Everyone gets a feeling of deja vu at times. But how about having constant deja vu for eight years? It sounds incredible, but it’s a true story. A 23-year-old British man has had constant attacks of deja vu for years now.
The cause of it is unknown, but is believed to be anxiety. The man says that he took LSD once, but no other drugs, and there is no sign of brain damage. He has had depression and anxiety for years.
He has described his condition as like being “trapped in a time loop.” Once when he went to get his hair cut, he got deja vu, and then deja vu of the deja vu, in an endless cycle. The more anxious he got, the worse it got, making him even more anxious. It got so bad he refused to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read the newspaper because the deja vu would get so bad.
As horrifying as this man’s experience sounds, he’s not alone. The neuropsychologist Chris Moulin has documented several people with the condition. Some even insisted she had met them before when she had not, and would invent stories to go along with their claims they had seen a picture before, even though they hadn’t. Dementia sometimes causes a persistant sense of deja vu, as well as epileptic seizures, but none of these things are present in this man. Unlike many of the other patients, he was also aware that his deja vu was not real and he had not really experienced these things before. Others did match some of his symptoms, however. One sufferer turned in their library card because they felt like they had already read everything on the shelf and another didn’t explore Paris on a visit because it felt too familiar, even though he’d never been there before.
What causes ordinary deja vu? Currently, no exact cause is known. Some doctors have hypothesized that deja vu is caused by a momentary misfiring of the brain, like in epileptic seizures. Others think it’s a trick of memory, where a familiar fragment of memory happens to match reality. Deja vu has never been linked to anxiety before the man’s case was reported, but after its publication the researchers heard from several others who experienced the same thing. Deja vu might even be a cause of obsessive-compulsive behavior; since the person can’t be sure their memory of doing something is reliable, they do it again.
Research into deja vu isn’t just fascinating in and of itself; its cause may lead to more effective treatments for all sorts of memory-related conditions or epileptic ones.
(Photo stock image via Pixabay.)