Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is a neurological condition where the individual’s perception of colors, sizes, distances, and textures are altered from reality. Just as in the movie Alice in Wonderland, someone suffering from the symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome may have an analogous experience to the one that the fictional character Alice had.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is a very rare occurrence and can sometimes be confused with schizophrenia. In fact, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is estimated to occur in about 10-20% of the population. It is an infrequent event that is believed to occur only a few times throughout the lives of most affected individuals .
Thus, the reason why there is not much known about this condition. Nevertheless, it appears that Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is also a common experience at sleep onset, and has been known to commonly arise due to a lack of sleep .
A brief history of this syndrome: A British psychiatrist by the name of Dr. John Todd was the first to describe Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, which occurred in 1955. Dr. Todd gave it this name from the famous novel by Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome resembles many of the events experienced by the fictional character Alice. Reportedly, Lewis Carroll had actually suffered from severe migraines and Lilliputian hallucinations, which is where objects, as well as people appear smaller than they actually are .
Causes of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is usually experienced by young children. This adds to the uniqueness of this illness, as well as the irony of it seeing as how in the movie with which this condition is named after, the star Alice was a young girl. The symptoms of this condition may be associated with very severe migraines. In fact, some doctors believe that Alice in Wonderland Syndrome might be a type of migraine aura. Auras are visual and other sensory issues that some people may experience before or during a headache. Experiencing this condition may also be due to schizophrenia, a stroke, epilepsy, or by taking certain medications .
What causes migraines?
According to Mayo Clinic, there are many different causes of migraines, such as stress, medications, sensory stimuli, and sleep patterns, among other things . Among these reasons, a genetic predisposition to experiencing migraines is another likely cause, which may also be a factor in inducing some of the symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
It’s no secret that stress can induce headaches in people who are ill-equipped at coping with the mental and physical demands that come with it. Everyone experiences stress at some point in their lives, with some people experiencing much more than others. It is this stress, as well as someone’s ability to cope with such stress which can be used as a barometer to see the odds at which they may experience a headache, and perhaps even some symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
Though as unpleasant and obnoxious as headaches are, a migraine is that times 10. The severity of a migraine far supersedes that of an ordinary headache and depending on the amount of stress you are experiencing, your ability to cope with such stress, as well as your genetic makeup, you may also be at risk for developing Alice in Wonderland Syndrome too.
Certain medications may induce migraines. This is another reason as to why it is very important to take into consideration the many potential side-effects that any medication can induce. Oral contraceptives and vasodilators may be among those medications which can have the potential to induce migraines, as well as inadvertently induce some symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. If you are unsure as to which medications may cause you to experience migraines, then you may want to speak to your local pharmacist to see the potential risks.
Overbearing sensory experiences such as extremely bright lights, very loud sounds, or even powerful smells may induce migraines in someone who is already experiencing a headache or in someone who is already at risk for experiencing migraines. Though avoiding such stimuli is an obvious pragmatic solution to this potential problem, it is not always possible and practical to do so in every situation. So, you may greatly benefit by taking active steps in your life to try and limit the amount of over-exposure to such stimuli.
Not getting enough sleep or getting too much sleep may put yourself at risk for developing migraines. This is especially the case for those experiencing jet lag. Such migraines which are a result of improper sleep patterns may put you at risk for developing Alice in Wonderland Syndrome insofar as you have the genetics to allow it to develop in the first place.
Some other notable causes of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome are brain tumors, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, an infection, or head trauma. Although, it is quite difficult for doctors to find the exact cause of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome due to the fact that the symptoms of it only occur for a short amount of time .
Symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
The symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome are quite bizarre and resemble some symptoms of schizophrenia. A lot of the symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome are seen in the movie itself as experienced by Alice. Just as her experience and perception of reality were warped, the same can be said for the individual suffering from symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome in real life.
Alice experienced color enhancement in her environment, straight lines that appeared curved, large objects that were actually very small, small objects that were actually very large, things that appeared far away but were actually right near her, and so on and so on. These symptoms that Alice experienced in the movie are also the very same symptoms of someone who has Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. These symptoms can inflict a great deal of distress upon the individual experiencing it.
