Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

13 May

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Named after: Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, who used the “Drink Me” potion and “Eat Me” cake to grow and shrink her way into Wonderland.

Symptoms: If you have AIWS, you perceive your body parts and objects around you as being larger or smaller than they actually are—not in an “OMG! My butt looks so big in this bikini!” way, but more in a “seeing everything through a fun house mirror” way. Once you’re down this rabbit hole, all bets are off. Your toes might appear to be several feet long. Your hand might look enormous. The door to the bathroom could shrink until it seems miles away. To make matters worse, your muddled perception may also extend to things like sounds and the passing of time. Is that a helicopter landing in your living room or the quiet hum of the dehumidifier? Have you been writing for four minutes or four hours? Tough to say.

Causes: AiWS is a neurological condition that usually hangs out with its BFF, the migraine, though it can also be caused by brain tumors, drug use, the Epstein Barr virus, and temporal lobe epilepsy. It’s more common among kids, and some people do grow out of it. Wonderland author Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) himself suffered from migraines, and there’s some speculation that Alice’s changing size may have been inspired by his own AIWS experiences.

Misery factor: 9 out of 10. Noticing your office chair is the size of an elephant seems more quirky than life-destroying at first, but as the poor guy who wrote “I have Alice in Wonderland syndrome” for The Guardian points out, having no idea whether you are perceiving anything accurately is significantly disruptive. He moves clumsily because he has difficulty figuring out where the ground is and doesn’t dare cross streets because he can’t tell how large or small—and thus how near or far away—cars are.



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