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Alice in Wonderland Syndrome



In the lead-up to Christmas, we are going to be inundated with movie choices. Perhaps a childhood classic like Alice in Wonderland. But did you know that there is a disease named after this Lewis Carroll classic?


In the story, Alice falls through a rabbit hole into Wonderland, and she finds herself growing as well as shrinking. When Alice falls down the rabbit hole, she drinks a potion that shrinks her to the size of a rabbit but now she is too small to reach the key that she left on the table that would open the door. She then eats a cake that grows her to an enormous size. This section of the story is similar to what those with Alice in Wonderland syndrome experience.


It is also known as Todd’s syndrome or lilliputian hallucinations. Individuals with this condition find it difficult in perceiving themselves or surrounding areas where things appear bigger or smaller than they actually are. Things can look further away than they actually are, or their size is completely out of proportion – just as Alice was once she fell down the rabbit hole.


The cause of the syndrome is unknown, but it is thought to be associated with migraines, head trauma, or infection. Individuals experiencing an episode can experience illusions and feel that their own body parts are growing or even shrinking.


This distortion can affect other senses other than vision. Other hallucinations that may be experienced include zoopsia, where the individual believes there are swarms of animals around them, the animals can vary from mice to elephants.


It is a very difficult illness to diagnose as it is dependent on what the underlying cause is – be it brain injury or Epstein-Barr virus. Symptoms can clear up over a period of months and typically do not leave any long-lasting side effects. It has been speculated that the author of this beloved children’s book experienced these hallucinations himself and he decided to write his own experiences into the story.


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