Objects may look bigger or smaller than they really are
People’s faces may appear disfigured
Colors may appear much brighter than they really are
Objects or people may appear to be stretched out
Objects may appear to change colors or move spontaneously
Objects that are still may appear to be moving
Straight lines appear wavy or warped
Things may appear closer or further away than they really are
Diagnostic Criteria for Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
Though the symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome appear to be somewhat analogous to some other psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, this syndrome is in fact not a psychiatric issue, but is instead a neurological one. So, seeking out medical advice from a neurologist as opposed to a psychiatrist may be more appropriate for truly diagnosing someone with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
However, it is also important to take into consideration that some of the symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome can be induced by taking certain drugs, such as hallucinogens or LSD, among others. So, someone who takes these or similar drugs may find themselves experiencing some of the symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome described in this article. This would be so not because of them having a neurological condition, but rather as a consequence of their drug consumption.
Once you seek out a medical professional for your condition, they may have your blood taken to find out if you have the Epstein-Barr virus or another virus that causes Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, an MRI scan of your brain, or an EEG test . Taking into consideration that this condition may be more common among children, if you think your child may have Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, then you may need to seek out a pediatric neurologist to get them properly diagnosed.
Treatments for Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
There unfortunately aren’t any treatments specifically designed for Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. However, you can still help to minimize your symptoms by controlling your migraines, among many other ways. Treatments may include taking prescribed medications or over the counter medications like Excedrin or Tylenol. Preventing headaches and migraines may be your best bet for helping you to treat Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
This may include knowing what will trigger or exacerbate your migraines. This may mean that you’ll need to rest in a very quiet, dimly lit area until your migraine subsides. Reducing any sort of stimuli is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of pain experienced from severe migraines. You will also want to reduce the amount of caffeine in your diet during a migraine, ensure you get adequate sleep, and eating/drinking regularly. It may take several hours for you to fully recover from a migraine.
Blood pressure, anti-seizure, and antidepressant medications may also help with treating Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. However, this will depend greatly on if your symptoms are from more than just migraines: stroke, seizures, etc. Besides taking medications, eating a healthier diet may also help reduce your risk of experiencing migraines.
This means eating foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish, and poultry among other healthy foods. You may want to stay away from processed meats and alcohol, as these foods have the potential to trigger a migraine . As intimated in the forgoing paragraphs, there are many different ways to help treat the symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
10 ways to prevent migraines/Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
1.) Keep a journal
Keeping a daily record of the way you feel can be a very advantageous endeavor for trying to prevent migraines and Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. It can be beneficial because your daily entries can be used as not only a reference, but also to help you learn which behaviors you should maintain and which ones you should change. Writing down the way you feel every day can allow you to do this effortlessly. This is especially beneficial for those who consider themselves to be forgetful as they will easily be able to look into their journal for an entry at a past date.
2.) Avoid bright lights
Bright lights can not only induce headaches, but they can also cause migraines in people who are sensitive enough to it. So, ensuring that you steer clear from very bright lights may help you to prevent painful migraines, as well as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. To make this so, you can light candles or have dim lamps turned on in your home as opposed to turning on the bright lights on your ceiling fan. This may significantly help you to reduce experiencing migraines, as well as symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
3.) Get a good night sleep
Getting good rest is very important for a plethora of reasons, such as allowing your mind and body to recover from stress or injury, among many other reasons. Some other benefits include helping to reduce the risk of getting migraines and Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. To acquire such benefits, try practicing healthy sleeping habits, such as going to bed around the same time each night, not eating large meals right before bed, not consuming caffeine right before bed, having a comfortable mattress/pillow, and ensuring that there is an adequate amount of darkness in the room you sleep in to enhance your chances of getting a sound, restful sleep.
