Do people generally realise if they become aphantastic rather than being born that way


30 years ago when I was in my early 20’s I was diagnosed with a blood cancer, The treatment which lasted for a couple of years was very traumatic. When I was recovered I began to notice that I’d lost memories from before the illness. Now that I’ve become aware of aphantasia and realised that I have it I’m wondering if what I lost was the ability to recall them visually.

As an example I’m sure that I used to be able to visualise my grandparents taking me for a particular walk along with my younger sister who was in an old-fashioned pram. When I try to visualise it now it almost feels as if something is blocking my access to the image.

Has anyone else ever had this sense that they’ve lost memories in this way?

Follow up question is whether people always notice immediately that they’ve become aphantastic.

You must be signed in to comment

Hi, Marcus, Isn’t it interesting that learning you have aphantasia changes your assumptions and perspectives about your experiences? I did notice immediately when I lost my visual imagination, but it’s only over the course of the succeeding t ten years that I’ve realized how many memories — visual and experiential — got lost, too. For example, an old friend just tonight said, “Remember when … ?” and proceeded to describe in great detail an experience we’d had more than once together. We were looking at something that prompted his recollection, but I could neither “see” or remember the past experiences. Gone for good? Other memories I do still have but can’t “see” them, only reconstruct them with words. It seems like you must have what’s called “acquired aphantasia” (like I have). We both remember visualizing, we understand what it means and what it’s like, we just can’t do it anymore. I understand that acquired aphantasia is much less common than having it since birth. Best wishes on your discovery process.

Thanks for your reply Laurie. It really is interesting as you say – I keep asking my partner questions like “can you really see the scenes in a book while you’re reading it?” It certainly helps to explain why she and I have very different memories of things we’ve experienced together.

I am becoming more confident that my aphantasia is acquired. I spoke to my mother about a visualisation exercise she used to help me with when I had my cancer and she confirmed that I appeared to be seeing the images as required. One thing I definitely do remember is the first examination after I returned to University when I recovered. I sat down and suddenly realised my mind was completely blank I couldn’t recall any of the things I’d learned. At the time I thought it was exam nerves but now I wonder if it was the first sign of anasphasia!

One thing that does puzzle me is why I didn’t notice what had happened at the time. Do you mind me asking how you worked it out when it happened to you?

Visualizing was such a big part of my falling-asleep routine that the “black screen” one night was impossible to ignore. But the other losses I only discovered bit by bit — spelling, personal memories, recognizing markers when driving, even folding/stacking washcloths so they all face the same way [unimportant except in that it’s like a puzzle to me now whereas before it was automatic]. Still happens. I’d given my childhood friend a silly nickname, but when she signed it in an email, I didn’t recognize it … and I was the one who’d invented it! I remember a nurse friend telling me that stroke patients may not notice that their whole left side is “gone” (not functioning), for example. I feel in my heart that my aphantasia was caused by some sort of a stroke. The brain is a marvel and a mystery. I now encourage people to fill me in on the details I’ve mislaid, hoping maybe I’ll rebuild the memories in a way, even if the visual imagery doesn’t come back. I sincerely hope the same for you, Marcus!

I’ve always had it, born with it, so take this only from my discussion and research with others. Yes, trauma, surgeries, and calcification of your pineal gland can cause it.

On the last one, the Pineal gland not functioning correctly has been linked to Aphantasia. Based on research, fluoride in drinking water or ingesting fluoride; can get into your pineal gland and cause calcification. Your great white teeth may come at a cost if you use fluoride.