"Alice in Wonderland Syndrome": A Terrifying First-Person Account

“Alice in Wonderland Syndrome” – not the consequence of reading Alice’s adventures too many times over – but rather the actual medical complaint, is not common. All the better for us and our already tried-to-the-limit physicians, and all the more interesting to read a rare first-person account of the malady, published last week in the UK newspaper, The Daily Mail.

Newcomers to this syndrome and ambitious hypochondriacs should know that sufferers of AIW syndrome, also known as Todd’s syndrome, experience both macropsia (where ordinary objects appear unfathomably large, and the subject unfathomably small) and micropsia (visa versa). The Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine (Seventh Edition) describes symptoms as “Disturbance of one’s view of oneself ± fast-forwarding of intrapsychic time.”

Rik Hemsley, 33, was “sober and hangover-free” when he first experienced symptoms:


I stood up, reached down to pick up the TV remote control from the floor and felt my foot sink into the ground. Glancing down, I saw that my leg was plunging into the carpet. It was a disturbing sensation, but it lasted only a few seconds, so I put it down to tiredness and forgot all about it.

Then things got really weird…


Everything was now distorted all the time. Walking down the road, cars appeared the size of Corgi models, while I’d feel disproportionately tall. At work, my chair seemed enormous, while I seemed to have shrunk.

The full, strange, yet strangely familiar account can be read in the article My weird hallucinations make life seem like Alice in Wonderland, courtesy of The Daily Mail Online. For now, some final words of warning from Rik: “I’m still no wiser about what the catalyst was for me – perhaps it was too much coffee or long periods spent in a darkened room programming computers.”

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