4.) Avoid stress
It is no secret that high amounts of stress can cause migraines. So, it is only natural to presume that preventing intense amounts of stress will significantly help to reduce your overall risk for developing painful migraines, as well as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. There are many techniques that you can use to help you avoid stress. One very beneficial technique for helping to reduce stress is by using deep breathing techniques. You can start by simply taking a deep breath in through your nose and slowly exhaling through your mouth. Pursed lip breathing is another highly effective breathing technique which can help to reduce your risk of getting a migraine/Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
5.) Avoid loud noises
Just as very bright lights can aid in inducing migraines, so can very loud noises. So, trying to reduce your exposure to loud noises may help you to reduce your overall risk for developing migraines, as well as from developing Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. Be that as it may, some loud noises cannot be avoided, such as lightning or hearing someone randomly honk their horn while driving. Nevertheless, taking some active steps at trying to reduce your chances of getting exposed to loud noises may in fact help you to reduce your chance of developing a nasty migraine, as well as the unsettling condition Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
6.) Avoid excessive caffeine
Drinks and foods that are high in caffeine have their share of benefits. However, consuming too much caffeine, especially right before bed can make it very difficult for you to get a good night’s rest, and as we just learned, a lack of sleep may increase your risk for developing migraines and Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. If you must have your coffee, try to consume it in the morning to ensure that your sleep is not hindered. However, you should still try to keep your caffeine consumption at a reasonable amount as too much may mean severe headaches and possibly symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome insofar as you have the proper genetics.
7.) Eat wisely
Although this may not be as obvious as the other ways to help reduce migraines and ultimately symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, it is still an important factor to keep into consideration. Specifically, it is important to ensure that you do not skip meals or go long periods of time without eating as this may increase your risk for developing migraines, along with some symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome insofar as you have the proper genetic predisposition.
8.) Exercise consistently
Exercise itself has been known to withhold a plethora of diverse advantages. In addition to the benefits that are already common knowledge, such as stronger muscles, better endurance, lower risk for heart disease, and much more, exercise may also help to reduce your chance of getting a painful migraine too, as well as potentially helping you to reduce your chance of experiencing some symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. This is due to how exercise helps people to better cope with stress in their day to day life.
Meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation has been shown to be extremely beneficial at helping people to enter into a state of mental calmness. Such equanimity will help with limiting the amount of stress you can expect to endure in any given day. And stress, as we just learned can lead to a higher risk of experiencing migraines, as well as symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. If you are unsure how to get started with meditation, there are many free meditation apps available, such as Calm or Waking Up, among several others.
Medications such as Relpax, Zomig, Imitrex, and Axert, among several others may help reduce your chance of developing a painful migraine. Taking such precautions may also help to reduce your risk for developing Alice in Wonderland Syndrome as well. Be that as it may, though medications can be very effective at reducing and/or preventing migraines from occurring, it is also important to take into consideration of the potential side-effects which you may also experience. If you are considering taking medication to help treat your migraines or your Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, then you should first talk to your doctor to ensure that it is safe and effective to do so.
10 ways to improve your sleep
1.) Reduce daytime napping
Though napping may seem like a wonderful idea in the heat of the moment, taking long naps in the middle of the day or in the evening may significantly hinder your ability to experience a sound night sleep. Having a lack of sleep may increase your chance of experiencing some of the symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome insofar as you have the genetics to do so. So, if you can, try to limit the length of your naps, as well as having them earlier in the day, if at all.
2.) Turn the TV off
Though many people enjoy falling asleep to their favorite TV show, doing so may in fact be hindering your overall quality of sleep, thus increasing your potential risk for developing Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. The sounds, as well as the light that the TV gives off while you drift off into dreamland may make doing so more difficult than it would have otherwise been if you were in near silence/darkness. However, if you must keep the TV on while you sleep, then it may be beneficial for you to keep the volume very low, as well as dimming the screen.
3.) Keep the lights dim
Ensuring that the environment in which you sleep in is very dimly lit, if lit at all, may help you to enjoy a more sound, deeper sleep. Although this is not for everyone, as some people actually like to sleep with a bright night light on or with the TV on, keeping the lights dim when sleeping or having no light at all may help your mind and body to naturally calm down. Be that as it may, there are some people who are simply afraid of the dark. If this sounds like you, then utilizing such a technique may not be very effective at helping to provide you with a better sleep, nor will it help you to reduce your chance of getting Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
4.) Sleep at consistent times
For some people, going to bed at the same time every night can be quite challenging. Be that as it may, doing so may be able to greatly improve the overall quality of your sleep. When we go to bed around the same time every night, our body tends to get accustomed to it quite abruptly. This can be clearly shown in people who suffer from jet lag as their internal clocks are different than that of whichever new time zone they are in. Sleeping at consistent times may help you to not only improve your sleep, but it may also help to reduce your risk of getting migraines/symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
5.) Set a comfortable bedroom temperature
Ensuring that the temperature of the room you sleep in is cool or warm enough for your liking is very important for getting a good night sleep. Those who are hot natured will have a very difficult time falling asleep in a warm room. In contrast, those who are thin-skinned or who are just cold-natured will likely desire a warmer environment when falling asleep. This may become an issue if you happen to live with other people who all have vastly different temperature preferences. Nevertheless, trying to set a comfortable bedroom temperature may help you to have a better night sleep, which may also help to reduce your chance of having migraines or symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
6.) Don’t eat too late
Eating a meal right before you go to bed may make it quite difficult for you to get a good night sleep. This is especially true if you indulge in a glutenous portion of food right before bed. To ensure that you sleep better at night and to also help reduce your risk for having symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, try eating only small meals right before bed or just eat dinner several hours before you go to sleep. Giving yourself some time to digest your food before you lay your head down on your pillow at night may improve your overall quality of sleep.
