“There is no reality, only perception. Identify the filters through which you view the world.”
Imagine this scenario. You’re sitting at your desk, on the phone. You want to write down a number so you reach for a pen and a piece of paper. But as you reach for your pen, it becomes smaller and smaller till you wonder if it’s even there or just a hallucination. With some struggle, you pick up the pen. You reach for a piece of paper but now that seems to messing with your mind too. The paper becomes bigger and bigger till it covers the whole room.
Are you going crazy? Relax. You’re not.
In my last article, (read it here) I gave an introduction to Alice in Wonderland syndrome (AIWS), a condition that alters your visual perception, either of your own body or of things around you. What I just described above is an example of what people with AIWS can go through on a regular basis, depending on the severity of AIWS.
The symptoms of AIWS first came to attention in 1952 by neurologist Caro Lippman. Three years later, English psychiatrist John Todd expanded upon Lippman’s discovery and gave it the name it’s identified with today.
And yet, despite it being in the medical books for more than 60 years, rarely anyone knows about it. Most of people outside of the medical profession haven’t even heard the name of it. I myself had never heard of it until a friend passingly mentioned it in her blog and subsequently, told me about some of her symptoms.
The lack of awareness could be for a number of reasons:
Firstly, the medical community itself can’t seem to collectively agree on the symptoms because they vary in each patient.
- Some experience visual distortion, feeling like their body is shrinking or growing.
- Some experience auditory distortion, unable to identify if the sounds around them are from nearby or far away.
- Some people with AIWS have even reported losing their sense of time. Five minutes could seem like 30 and two hours might seem like a minute.
- Due to perceptions being altered, many patients experience a loss of coordination and can’t walk or gesture properly.
- And some go through all of the above and much more.
Secondly, it’s estimated by the National Institute of Health that each year, only 15 to 20 percent of cases of AIWS are reported, making the condition a lesser priority for research and development. Furthermore, AIWS is most common amongst children and young adults, an age at which you’re less likely to report it.
Reasons for AIWS also vary. It could be excessive migraines, trauma, mental health issues, hallucinogenic drugs, epilepsy or stroke(s). Amongst younger people, many cases lead to stemming from an undiagnosed infectious mononucleosis or more commonly known as Mono.
Unfortunately, because of so much variation both in causes and symptoms of AIWS, there has yet to be a definitive treatment as of this writing.
However, if you or someone you know has AIWS, hope is definitely on the horizon. Mental health experts suggest that identify which of the possible causes are most common with you and treat them individually.
For example, if you have AIWS and seem to have migraines very often, try to focus on treating the migraines. If you’ve experienced some kind of trauma, focus on treating it. If you’re on medication, be acutely aware of its side effects. Exercises of mindfulness could also help in distinguishing reality from perception.
Furthermore, one common sign amongst people with AIWS is that it almost always diminishes with older age. And always remember, just because a condition is not widely reported, it doesn’t mean other people don’t have it. You are never alone.
What can you do as of now to spread awareness and hopefully, have the medical community find a treatment? Talk about it. Start a conversation. Share links like this, from which much of today’s research came from. Just let people know that conditions like AIWS do indeed exist.
Have you or someone you know ever had AIWS? If not, do you think this topic deserves more awareness? What do you think we can do to help people with AIWS and more importantly, bring more awareness? Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below on our secure servers.
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