Can aphantasia make you feel different to others: do effects reach beyond visual?


I only discovered my aphantasia a few years ago (81 now) but was always aware that I didn’t think like others and was vaguely aware than many seemed to have a richer internal life than me. Though my IQ is around 135 I am hopeless at chess and many other  types of puzzles. I suspect these require a mind’s eye to be successful. I am hopeless at some things but other things which are  dead obvious to me are not so for others.

Lacking a mind’s eye many literary descriptive works mean nothing to me – take away the descriptions and what’s left? I assume I could never have PTSD as I cannot remember anything visual.

I suspect it stretches beyond the lack of the visual for me as I cannot recount smells or tastes either. I wonder how far the effects reach for others?


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I have a very similiar experience to yours. Even before discovering I am aphantasic I thought differently than others.
In my case, I do enjoy chess and puzzle games. It can take me a lot of time to solve difficult puzzles, but in my experience it’s possible to solve most of them without the mind’s eye.

I fully agree that bad experiences and memories don’t affect me as much as they might others because I can’t relive these times inside my head. Without the mind’s eye we don’t “go through it again” when thinking of our past.

And for the main question: I also can’t imagine smells, tastes, feelings or sounds. I will recognize what I know when I hear, see, smell, feel or taste it again as some kind of déjà vu, but I won’t be able to imagine anything without experiencing it.

I suspect I have a small working memory as I very rapidly get lost in chess trying to remember possible moves though this is not pictorial memory. On IQ tests I’m around 135-140 so that can’t require large working memory or  pictorial memory.

I’m a here and now person as the past means very little to me as I can’t imagine any of it. I seem to have had enhanced abilities to sort out some technical problems which might be related to aphantasia. Possibly this is like the mind compensating for blindness with enhanced hearing. Anyway I was often called in to sort out knotty problems on systems as to my mind these were easy whereas other engineers couldn’t see the wood for the trees. As I have no visual memory I’m not sure how my mind was working to do this but answers appeared. I also came up with unusual solutions for designs – again probably my mind was treading a different path from most people.

I am similar.  I am 61 and pretty much figured out that I had not sensory memory other than sound for very familiar and patterned sounds (such as songs that I have heard very many times.)  It was a revelation.  Like you, I knew I was different – that I processed stimuli differently and learned in a different manner than most others.  However, realizing that I had virtually no direct sensory memory explained so much.

Plenty of people with aphantasia have PTSD (myself included) as you don’t need to have visual flashbacks to qualify as a diagnosis. I have emotional flashbacks as one of countless symptoms. I have no idea what memory I’m in, or what is happening. It’s completely debilitating. Having aphantasia actually makes it much harder to heal from PTSD because almost all therapeutic modalities targeting trauma require sensory memory recall or imagination– EMDR, Rapid Eye, Brainspotting, Somatic Experiencing, IFS, psychedelics assisted therapy (ketamine, psilocybin, MDMA, ayahuasca, peyote, ibogaine, etc. etc.)