Alice in Wonderland Syndrome-Symptoms, Causes, Pictures, Treatment

AIWS or Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is a condition that is named after the novel authored by Lewis Caroll. It also goes by another name, Todd’s syndrome. It is a puzzling neurological state where it affects the perception of the human mind. Patients having this syndrome experiences distortion of sizes of what he/she sees also referred to as macropsia or micropsia. This temporary state is oftentimes linked with brain tumors, migraines and the usage of psychoactive drugs. It can also resemble as the first sign of Epstein-Barr virus, a virus belonging to the herpes hierarchy and is associated with certain forms of cancer and HIV. Symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome are commonly happening during the childhood years but usually disappear when they reached their teens. It is also suggested that AIWS usually happens at the beginning of sleep.

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Alice in Wonderland Syndrome Symptoms

Aside from the distortion of sizes as perceived by the patient, they are likely to experience other symptoms as well. Majority of which are perceptual disconnection such as:

• Agnosia or memory loss – Although some believe that this is a side-effect of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. The patient experiences difficulty in thinking about each movement and also difficulty in paying attention to other things, and even difficulty in remembering things.

• Anxiety

• General mismanagement or losing control of the limbs – This is the result of the distorted perception that the patient is experiencing in front of him/her.

• Still continues to hear some sounds even when the sounds have already stopped.

• Hallucinations of touch sensation occur; lingering sensations of touch also happen. This is the sensation that the patient still continues to feel the touch even if they have halted touching it.

• Walking on sponges sensation. The patient feels that the ground is not firm.

• Perception where only certain parts of the body are growing larger.

• A feeling of walking for eternity without any goal – a feeling like walking on an endless road.

• Sound distortion – Even a small movement gives the patient clattering sound. This makes the patient paranoid and scared to move.

Amongst the symptoms of Alice in Wonderland syndrome mentioned above, the most renowned is the perception of the alteration of the body parts. It gives confusion to the patient who experiences seeing the shape and size of their body parts as out of proportion or not normal.


Below are some possible causes of Alice in Wonderland syndrome:

• Typical migraine where pain is not essentially experienced.

• Epstein–Barr virus which causes infectious mononucleosis. This is also known as mono or glandular fever.

• Temporal lobe epilepsy – A condition portrayed by the repeated occurrence of uncalled-for seizures which originates from the lateral or medial temporal lobe. The person loses his or her awareness at the time of a multifaceted partial seizure due to the seizure spreading to involve all temporal lobes which results to memory loss.

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• Delirium Tremens – due to abuse of alcohol.

• Epilepsy

• Brain tumors

• Certain drugs which include cough syrups that contain dextromethorphan.

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS) Pictures


Alice in Wonderland syndrome is more of a disturbance of the perception of things rather than a particular physiological change to the systems of the body. Presumably, the diagnosis is done when other causes are ruled out and at the same time the person shows symptoms together with migraines. Frequent onset of migraines and perception disturbance during the day could also point to AIWS, although it could also occur at night. The presence of sound distortion further leads to AIWS diagnosis.

Although Alice in Wonderland syndrome is fairly common, there are only a few around the world who have encountered it and only a number of medical practitioners who have actually come across patients with the syndrome. There is scarcely few information before on how to cope with this syndrome but now there are hundreds of them.

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome Treatment

Usually there is no treatment for Alice in Wonderland syndrome since the root cause of the syndrome should be the one treated. For most common causes such as migraines there are hundreds of remedies coupled with dietary restrictions in order to help alleviate the symptoms. Samples of medicines for migraines are anticonvulsants, calcium channel blockers, beta blockers and antidepressants. These medicines should be used together with a strict migraine diet.

Anti-epilepsy treatments work as well. Majority of patients experiencing AIWS find a cure on their own that perfectly works for them. During episodes of the syndrome, they find some place nice and quiet where they can feel safe and which will help calm themselves. Others use headphones to block out sounds that have become too loud. Acute AIWS is impossible to treat and one must bear it until it wears off.

Living a healthy lifestyle helps lessen the symptoms of Alice in Wonderland syndrome. Avoid stress buildup, dehydration and tiredness. It is also recommended to get help from occupational therapists to find ways to adapt to the environment for their needs; although it is also a must for these professionals to be familiar with and have handled cases of AIWS previously.

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  1. I am a 73 year old female who had a total knee replacement (under general anesthesia) 2/4/11 and ever since surgery I have had a spacey feeling. While doing therapy in March it got much worse and everything seemed to be farther off in the distance than what I knew it really was. I have not had the distortion in size like seems to go along with AIWS, just the distance problem. I have not been driving very much (and I love to drive) because the movement of the cars on the road affects me. I have not been able to go to work until just within the past 2 weeks and then only a couple hours a day due to the spacey feeling. I work in the tourist industry and am a docent and so need to lecture to tourists, 45 minutes at a time. Seems hard to do when I feel as though they are “out there” instead of just right in front of me! It is always worse in the morning, sometimes less in the afternoon and often in the evening it goes away completely or is not as intense as earlier in the day. My neurologist, who I really appreciate and have confidence in, has diagnosed me has having AIWS, probably due to the anesthesia and has me taking vitamin B2, 400 mg. daily (with food – started 3 weeks ago) and now started me on Topiramate 25 mg. daily. I started this 1 week ago. So far I have seen no results with either, although I know it may take awhile for results to show up. My symptoms are mainly visual although sometimes noise can kind of bother me and if possible I just walk away from it. I am really frustrated with this whole thing and any ideas for help would be greatly appreciated – or is this something I just learn to live with and stop throwing my money away on medications, etc.? How long can I expect this to last? Is this common for post-anesthesia patients? I am a retired R.N. and have never heard of it and neither have several physician friends that I have.
    This has been an interesting “journey” for me, but I surely would be ready for it to be finished! I’m not sure if this is the kind of response you wanted but this is what I gave because it is where I am at with my feelings and am looking for HELP! Thank you. M.A.Witmer

    • I am 41 years old and was diagnosised with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome as a preteen. What you are discribing does NOT sound like it at all. Although there are visual distortion, it is rare to only have that. It usually occurs with the feeling that one or more of your limbs has expanded (I used to discribe it as having a large boxing glove on a very skinny arm). I also question the fact that you didn’t have any symptoms earlier in life and only after surgery. This is very rare. I believe, although I am not medically trained, that the reason you are not feeling relief from these symptoms of AIWS is because you dont actually have it. There is no medicine that takes care of it. It is a syndrome that one has to learn to deal with/control. I really really encourage you to get a 2nd opinion on your situation. And I hope you feel better soon.
      MB King

  2. My brother just told me that he thinks he had this as a child. He would wake up in the middle of the night from a nightmare where everything would get big and little continuing for about 15 minutes after he woke up. He would hear thousands of voices in his head at the same time. He hasn’t had this happen since he was about 12. He is now 26 and had a mild version of it on his way to work this morning where his hands felt really heavy and really huge but they look normal. He does not know if it is a cause of concern or if he needs to see a Doctor concerning this. His lt eye has been twitching for about a month and he has lost 10 to 15 lbs in the last month. He thought it had to do with stress from his current divorce he is going through

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