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An Overview of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

by Althea Ocomen

What is Alice in Wonderland Syndrome?

Alice in Wonderland syndrome (AWS) is an uncommon condition that causes temporary episodes of distorted perception and disorientation in the brain. You may feel larger or smaller than you actually are. You may also find that the room you’re in — or the surrounding furniture — seems to shift and feel further away or closer than it actually is. These episodes aren’t the result of a problem with your eyes or a hallucination. They’re caused by changes in how your brain perceives the environment you’re in and how your body looks. This syndrome can affect multiple senses, including vision, touch, and hearing, and can greatly distort your surroundings. You may also lose a sense of time. Time may seem to pass faster or slower in your perception compared to reality.

How does Alice in Wonderland Syndrome present?

  • Migraine
  • Size distortion
  • Perceptual distortion
  • Time distortion
  • Sound distortion
  • Loss of limb control or loss of coordination

What causes Alice in Wonderland Syndrome?

It’s not clear what causes AWS, but doctors are trying to better understand it through extensive research and further study. They do know that AWS isn’t a problem with your eyes, a hallucination, or a mental or neurological illness. Researchers believe unusual electrical activity in the brain causes abnormal blood flow to the parts of the brain that process your environment and experience visual perception which affects your overall health. This unusual electrical activity may be the result of several causes. One study found that 33 percent of people who experienced AWS had infections. Both head trauma and migraines were tied to 6 percent of AWS episodes. But more than half of AWS cases had no exact underlying causes. 

What treatment options are available?

There’s no treatment for AWS. If you or your child experiences symptoms, the best way to handle them is to rest and wait for them to pass and be a pillar of support. It’s also important to reassure yourself or your loved one that the symptoms aren’t harmful nor is it something to be ashamed of. Treating what you and your doctor suspect is the underlying cause for AWS episodes may help prevent an episode. For example, if you experience migraines, treating them may prevent future episodes. Likewise, treating an infection could help stop the symptoms. If you and your doctor suspect stress play a role, you may find that meditation and relaxation can help reduce symptoms as much as possible.



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