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Alice in Wonderland Syndrome: Down the Rabbit Hole of Perception

Imagine reaching for a cup of tea and your hand seems to shrink before your eyes. Or looking across the room and feeling like the walls are closing in. These are just some of the disorienting experiences that people with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS) can face. While the name might conjure up whimsical tea parties with Mad Hatters, the reality of AIWS can be quite unsettling.

What is AIWS?

Alice in wonderland syndrome

AIWS, also known as Todd’s syndrome, is a neurological disorder that causes temporary episodes of distorted perception. People with AIWS experience alterations in their sense of sight, touch, body image, and even time. The syndrome gets its name from the fantastical experiences of Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

Individuals with AIWS experience visual and bodily hallucinations, including micropsia (seeing things smaller) and macropsia (seeing things larger). These distortions, along with a disrupted sense of time, can be triggered by migraines, epilepsy, or even stress.

While there’s no specific AIWS test, doctors diagnose it based on symptom descriptions. Treatment focuses on managing the underlying cause, and while there’s no cure for AIWS, medication, and therapy can help people cope with this disorienting condition.


The most common symptoms of AIWS fall into three categories:

  • Visual distortions: People with AIWS might see objects as being larger or smaller than they are, or feel like they are growing or shrinking. The world can appear stretched, warped, or distorted.
  • Body image distortions: Limbs may feel elongated or stubby, and a person’s entire body image can feel distorted. This can be a very disorienting and frightening experience.
  • Disrupted sense of time: Time can seem to slow down, speed up, or even stand still altogether for people experiencing an AIWS episode.


The exact cause of AIWS is still unknown, but it’s believed to be related to disruptions in the parts of the brain responsible for processing sensory information and body image. AIWS can be triggered by a variety of factors, including:

  • Migraines, especially with aura
  • Epilepsy
  • Head injuries
  • Infections
  • Certain medications
  • Psychological stress

Who Gets AIWS

Alice in wonderland syndrome

AIWS can affect people of all ages, but it’s most common in children between the ages of 5 and 12. Adults can also experience AIWS, although it’s less frequent.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Alice in wonderland syndrome

There’s no specific test to diagnose AIWS. Doctors will typically rely on a person’s description of their symptoms and may perform a physical exam and neurological tests to rule out other conditions.

Treatment for AIWS often focuses on managing the underlying cause, such as migraines or epilepsy. In some cases, medications can be used to reduce the frequency and severity of AIWS episodes. For children, reassurance and education about the condition can be very helpful.

Living with AIWS

Alice in wonderland syndrome

While AIWS can be a frightening experience, it’s important to remember that it’s a temporary condition. Most episodes only last for a few minutes or hours. If you experience symptoms of AIWS, it’s important to see a doctor to determine the cause and discuss treatment options. There are also resources available online and through support groups to help people with AIWS cope with their symptoms.

Real-Life Cases of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Here are documented cases of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS). Here are a couple of examples:

Beyond Wonderland

AIWS offers a fascinating glimpse into how our brains process sensory information and construct our perception of the world. While the experience can be unsettling, understanding the causes and treatments of AIWS can help people manage this condition and find their way back from the rabbit hole.

ALSO READ: Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Everything You Need To Know About It

Farzeen Mubarak
Farzeen Mubarakhttps://bepsych.com/
Hello, I'm Farzeen, a writer who loves to explore different topics. I've written articles on a wide range of subjects, from technology to health, lifestyle, and more. My goal is to create content that's easy to understand and enjoyable to read. When I'm not writing, I'm out discovering new places and trying delicious food. I'm always eager to learn and share fresh insights with my readers.


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