Developing Aphantasia later in life?

When I was a child I remember being able to vividly be able to visualize people, objects, and moving visuals in my head. As silly as it sounds, as early as in first grade I remember swooning at my childhood crush in my mind’s eye, being able to perfectly imagine his face. And, sometimes on boring road trips or in class, I would “watch” movies or TV shows I’ve seen previously as best as I could. My aunt tells a story often, where one time in a car ride I told her to turn down the radio because I wanted to “listen to a different song in my head”.

Nowadays though, as a 21-year-old, I seem to have lost my visual sense of imagination almost entirely. Sometimes I have moments where I am able to “see” a small extent, but now my imagination has gone “dark”. It literally feels as if it’s darker than it was before if that makes sense. This is something that bothers me greatly as an artist and an animator, I used to be able to use it to plan elaborate sketches and come up with concepts for a drawing but now, it’s become pretty difficult. I can still draw of course, but the planning stages are severely hindered.

I was wondering if anyone here or anyone studying this, in particular, has a similar experience, or is looking into this more. I imagine the reasons it’s developed in me is either my depression worsening or my ADHD and depression medication having some sort of side effect that in some individuals causes aphantasia. I’m wondering what in the brain allows for this visualization, and if certain mental illnesses that affect certain parts of the brain can affect this (and if certain medications can do the same). If there is anyone reading who is doing a study and needs a participant, sign me in. This subject interests me greatly, as it has meant a lot to me throughout my life.

Share this post

You must be signed in to comment
on January 24, 2021

Hi Chloe, welcome to the community. Sorry to hear you are feeling hindered and distressed, I could imagine that acquiring aphantasia, particularly after childhood development would pose challenges uncommon to congenital aphantasics. The good news is, their are others like you that have adapted well and to even later acquired-aphantasia – after the enitirety of their natural cognitive development stages (~25 years old).

Like anything though, learning new processes do take experimentation, practice, and time. Many aphantasic artists report maybe taking more time than they would, often citing their methods of gathering references and/or feeling their way through the process. But it is not uncommon for them to also note the benefits that come from these same approaches. I’ll work on roping some others artists into this thread so they can better answer your questions on this front.

Also, I have a few questions so I may better understand your aphatasia and anser your questions. What year approximately did your visual imagination most significantly lessen? How starkly did it decrease at that time, and has it decreased futher since? Could you give an example of a moment you still "see"? Do you have any trouble recognizing faces of people close to you? What medications do you take?

I’m happy you reached out, you’re in good and plentiful company. With an estimated 3-5% of people having aphantasia, their are approximately 300 million people who can relate with, help guide, and learn from you 🙂

Fun fact: Glen Keane, the Disney animator behind Ariel, Pochahontas, and more, is aphantasic! Here is an article about art and aphantasia in case you haven’t read it already.

Thanks so much for the response! It’s nice knowing I’m not alone in this.

To answer your questions, the last time I can remember being able to visualise things clearly was around 2017-2018 (senior year of highschool, freshman of college). I feel as though my visual imagination didnt dissapear overnight, moreso that it’s been slowly dimming since then (which was also when I started taking medications, but again, it’s hard to say if that’s the cause). I don’t seem to have any trouble recognizing faces, and I take Melthyphenidate for my ADHD and Venlafaxine for my despression. If there’s found to be any correlation with these medications I’d be happy to give more information, though my theory for my own loss of “sight” is that it’s linked to my adhd becoming more prominent as I’ve grown older.

Also, I don’t really have “moments” where I can see. It seems to be rather stable in it’s intensity–or lack thereof. I’ve seen aphantasia be described as a spectrum, where some can see perfectly vividly and some cannot. When I was very young I belive my visualisation was high but not perfect, now however it is very low but not absent completely. I’ve heard of experiences where aphantasics have rarely or never dreamed, but I still dream rather frequently. Infact, my dreams have gotten longer and stranger as of starting my medication which seems odd considering the circumstances.

