, the Strange Disease Diagnosis icebreaker keeps participants engaged and involved throughout the game, making it an excellent way to promote active participation and interaction among group members.

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Skills built with Strange Disease Diagnosis

  • Active Listening: Playing the Strange Disease Diagnosis icebreaker requires participants to attentively listen to their fellow players’ responses and clues in order to make accurate diagnoses or provide convincing performances as patients.
  • Critical Thinking: The game encourages players to analyze information, identify patterns, and make logical deductions based on the given clues and questions. This helps build critical thinking skills by challenging participants to consider multiple perspectives and think creatively.
  • Communication: Players must effectively convey their thoughts and ideas through verbal and non-verbal communication. They need to ask clear questions, provide concise answers, and use body language to give clues about their characters’ conditions.
  • Empathy and Understanding: By acting out different roles and illnesses, participants gain a better understanding of how others may perceive or experience the world differently. This fosters empathy and emotional intelligence.
  • Improvisation and Adaptability: The game often involves improvising lines and actions based on the situation, which helps build adaptability and quick thinking skills. Players must be able to adjust their strategies and responses as new information emerges.
  • Teamwork: Collaborating with a teammate or working together to diagnose a condition strengthens cooperation and communication skills. This encourages trust and mutual support among participants.

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Why I like Strange Disease Diagnosis

I enjoy the Strange Disease Diagnosis icebreaker because it encourages creativity and teamwork in a fun and engaging way. The game’s emphasis on improvisation and acting allows participants to step outside their comfort zones and express themselves in a dynamic and interactive environment. This makes it an excellent icebreaker for groups of people who may not know each other well, as it helps to build rapport and foster a sense of community.

Another aspect of the game that I appreciate is its versatility. The Strange Disease Diagnosis icebreaker can be adapted to suit different group sizes, ages, and abilities, making it an ideal choice for a wide range of events and occasions. Additionally, the game’s focus on problem-solving and critical thinking helps to engage participants and keep them interested and motivated throughout the activity.

Overall, I find the Strange Disease Diagnosis icebreaker to be a fun and engaging way to bring people together and build connections. Its emphasis on creativity, teamwork, and critical thinking makes it an excellent choice for any group looking to break the ice and have a great time.

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Tips for making Strange Disease Diagnosis more inclusive

  • Tip: Allow players to choose their roles    Before starting the game, give players the option to choose whether they want to be a doctor or a patient. This can help ensure that everyone feels comfortable with their role and more engaged in the game.

  • Tip: Use inclusive language and examples    When explaining the game, make sure to use gender-neutral language and provide diverse examples of “strange diseases” that cover a range of interests and experiences. This can help create an inclusive environment where everyone feels represented.

  • Tip: Encourage active listening    Remind players to listen carefully to each other’s answers and questions, as this is essential for the game to work well. Encouraging active listening can also help build empathy and foster a more inclusive atmosphere.

  • Tip: Adapt the game for different abilities    Consider making adjustments to the game to accommodate players with different abilities. For example, you could allow players to pass on a question or give them extra time to answer. This can help ensure that everyone can participate and enjoy the game, regardless of their abilities.

  • Tip: Debrief after the game    After playing the game, take some time to reflect on the experience and discuss what worked well and what could be improved. This can help create a more inclusive environment by giving players the opportunity to share their thoughts and feedback in a safe and supportive space.

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Reflection questions for Strange Disease Diagnosis

  1. What was your experience being the doctor? Understanding participants’ experiences in different roles can give insight into how they think, communicate, and collaborate under pressure.
  2. How did you come up with clues for your illness as a patient? This question explores participants’ creativity and problem-solving skills when working within constraints.
  3. Did you notice any patterns or commonalities in the “symptoms” patients displayed? If so, what were they? Encouraging observation and pattern recognition can help participants develop critical thinking and analytical skills.
  4. How did it feel to have your diagnosis challenged as a patient? How did you respond when that happened? This question delves into resilience, adaptability, and communication in the face of uncertainty or pushback.
  5. What strategies did you use as a doctor to narrow down the possible illnesses? Exploring different problem-solving techniques can help participants learn from each other and improve their skills.
  6. How did you feel about the accuracy of your diagnosis, whether correct or incorrect? This question touches on self-assessment, confidence, and continuous learning in a supportive environment.
  7. Did you discover any surprising insights about communication during this activity? Emphasizing the importance of effective communication can help participants improve their interpersonal skills in various contexts.
  8. How might this game apply to real-life situations, such as problem-solving or collaboration in a team setting? This question encourages participants to draw connections between the icebreaker and their daily lives, deepening their understanding of both.

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About the author

Jon Zajac

Jon Zajac

Founder & Chief Icebreaker

I started Icebreaker Spot because I truly believe that strong connections are the foundation of successful teams. I wanted to create a platform that would make it easy for people to find and share icebreakers and team building activities, empowering them to build trust, foster collaboration, and ultimately, achieve greatness together.

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