The real-life Alice in Wonderland: Woman, 24, has rare disorder

December 5, 2013 11:00 PM

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EVER wondered what Alice really felt like when she fell down the rabbit hole? One 24-year-old can tell you exactly what the iconic children’s book character experienced.

Abigail Moss suffers from Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS), a rare disorder which affects her sense of vision and perception, causing objects to seemingly grow and shrink around her.

She realised that she had the condition, after seeing it feature in an episode of the hit television series ‘House’ and reading about it in a newspaper supplement.

The disorder, which is named after the classic 1865 novel by Lewis Carroll, causes patients to experience similar symptoms to those Alice suffers when she consumes liquid which causes her to shrink.

Ms Moss, the deputy editor of popular website, started to experience the strange hallucinations at the age of five.

AIWS attacks can happen anywhere and at any time and last for about 20 minutes.

Ms Moss, whose father also experienced similar hallucinations, said: ‘An attack gradually builds up on you. You feel like the room is shrinking in on you and that your body’s becoming larger.

‘Your arms and legs start to feel longer. Things look further away or seem smaller than they are. Everything feels exaggerated and movements feel faster and sudden.

Ms Moss, from Bath, saw six psychologists - one of whom wrongly assumed she had epilepsy and another who told her that she would ‘outgrow it’ - before she was diagnosed with the syndrome last year.

‘I read about AIWS in a small column in a newspaper and thought “Oh my God, that’s what I have!”.

Afterwards I started researching it more online and I then happened to watch an episode of House in which a patient was thought to have the disorder.

After discovering her disorder, Ms Moss went online to discuss her experiences and received numerous responses from fellow AIWS sufferers across the globe.

Her condition has since improved and now only experiences attacks around five times a year, most frequently when she’s about to sleep.

She said: ‘Much more research should be done into Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. I don’t think it’s as rare as most psychologists seem to believe.

A spokesperson for AIWS Info, a resource for people with the disorder, said: ‘There is, as yet, no proven effective treatment for Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.

What is Alice in Wonderland Syndrome?

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS) is a set of symptoms including the alteration of body image and the alteration of visual perception.

It makes the sufferer feel as though parts of their body are changing size and as though the sizes of objects are changing.

Other symptoms include the feeling that time is moving too quickly or too slowly, a feeling that the ground is spongy under the feet and a distorted perception of sound.

It is most common in children but some people also experience it later in life.

The cause is not known but the syndrome is thought to be associated with migraines, epilepsy and glandular fever.

There is currently no known treatment for AIWS other than to look for an underlying cause that can be treated.


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