How did you first discover you were aphantasic?
Posted byTom Ebeyer

I always find this question so interesting. For most of my life, I didn’t realize that others were actually visualizing their thoughts and memories… I thought it was more of a figure of speech than a literal description of how people were thinking. I had such a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that visual representations were being created in someone’s “mind’s eye”. I still do, to be honest. How do you understand something you’ve never experienced? It’s almost like trying to explain the colour purple to someone who only sees in black and white… good luck! It was my second year in college when my girlfriend (at the time) opened my eyes. We were talking about a mutual friend we’d just seen, and how she was wearing the same thing she was the last time we saw her a year prior. I was amazed she could remember that kind of detail… “How do you remember what she was wearing a year ago??” I asked. “Well, I can just see her in my mind”… WHAT?! I then spent years obsessively asking everyone who’d listen about their imaginative experience. Helplessly searching for “learn to visualize” or “no mind’s eye” on google only led me to nothing… how can I be missing what seems to be a vital part of the human experience? To relive memories in my mind… see the people, places, and events that meant the most to me? To “picture” what it might be like to visit a destination or “imagine” a success. All the writing I found talked about the benefits of visualizing… even today, a google search shows that it’s still heavily weighted this way. This was years before aphantasia was coined by Adam Zemen at Exeter. Many discussions have taken place since then and I’ve come a long way in my understanding of aphantasia and the unique way of thinking it provides. How did you first discover your blind mind?

Discussion Answer #29697

When I was about 15 years old an art teacher asked me if I could visualize. I assumed that he meant knowing the “idea” of an image, so I said yes. But this gave me a vague notion that it was possible to see pictures in the mind (other than while asleep). However, it took me years to realize that visualization meant creating mental pictures at will.


Discussion Answer #29374

I saw a buzzfeed quiz and got 100% aphantasia and googled ever since!

Discussion Answer #29366

When I was 13, my mother and I were discussing something we’d both read, and I had the sudden epiphany that “the mind’s eye” was not a figure of speech, but that my mother was literally seeing images in her head. That I did not. That I was somehow different. I don’t recall if I told her, but I spent the next several years striving to build pictures in my head — and failing. I didn’t have words to describe it, but that’s not surprising because I was 13 in 1984.

I still vividly remember where we were when that realization struck. I was sitting on the floor leaning against the family room sofa, and my mom was sitting on the sofa next to me, doing some sort of needlework. When I suddenly understood what she was describing, I looked up at her over my right shoulder and stared, wondering what that was like. I can’t picture it, but I do remember it.

I thought of it as a defect, but I didn’t worry about it over much. It was disappointing to realize that other people experienced books as movies and I did not. But I still read voraciously and found it totally immersive.

When I described the phenomenon occasionally to friends I got reactions varying from disbelief to appalled sympathy to jealousy. That last was from a woman who was hyperphantasic to a degree that was often uncomfortable. We didn’t have the words aphantasia or hyperphantasia, but we understood that we were at opposite ends of a spectrum.  That was about 1999.

As an interesting side note, I’m told that the fiction I write is exceptionally visual. I believe the reason for that is that my images have always been built with words. 

Discussion Answer #29357

Hi there!

I actually just realised today, after chatting to some friends after reading an article about, well, you as an aphantasiac. As I was reading I thought ‘Wait, is this not normal?’ And I started asking a bunch of my friends and family to visualise a rainbow on the spot, and asked them: Do you SEE the rainbow – the colour, the shape? Or is it a descriptive text – as if you KNOW what it looks like and you can tell yourself that, but not actually SEE it? 

Turns out – ALL my friends and family said the same thing. As you can probably guess, it’s that they’re able to visualise it. 

I’m 25 years old, and I’d always thought I had a normal sense of visualisation. However, when I think about some scenarios – for example when people tell me they can literally see some visual story when listening to a piece of music – I’ve always thought ‘Hm, that’s a bit odd, but sure, that makes sense I guess’. 

My memories, ‘visualisations’, and thoughts of faces and objects are more in the form of descriptive text rather than visual representation – best way I’ve described it to the ones I’ve talked about it with is “I just know what it/they look(s) like”. 

Seems like many cannot imagine sounds as well, while I can. However visual images are completely impossible to imagine voluntarily, though sometimes I’ll get some visual images involuntarily (which is very rare, but equally difficult to get rid of). 

Discussion Answer #29352

Hello Tom,

Good to meet you at the workshop yesterday.

For all my adult life I’ve known I was different and it’s complicated by the fact that I think more must be ‘going on’ with me than that I have Aphantasia.  I was interested to see that I was the only one in the workshop to observe that my cognitive processes run slower than for an average person.

My wife (now deceased) was probably hyperphantasic and through many hundreds of conversations we worked out that our brains worked very differently.  Through that process it became clear that I had poor imagery but I hadn’t worked out that I had no imagery.  I mistakenly thought that thinking of a thing spatially was seeing an image of it.  i.e. if I went around the anatomy of a horse in my thinking then that counted as an image of it.  My adult son by chance saw a video about Aphantasia and told me about it earlier this year.  Researching about it has been really helpful for me in increasing understanding about myself.



Discussion Answer #29258


I actually quite recently discovered I have Aphantasia, this is my experience.

I was at a broadcasting and media camp this summer. Over lunch one of the days I was talking to a cousin who was in another camp. I was telling him about my plans for a podcast we were going to get to record. Then I asked him what subject he would have done. My cousin loves to research weird facts, and stuff. Recently he had been studying Aphantasia, though since he didn’t have it himself he was a bit skeptical. As he was describing the condition to me, I started to get confused. So I said “wait do you mean people are actually picturing things and hearing music in their heads?” and he goes “wait, you don’t”?! Since then I have been doing tons of research, and grilling people on their levels of mental imagery, and other senses. Turns out my Mom has hyperaphantasia and my dad and one of my brothers have aphantasia like me.