What I remember of my sight was that it was extremly clear, but anything that I visualised would appear on a black void of sorts. For example, if I imagined a face, said face would be clear atop a black background. Now, however, its almost as if the lights have turned off and the face is in complete darkness. I have to strain to be able to picture even an outline of said face. This darkness is very literal though, it’s strange how much it feels like my imagination has gone literally “dark”, I wonder if this is a common experience.

One last note, as an animator specifically I’ve noticed that when I used to imagine complex sequences I could also imagine a physical sense of movement much like one could imagine a sound of smell. This imagined “movement” sensation, despite the newly aquired “darkness”, hasn’t been lost and I can still use that to help me do things such as storyboard. Thanks so much for responding again. 🙂

on February 2, 2021

Hey Chloe, I mistakenly thought I had already responded but in reality I had just spent time pondering after reading your response lol It is my pleasure to be speaking with you, thank you for sharing your experience and allowing this conversation to take place 🙂

In my last message I said I would try roping some other artists into this conversation but instead I’m going to point other gradual onset hypophantasics/aphantasics this way, as I have connected with another yesterday (btw hypophantasia is the term to describe low-level mental imagery, doing a search on this term may help in your research). Maybe as this discussion grows & develops, some common trends will emerge. I’m curious to see!

Did you notice the decline in visual imagery or did you take notice of it in retrospect? How do you feel you’ve adapted? Have you perceived any cognitive compensations developing in response? Are there any realworld tasks that have become considerably harder? How about easier?

Sorry for the barrage of questions haha Not only am I incredibly curious, but one of the greatest gifts I acknowledge in the discovery of aphantasia is a supercharged evolution of metacognition that comes from the common response of exhaustive self-inquiry and relating your findings with others’ experience.

You mention a literal darkness. I wonder, does that contrast with the external world serve as any type of color/beauty/appreciation/presence (in the moment) enhancer? Do you notice yourself appreciation beautiful landscapes more? Are you more present during conversations with others or during stressful episodes?

I’d love to hear how your storyboarding approach/process has adapted as you’ve had to rely more on motor (maybe also spatial) imagery. If you were interested in writing about it, it may be an insightful story to share – just a thought!

*If you’d like to chat with other aphantasic artists, [here is an open discussion!](

" I seem to have lost my visual sense of imagination almost entirely. Sometimes I have moments where I am able to “see” a small extent, but now my imagination has gone “dark”. It literally feels as if it’s darker than it was before if that makes sense."
I can greatly relate to this. As a kid, I thought i had a great imagination. In 1st grade summer, I was diagnosed with ADHD and subsequently began taking medication for it. I can’t exactly remember if i took other drugs besides Adderall but i do remember gradually taking higher doses as I got older. about 6-7 years later, I no longer wanted to take the drug and decided to stop taking it because it was not worth the side effects. I can’t exactly remember when it was when my visualization started to decline but I definitely began to notice when I entered college around 18. I had always attributed my lack of visualization to taking Adderall for a long time somehow messing with my brain before coming across this website and realizing i wasn’t alone in this. I’m currently 26 years old and cannot visualize any precise details in my mind. If im asked to imagine, for example, my mother, I cannot imagine her eyes, nose, mouth, etc. I visualize a seemingly white/bright outline of her in front a vast black void or an outline of her with a blurred face (no recognizable facial features). It doesn’t seem like I’m visualizing her in my mind but rather using my memories of her. It also feels like an empty, hollow, projection of my mother instead of a solid figure in my mind. It’s very difficult to try to imagine more details such as her face. The more i struggle to imagine specific physical features of her, the more the rest of her gets lost until there is no longer an image in my head. Not sure if this can be correlated to my self-prescribed poor memory .

on May 15, 2021

Hey Chloe & Nick, I wanted to let you know a new community member with a similar experience just posted a new discussion, SSRI-Induced Aphantasia? I wanted to let you know, in case you wanted to connect with her. I’ve come across a handful of similar accounts since you posted this discussion Chloe, I’m going to see if we could get any researchers interested in examining acquired aphantasia in medicated teens and let you know if I know of anything in the works. Hope you both are doing well!