Alice in Wonderland syndrome (AIWS) is a neuro-psychological condition that causes a distortion of perception. People may experience distortions in visual perception of objects such as appearing smaller or larger, or appearing to be closer or further away than they actually are. Size distortion may occur in other senses as well.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS) is often associated with migraines, brain tumors and psychoactive drug use. It can be caused by abnormal amounts of electrical activity resulting in abnormal blood flow in the parts of the brain that process visual perception and texture.
Signs and symptoms
AIWS affects the sense of vision, sensation, touch, hearing as well as one’s own body image. Migraines, nausea, dizziness, and agitation are also commonly associated symptoms with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
Although a person’s vision is not affected, they will often ‘see’ objects as the incorrect size, shape or perspective angle. Therefore, people, cars, buildings, houses, animals, trees, environments look smaller or larger than they should be. Further, depth perception can be altered whereby perceived distances are incorrect. For example, a corridor may appear to be very long or the ground may appear too close.
The person affected by Alice in Wonderland syndrome may also lose a sense of time, a problem similar to the lack of spatial perspective. Time seems to pass very slowly, akin to an LSD experience. The lack of time and space perspective also leads to a distorted sense of velocity. For example, one could be inching along ever so slowly in reality, yet it would seem as if one were sprinting uncontrollably along a moving walkway, leading to severe and overwhelming disorientation.
Sufferers can often experience paranoia as a result of disturbances in sound perception. This can include amplification of soft sounds or misinterpretation of common sounds.
In addition, some people may, in conjunction with a high fever, experience more intense and overt hallucinations, seeing things that are not there and misinterpreting events and situations. Less frequent symptoms sometimes described in Alice in Wonderland syndrome patients include loss of limb control, memory loss, lingering touch and sound sensations and emotional instability.
It appears that the symptoms of AiWS do not change in severity over the course of the syndrome. Although the symptoms may acutely impact the patient’s life, Alice in Wonderland syndrome typically resolves itself within weeks or months.
Furthermore, AiWS symptoms occur transiently during the day for short periods of time, with most patients describing their symptoms as lasting anywhere between 10 seconds to 10 minutes. This, combined with the typically short duration of the syndrome, suggests that Alice in Wonderland syndrome typically causes a relatively short-term disruption of normal functioning.
At present, Alice in Wonderland syndrome has no standardized treatment plan. Often treatment methods revolve around migraine medication, as well as the promotion of a low tyramine diet. Further research is required to establish an effective treatment regime.
Sufferers can try to help themselves by getting close up and look at things, slowly proceeding to look at things further away.