Do I have aphantasia, or is it something else?

Hi Everyone! 

I used to assume I had aphantasia, because I can’t visualize things “on command” – like a pink elephant, for example. However, I watched a YouTube video recently that was like “visualize an apple. what colour is it? etc” and I don’t physically see an apple, but I knew that it was red. I sometimes can “see” buildings when it comes to remembering directions to a location, but it always feels like an optical illusion – if I look any closer, the ‘image’ disappears but if I’m not paying attention it feels like I can see something? I also have had maybe one or two extremely vivid dreams, that I can still remember (eg carpet plushness, pattern, the hustle and bustle of a crowded lobby), but most dreams evoke emotions and feelings rather than what I assume lucid dreamers see. 

When I’m trying to spell a word aloud, I kind of ‘see’ the word hovering in my head (eyes closed only) and I can read the letters, but I can never see the whole word in its entirety – like I know the whole word is there, but there’s something blocking all the other letters until I get to that specific letter (including not being able to see the previous letters). How would you classify this? Is this aphantasia? Or simply dismal memory and recall? 

It doesn’t particularly affect my everyday life, but things like Fischer projections in chemistry, or integration techniques in math seem to rely heavily on being able to see the image in your head and move it around in order to easily answer the question. Does anyone have another workaround? 


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I see nothing at all in any scenario, including trying to remember eg my dead grandparents where clearly I would love to be able to do that.

Aphantasia appears to be a spectrum from people like me, to those that see a vague outline ir blur of an object so some how have some detail.  In your case you can see letters but not a word, I see nothing but that doesn’t mean you may not have aphatasia, as I understand it, just that it is not as strong for you.

I have found that this affects many annoying real life things, such as putting names to faces, or in any way being able to visualise distance or estimate someones height.  I know 1m is just about my hip, but I cannot translate that into visualising how far 3m in front of me is.

I have a tapemeasure.  That is my workaround.

Also I am getting older and give less of a s*** so actually come straight out and tell people I don’t remember their name.  For most people I work with in their contacts file I actually keep a note of things like looks like X, has Y kids, doesn’t like to travel so schedule virtual meetings or go to them.  I think most of my colleagues would be horrified by this, but it is the only way I can associate the name and the detail with their physical person for any length of time.  Sometimes it can take years before I have instant recall of a name and  face, particulalry if I only see them intermittently