Alice in Wonderland syndrome is a rare condition that causes temporary episodes of distorted perception and disorientation. The person may feel larger or smaller than they are actually. The person may also find that the room you’re in or the surrounding furniture seems to shift and feel further away or closer than it really is.
They’re caused by changes in how the brain perceives the environment the person is in and how the body looks. This syndrome can affect multiple senses, including vision, touch, and hearing. The person may also lose the sense of time and time may seem to pass faster or slower than he thinks.
AWS primarily affects children and young adults. Most people grow out the disordered perceptions as they age, but it’s still possible to experience this in adulthood.
AWS is also known as Todd’s syndrome. That’s because it was first identified in the 1950s by a British psychiatrist Dr. John Todd. He noted that the symptoms and recorded anecdotes of this syndrome closely resembled episodes that the character Alice Liddell experienced in Lewis Carroll’s novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
Researchers believe unusual electrical activity in the brain causes abnormal blood flow to the parts of the brain that process your environment and experience visual perception. This unusual electrical activity may be the result of several causes which include:
- Cough medicine
- Use of hallucinogenic drugs
- Brain tumor
. The following may increase your risk for it:
- Migraines. AWS may be a type of aura, or a sensory warning of a coming migraine.
- Infections. AWS episodes may be an early symptom of the Epstein-Bar virus (EBV).
- Genetics. If you have a family history of migraines and AWS, the person may have a higher risk for experiencing this rare condition.
AWS episodes are different for each person. What one person experience may vary from one episode to the next as well. A typical episode lasts a few minutes. Some can last up to half an hour.
During that time, the person may experience one or more of these common symptoms:
- Size distortion
- Perceptual distortion
- Time distortion
- Sound distortion
- Loss of limb control or loss of coordination
There isn’t any one test that can help diagnose AWS. The doctor may be able to make a diagnosis by ruling out other possible causes. To do this, your doctor may perform:
- MRI scan. An MRI can produce highly detailed images of your organs and tissues, including the brain.
- Electroencephalography (EEG). An EEG can measure the electrical activity of the brain.
- Blood tests. Your doctor can rule out or diagnose viruses or infections that could be causing AWS symptoms, such as EBV.
- There’s no treatment for AWS.
- If a person experiences symptoms, the best way to handle them is to rest and wait for them to pass. It’s also important to reassure the patient that the symptoms aren’t harmful.
- The important part of treatment is to treat the underlying cause for AWS episodes may help prevent an episode. For example, if you experience migraines, treating them may prevent future episodes.
- Likewise, treating an infection could help stop the symptoms.
- If the doctor suspect stress plays a role, you may find that meditation and relaxation can help reduce symptoms.