7.) Avoid sleeping in too often
Although most people deeply look forward to sleeping in on the weekends, doing so may make it more difficult for you to fall asleep later that night depending on how late you slept in. So, if you are trying to improve your quality of sleep, then you may want to limit the amount of time you sleep in on your days off. Doing so may help you to get into a better sleep/wake rhythm. To ensure that you don’t find yourself sleeping in too often, you may want to set an alarm even on your days off. You don’t have to set it at an early time, but rather you can simply set the alarm for a “reasonably late” time that you’d like to wake up at.
Meditating before bed is a great way to help calm the mind and the body before you slumber away. It can be a great habit to get into as it can help you to rid your mind of the many worries which may have occupied it earlier in the day. If you have never meditated before, then you can start the next time you go to bed by simply laying down, closing your eyes, and focusing your attention on the sensation of your breathing. Spend 5 minutes just paying attention to the way it feels to breathe (i.e. the rise and fall of the chest, the sensation of air entering your nose and exiting your mouth, etc.). Meditating consistently may help you to get a better night sleep and may also help to reduce your risk for developing Alice in Wonderland Syndrome insofar as your sleep is improved.
9.) Read before bed
If you are having trouble falling asleep at night, then reading a few pages in a book may help you to counteract this occurrence. Reading can help to redirect your attention on to something productive, unlike letting your mind daydream about arbitrary worries or desires. Though daydreaming has its benefits, it is typically not a great idea to do so right before bed as these thoughts may keep you up at night, thus hindering your sleep and possibly putting you at risk for experiencing some symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. Reading a little bit before bed can help to refocus your mind, as well as help to make you a little sleepier.
10.) Get a comfortable mattress
Although rather obvious, sleeping on a comfortable mattress can make a world of difference for someone looking to get a better night sleep. However, really good mattresses can be quite expensive, as well as factoring in the reality that for couples, both partners may not agree on the softness/hardness of their bed. This can pose a problem and may hinder their quality of sleep. Nevertheless, getting a comfortable mattress or perhaps a pillow-top cover for your mattress may help improve your sleep, thus potentially reducing your risk for experiencing symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome Shown in the Movie
Though there are many different versions of this film, the movie referenced below will be the 1999 version, which was directed by Nick Willing. Be that as it may, many of these scenes depicted in this movie showing Alice in Wonderland Syndrome can also be found in various other versions of the film too.
@ 10:39 Alice in Wonderland Syndrome example
At this part in the movie, we really get an idea of what it is like to experience Alice in Wonderland Syndrome as this is when Alice finds herself locked in a strange, very large cylindrical room after following the rabbit down the hole under the tree. It is here where she finds an extremely tiny key. Alice then arbitrarily pulls back a curtain, revealing a very tiny door where she has to get on the floor in order to use the key.
Then, she drinks a random red liquid which causes her to immediately shrink to the size of a mouse. Soon after this, she eats a cookie which makes her grow immensely to the point to where she resembles a giant. The large cylindrical room now appears to be akin to a very small bird cage as Alice can barely move around at this point.
These are key symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome; seeing objects as being larger than they are or seeing them as being smaller than they really are. The distressing string of events that Alice experienced at this point in the movie is analogous to what everyday people suffering with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome experience as well.
