I didn’t known it had a name

I most definitely have complete aphantasia.  So, I would like to be officially screened and diagnosed as no one believes me.  Attempts of treatment in my case would be futile.  I would like to participate in research.

Until today, I didn’t know it had a name.  I have been describing this condition to people (including doctors and psychologists) for years.  I describe it precisely as it is defined, as the “inability to visualize images”.  I also describe it as “the opposite of a photographic memory”.  This inability in me is very complete.

I knew that my terrible short-term memory was connected.  I used intelligence to compensate.  I have to understand things, not memorize them.  Learning in “normal” ways was not possible.  This issue first showed itself when attempting to memorize multiplication tables in school.  That came easy for most but was torturous for me.

In a way, it made me specialize.  When I learn something, it sticks.  People who memorize lose the memories over time.  The stuff I remember from school stays with me, where others can’t remember the stuff memorized in school.

I have only met one other person who described the same condition to me.  Before then, I thought I was a one-off.  She recalled an incident where she was robbed working as a store clerk.  She could not describe the robber (thus causing suspicion).  I was shocked and told her I was the same way.

I often describe it to others like this.  “I can stare at and study your familiar face for a time.  Immediately thereafter, I could be put in front of a police sketch artist and not be able to provide ANY description.

I don’t think most people believe what I am saying to them.  It is SO uncommon and extreme (in my case) that people can’t even understand the problem.  I have terrible people skills and have traits of autism.  I have always been able to compensate, poorly and clumsily, by use of intelligence.

So, I would like to be officially screened and diagnosed as no one believes me.  Attempts of treatment in my case would be futile. Also, perhaps related, is that I have a severe lack of muscle memory.  I can’t type by touch (typing class was an embarrassment).  I can’t play golf.  And, I can’t play guitar.  Of course, I CAN try to do these activities, but nowhere near anything that could be considered normal.

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I always thought I would be a horrible witness to a crime.  I couldnt  tell a sketch artist how to draw my daughters face if my life depended on it.   I wonder if police sketch artists are even aware of this condition.  I have yet to meet anyone else with aphantasia outside of this group (which makes me think it is rarer than reported, but that is just me).

Hi Lawence,

I could have written much of what you wrote here. I too have complete Aphansia and would love to participate in any research but I would actually like to be interviewed  rather than just taking the questionnaires which I can never really answer in a way that makes me feel that I have communicated completely my experience. I too have known for as far back as I can remember that I was aware that I thought differently in these respects than anyone I knew. However, I never really thought much about it, because I was very good in school and have a very good spatial memory, I simply did not feel any lack.

When I was older I did realize that my memory (short and long term) was not what others would consider up to par, but I got along just fine. Maybe the fact that I was a loner help me not feel the lack. On the multiplication tables, I figured out real fast that I could do the do the calculations as fast as any of my friends could bring up their memory, so it didn’t bother me to just not memorize them. To this day in my seventies I still do the calculations! I too learned that many standard ways of learning would not work for me, I had to understand, then remembering was not a problem. Fortunately, I learned very quickly and did very well on tests including Standardized tests. I was a little slow on more complicated math since I had to do all the calculations, but I was accurate.

I did not meet anyone like me until I was studying philosophy in College. One of my Professors brought up the fact that he could not ‘see’ images in his head as part of our discussion of Empiricism. I actually have a recording of the same basic information he gave about a decade later (early 1980’s) on the same subject.

I was robbed at gun point once, years ago, and was asked to identify the suspect who they had gotten with other evidence. The best I could do was say that he could be the guy. I only remember things about faces, colors etc. that I actually thought while looking at it. His looks did not have anything to deny what I thought, but I had no image in my head to compare with the face before me. Fortunately they convicted him on the other evidence!

One of our family jokes happened when my wife was unable to go shopping with me as she normally did. My objective was to buy a second suit that was noticeably different than the one I already had. It needed to be altered so it was some time before I was able to bring it home and as soon as I showed it to my wife, she said: ‘Frank! that is exactly the same as your other one!’ I didn’t believe it till they were side by side!!

It was things like this that finally convinced my wife that I really couldn’t see in my mind, but she had a hard time believing it and never understood it. Unfortunately, I found out that there was now a name and some science on this about a month after she died last Spring. She would have loved learning about this with me.

That reminds me that, like many people with Aphantasia, I deal with grief differently than most. However, I know that I deal with the loss of my wife better than many would, but Leslie and I were so close and I depended on her in so many ways (and vice versa) that it has been really hard.

Well anyway, I do want to say that Aphantasia is not a handicap! It is just a different way of doing the same things everyone else does. Though it makes us bad witnesses as far as identifying perpetrators, it seems our testimony is usually very accurate and unembellished and so dependable.