Is Alice In Wonderland Syndrome, Have You Heard Of It?

One of the leading causes of disability in the U.S. is the mental disorder.  It is estimated that one out of 5 adults is diagnosed with mental illness.   The depressive disorder is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, but there are many others you must be very familiar with such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder to name a few.  But how about Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, have you ever heard about it?

AIWS sufferers typically experience micropsia (a neurological condition that affects human visual perception in which objects are perceived to be smaller than they actually are and make people feel bigger than they are) or macropsia (a neurological condition that affects human visual perception in which objects are perceived to be larger than they actually are and makes people feel smaller than they actually are). — Mark Griffiths BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA

One of the Rarest and Unheard of Mental Disorder

Alice in Wonderland syndrome is one of the most fascinating and rarest mental disorder.  Yes, just like in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the patient experiences hallucinations and alteration in perception that he is either smaller or more significant than his surroundings.  Though Alice is just a figment of the imagination, the experiences are real for some people.


Awareness of being evaluated and caring deeply about the outcome is an important mindset for success, but when it backfires, it lays a foundation for feeling like a phony. — Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D.

Symptoms and Association with Other Medical Conditions

Probably, also one reason why it’s called Alice in Wonderland syndrome is that it usually targets children.  There are multiple symptoms associated with AIWS.   Each symptom occurs discretely and will be experienced only for a duration of 5 to 20 minutes.


Mostly, children suffering from a juvenile migraine are reported to have attacks of Alice in Wonderland syndrome, presenting itself as impairment of time sense and alteration of body image.  It occurred in a visible state of mind without the influence of any drugs, seizures, or psychiatric illness.

Some adults who are typically suffering from a migraine, stress, epilepsy, head trauma, brain tumors, infections, Epstein-Barr virus infection can also be affected by Alice in Wonderland syndrome.   The migraine aura of flashing lights, seeing straight lines becoming wavy, unmoving things seems like moving are just some of the experiences described by the patients.   It is said that cough medicines can also be a trigger to have an episode of AIWS.  Alice in Wonderland syndrome may present itself as seeing objects smaller or bigger than usual, further away or nearer than they are.

While this can be fun and whimsical when a girl is a toddler, it can also set the tone for how she develops into a young woman, influencing her self-esteem, her dependence on others, how she takes care of herself, and how empowered she feels in her life. — Jennifer L. Hartstein Psy.D.


There is yet no verified treatment for AIWS, though lots of rest and diet changes are advised.   It is essential to make the patient comfortable when having an attack by treating the triggers, like, if the episode is caused by a migraine, the patient is given migraine prophylaxis to ease the symptoms.  Following that, diet gives enormous relief.

Doctors are not sure what’s the reason behind the unusual changes in perception.    They did a few studies and neuroimaging which showed damage at the level of the cerebral cortices.

In most cases, it starts when children are still very young, but goes away in time.



Though it was first defined in 1955 by a British psychiatrist, Dr. John Todd, AIWS is still not well known to this day and could be a misdiagnosis.  Though described as hallucinations and distortion in perception, a yet very little study is made regarding Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.

Its unpredictability, when talking about the diagnostic process, was because no universally accepted diagnostic criteria are yet available.