@ 15:21 Alice in Wonderland Syndrome example
It is at this point that Alice, standing in a puddle of her own tears begins to shrink down to the size of a mouse again. While she is still trapped in the cylindrical room the tears she shed when she was a “giant” has now left what appears to be a large lake which engulfs the now miniature Alice. At this point in the movie, one may consider whether or not Alice has taken hallucinogens as the then swims toward the mouse she once had a conversation with minutes prior, which now looks entirely different, but to then watch it quickly morph into an old miniature-sized man once he hears Alice’s cry for attention.
Though such rapid changes of one’s perception may not occur in people suffering from full blown Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, this scene in the movie gives people a good grasp of at least the different ways that someone with this condition can experience their environment. This is true as at this point in the movie Alice has experienced seeing objects around her being gargantuanly huge, as well as seeing objects appear to be toy-like in size. Such perceptions are quite common among those with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
@ 17:49 Alice in Wonderland Syndrome example
Alice is walking in a room with the old man/mouse. There are various books stacked atop of one another and standing side to side near Alice as she walks. Juxtaposed to Alice, these books look like massive structures as they are at least twice her height. So, she is still perceiving the environment around her as being over-the-top huge in relation to her own size.
@ 26:56 Alice in Wonderland Syndrome example
After drinking a red liquid, similar to the one she drank at the beginning of the movie which makes her into a giant again, the red liquid she drinks here provides her with the same fate as before. She is trapped inside of another room of course, leaving her virtually immobile due to her now gargantuan size. Soon after this, she finds a random sponge cake on the floor which she eats and then shrinks down to mouse-size again where she is able to easily walk out of a tiny crack in the house.
@ 35:02 Alice in Wonderland Syndrome example
At this point in the movie Alice comes across a dog. Though the dog is the size of a normal dog, Alice herself is still shrunken down to the size of an action figure. The curious dog attempts to attack the miniature Alice. However, she is able to scare it off by throwing a twig at it. Though this scene may appear to be arbitrary, it sheds some light as to what someone with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome may experience insofar as they found themselves perceiving an animal near them to be gigantic in relation to them. As imaginable, such perceptions can cause a great deal of distress in the mind of someone with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome shown in the rest of the movie
Beyond the 35 min mark in the movie, there are simply too many instances to mention where Alice either perceives everything around her to be much larger than they actually are or much smaller than they actually are, and this movie is two and a half hours long. Someone suffering from Alice in Wonderland Syndrome can expect to endure similar experiences such as the ones Alice had in this movie, not including her having conversations with animals of course.
There are many other movies made showcasing the Alice in Wonderland Syndrome with which Alice herself overtly experiences, as well as the book which predates the movie of course. For someone who has no idea of what Alice in Wonderland Syndrome would be like, watching the movie just described will not necessarily give you a completely accurate, in-depth overview of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome itself, but rather it will give you a better idea of what someone with this condition may experience as they perceive the world around them as being either overly large or overly small.
The Ames Room Illusion
The Ames Room illusion is one of the most popular perception illusions out there, as well as one of the most relevant illusions related to Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
As you can clearly see in the associated photo, the two people appear to be quite different in size. The woman on the left appears to be very tiny, while the woman on the right appears to be a giant, nearly twice the height of the other woman, similar to what someone with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome would see.
How is this so?
What you see before you is the Ames Room illusion, which is comprised of a carefully crafted environment which appears to be a symmetric square or rectangular room, when in reality the room is trapezoidal.
It is this trapezoidal room, with the combination of having only one plane of vision, as well has having the objects in the room (i.e. square tiles, windows, etc.) to all be slightly resized from left to right and bottom to top to give the illusion that they are all the same size when they are really not which will then give the illusion that the size of the person drastically changes when walking from one side of the room to the other.
The Ames Room illusion can give you a better idea of what it would be like to experience Alice in Wonderland Syndrome as the size of the person in the room appears to be significantly altered when standing in the left corner as opposed to when standing in the right corner of the room, when the reality is that nothing in the room changes other than where the person is standing at. Nothing gets larger or smaller, regardless of how convincing it is to believe the contrary.
Someone suffering from full blown Alice in Wonderland Syndrome will likely not be able to reason their way out of their perceptions as you can here when breaking down the Ames Room illusion as the environment around them will appear too convincing to do so. They will likely take the stance that “seeing is believing.” However, in this instance, such logic is fallacious.