What is Alice in Wonderland Syndrome?

Out of all the conditions and illnesses that exist in the world, could any of them be quite as bizarre as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome? Of course, there are some genuinely weird and disturbing medical conditions that are so rare as to make one thank God for that rarity. Nevertheless, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is certainly worthy of being among the top ten odd conditions that can affect human beings. Since Alice gets herself into so many surreal and bizarre situations in Wonderland, one might well wonder exactly what it is about her adventures in the topsy-turvy world caused one to name a chronic medical problem after her.

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is all about perceptual distortion. Remember how Alice saw everything around much larger than it actually was? Well, one of the primary symptoms of Alice in Wonderland syndrome is seeing one’s own body in a severely distorted manner. If this were the only symptom associated with this disorder, it might well have been named Modigliani Syndrome. Modigliani was the modern artists most instantly recognizable by virtue of his subjects having elongated necks. Those who suffer Alice in Wonderland Syndrome may look at themselves as if their body is a great distance away from their heads. But there are other symptoms that have little to do with Mr. Modigliani and more to do with the weirdness of Wonderland.

For instance, have you ever had the experience of time slowing down? One of the symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is the quite disconcerting feeling that time is moving past one either very quickly or very slowly. Almost everyone has experienced this feeling at least a few times, especially while consuming cold medication, but for those who are under the stranglehold of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome this feeling of being stuck in a time warp can occur on an everyday basis. Equally disturbing is a perceptual distortion in the sense of touch. While most of us have at one time or another had that feeling of watching the world go by us too quickly or slowly, precious few of us have ever touched someone and honestly believed that the texture of the person’s skin is analogous to what SpongeBob SquarePants might feel like. Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the person’s skin might feel like the reptilian scales of a Cardassian from Deep Space Nine. You probably already suspect that there is a perceptual distortion in the way one hears something as well and you would be right.

The cause of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome isn’t known yet, but there has been some research that indicates a connection to, among other things, migraines, Epstein-Barr Virus, and the use of psychoactive drugs.