in Psychiatric Eponyms

Psychiatry Eponyms: Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Also known as Todd’s syndrome, in this syndrome objects are misperceived, usually appearing larger (macrospia) or smaller (microspia) than they really are.  This will usually be associated with a distorted sense of time and with visual hallucinations.  Occurs most commonly with migraine, parietal lobe lesions and with hallucinogen intoxication.

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  1. I am not sure whether it counts, but this distortion (invariably applying to my own body parts) is one of my most vivid memories of early adolescent/late childhood fevers: ben knees when in bed tall as a mountain etc.

    I also experienced similar (though being woozily aware of a delusional character of the sensation) while mixing diazepam & alcohol in my late teens/early 20’s for recreational reasons.

  2. I believe I may have suffered from this as child. I grew up in an abusive house and when my mother was being particularly violent, my sense of perception would distort making her appear both minutely small and extremely large at the same time. I associate it with times of stress. It has only happended a couple of times since childhood. Once a friend was stood talking very intently to me as I was sitting on the sofa and I suddenly experienced the same symptons as I had before. My perception of my body also changes and my feet and hands seem to be a great distance away from the trunk of my body.

    Like the commentator above, I also had this in bed occasionally, and would feel that my body was incredibly distorted (often knees and my neck!).

    Although a very strange feeling, it never disturbed me since I had it throughout childhood and recognised it would pass when the stressful event passed. As it happens rarely these days, I don’t worry about it all.

  3. I can’t believe that there are heatlhcare professionals who have never encountered case descriptions of this phenomenon. Once, playing Dungeons and Dragons as a teenager, high on weed and cocaine, and also drunk, looking down at a map spread out on a kitchen table, I felt *huge*… The feeling is very hard to describe, but my sense of proportion was completely out of wack. The first time I heard of macrocopia, as applied to Alice in Wonderland, it made perfect sense to me, though, having experienced the sensation myself, first hand. As an adult, coincidently, I suffer from occasional but severe migraines.

  4. My son started these Alice in Wonderland episodes last spring. I have held off on vaccinating my kids until they were a little older and their immune systems were developed. He started having episodes where everything looked “small” and had 3 such occurences over a 3 week period just after his first vaccines at age 5. We had a clean brain MRI, and 2 EEG’s that showed a propensity for seizures. No episodes all summer, then this September he began to have increasingly frequent and longer episodes–sometimes several in a day that would leave him napping. He finds it funny, but I know he is scared. He also complains that his legs hurt afterwards. He just completed a 24-hour EEG and we hope to find some answers. I find almost nothing like this when searching online.

  5. I have also been told by a naturopath that these are symptoms of mercury in the brain.

  6. Suffered from AIWS as a child. I am 31 and it is suddenly back. This is almost a debilitating illness (how else do I describe it?). It is terrifying when an ‘attack’ comes on. I try to control it by telling myself I can, but it’s impossible. What’s weird is it is EXACTLY the same as when I was a child. I feel huge and everything I touch is tiny and fragile. Everything is moving fast around me, I even tell yelled at my wife to slow down as she walked to get me a drink. She refuses to talk to me when these attacks happen, she thinks I’m playing a joke on her but she doesn’t understand. I wish someone could help.

  7. After much study I am highly convinced that these episodes are related to mercury in the brain. Lewis Carroll who wrote AIW had these episodes and grew up around mercury. I believe it was his father who was a hatter. Hatters used mercury in making their hats (thus,the Mad Hatter). I was able to clear my son of AIWS by naturopathic and homeopathic means. Sorry to hear of your suffering, Mike. I suggest you find a naturopath to help you.

  8. I suffered with AIW through out my childhood years, and well into my adolescence. I believe taht my last episodes were in my early 20’s. IIn retrospect, my parents had a lot of heart ache for me, becasue at times I would scream and cry becasue the condition was so debilitating. I was sent to many doctors, but no body was able to explain my condition. I am now 39, and I am currently going through some other unexplained symptoms such as a racing heart and dizziness, and for the first time in almost 20 years, I re-experienced AIW. Is it stress related? I also have over 18 mercury fillings on my teeth, is it mercury? In hind site I also suffered from a lot of leg pain, but I never suffered any trauma or any form of abuse in my childhood. I have three children and fortunately, they do not suffer from AIW, so maybe it is not genetic. It is wonderful for me to find a site taht explores this syndrom, to know that I am not alone is a great comfort to me.

  9. Julia, I am so sorry to hear your symptoms have returned. That is alot of mercury in your mouth. I wonder if you looked back to your childhood and when you started getting mercury fillings if there would be a correlation to the onset of the episodes. My son’s reactions started after he had several immunizations (mercury) and a fluorescent bulb (mercury) was broken in our home. I hope you find some answers. Cilantro is great for detoxing from mercury and there are many homeopathics that help with that, as well.

  10. My son who is 21 is now telling me he experiences AIWS and has since a young teen. The doctor seems to think it could be a chemical imbalance. Cant you blood test for that. I have also read info on silent migraines that speak of the aura stage as being AIWS like.

  11. Jennifer, I got no help from medical doctors for my son. Naturopath doctors are much more open to the dangers of mercury. I learned his mercury exposure opened the doors to him being more susceptible to fungi. I treated him naturally to detox from mercury. He was then treated naturally for crypto-fungus in the brain and his symptoms went away. I hope you can help him find relief. My niece had AIWS as a child and now suffers migraines which begin with the aura you speak of.

  12. I saw a case once in a little girl who had mononucleosis caused by EBV. That was in the eighties, and I have not encountered another case since.

  13. I have this disorder. It’s sporatic and irritating, but it’s also something that i’ve just grown to live with.