Aphantasia and the Medical world

DiscussionCategory: QuestionsAphantasia and the Medical world
Ruud ZwolleRuud Zwolle asked 6 months ago

Little introduction

My name is Ruud, 54, living in the Netherlands.

In my younger years I’ve worked in medical professions for several years, RNL Army an RNL Navy.

Meaning I’ve got a reasonable amount of medical knowledge, but just like most of you never ever heard of Aphantasia [ in my case Full Aphantasia ]

Just found out like four months or so !?

Talking to my wife about imagery stuff [ thinking the Ya Right like always ! ] untill my son and daughter mentioned really seeing things too.

Then the doubt/wondering and lots of questions kicked in.

Well you all know the moment your world/life changed into someone else’s

Now I’m past the wondering, feeling sad and lonely phase [ mostly ]

But now I still got this feeling of being misunderstood and very different from the rest.

My biggest question at this moment is;

I’m wondering if it’s even possible to treat PTSD in someone having congenital full aphantasia

[No, not asking for a friend] using a Benzodiazepine like Xanax ?.

I think it’ll be of little help stating the fact we’re most certainly aware of things/events but we’re sldo standardly able to "retreat" into complete Darkness & Silence.

Switching of the brain if you will.

Downside is the moment we open our eyes or are being reminded through sound, smell or whatever everything’s back !!

I can’t keep a hold on the silence and darkness in daily life [ Think it would be helpfull at times ]

Does anyone have some insight on this, some useful ideas ?

Maybe some kind of quick meditation, the use of a magic word/spell ???????? 😉


How do Doctors (GP, Psychologists) outside the Netherlands look at aphantasia ( every degree of ) and what it really implicates ?. Over Here it’s totally ( at least for the bigger part ) unknown and, when mentioned the subject is being avoided or dismissed as insignificant.

Unfamiliar with the subject /Lack of knowledge ?

Hope to hear from you / anyone



2 Answers
Tom EbeyerTom Ebeyer Staff answered 6 months ago

Hi Ruud,

You’re starting a great discussion here on the relationship between imagination (visualization in the mind’s eye) and mental well being.

In short, there are no concrete solution to these complicated questions… yet. Let me share some of my perspectives, in hopes we can find places of alignment.

I discovered I was aphantastic about 5 years ago. At the time, there was no "condition" identified. No papers, no community, nothing. It took many years to [mostly] get past the wondering, feeling sad and lonely phase, and I expect this will be a similar experience to those trying to understand what & why this occurs; especially so while the research is so limited.

It’s impossible for others to "imagine what it’s like, not to imagine", and this misunderstood experience can be challenging to accept for others (and ourselves). All I can say is that we must lean on the strengths that aphantasia grants us. Framing this "condition" as a strength and opportunity really is the most pragmatic way to move forward. Perception matters, and remains the key element in our control. There’s some great psychology on the topic if you’re interested. Some reading on Stoicism helped me embrace the ideology.

Many of the opinions I’ve heard say it’s likely difficult to get PTSD with aphantasia, as we can’t "re-live" those scenarios that cause the stress. Your case obviously shows this isn’t the case! I wonder, do you find yourself thinking about those past, stressful experiences, often? Or has it impacted you in a different way that we’re not thinking about?

For me, when I unexpectedly lost my mother at 17, the loss hit me quite hard and stayed with me for a long time. Discovering I was aphantasitic only added to the misery when I realized others could "visualize" memories, faces, and other positive emotions that let them hold on to loved ones past. I started focusing on all the things I couldn’t do, that I would have liked to… but that was a rabbit hole that only kept me stuck. I found that "holding on to the silence and darkness in daily life" as you suggested, only made the problem worse. It came from a desire to forget, rather than accept. That’s my experience, yours might be different.

For you, and for other aphantastics, the best advice I can give is to learn to be present. We’re uniquely qualified for this.

This means to be "in the moment", wherever we are. I don’t believe we do this with "brain hacks" or "magic words". It really comes from letting go. From realizing the past and future exist in our mind, and a sustained focus on past/future will only take us away from where we are now.

Read some Eckhart Tolle on this concept of presence. If you read @jennifer’s post here, you’ll see she finds my ability to be present a great strength. I’m happy to explore this at a greater level of detail if others are interested.

Discovering the strength aphantasia provides you will help make sense of this journey. If you write about it for others in the community, I’ll be happy to post it on our blog!

RE: Doctors in Canada seemingly don’t have this on their radar. Not that we’ve heard about, at least. There’s a long road ahead of us to garner the public attention and resources this deserves. Glad you can be part of the community as we build that momentum!

The first Extreme Imagination Conference next month is a great step in the right direction. http://sites.exeter.ac.uk/eyesmind/extremeimagination2019/

Ruud ZwolleRuud Zwolle answered 6 months ago

Hi Tom,

Thank you for your reply.

For the biggest part I can only say I know, I know, I know

Thinking we aphants are overall basicaly the same !.

Me being Dutch probably leave my words/sentences open for multiple explanations !?

Call it Dunglish and things sometimes will get lost in translation

Being a full aphantasiac to me means being/living in the moment, nothing else I can do.

NO problems there, it is what it is !! [maybe to Dutch ?]

Life was and is fine that way [ Except for the obvious, missing your loved ones etc. etc…. ]

I’m 54 now and know about aphantasia for about 5 months.

I actualy practice Zazen for many years now and that kind of works for me.

The holding on to the silence and darkness in daily life part was meant in a positive way.

Hic in portu navigas !

I don’t see it as a negative thing, I actually find it very relaxing.

I use Zazen [ eyes open, and the eyes closed version [ even walking the dog] ] to relax, Not to forget !!

Just looking for a way to evoke that relaxing feeling at will.

The PTSD is diagnosed but has never been a problem consciously. It’s only when I deliberately think back of some of the things I’ve seen and endured it’s mainly my breathing becoming irregular [dyspnoea].

Samething happens uncosciously when in rest and when I try to figure out what’s happening in my mind nothing pops up.

Xanax does in a way make me less restless.

Talking to people doesn’t seem to help. The acceprting part also is not a problem.

Again; it is what it is !

Probalby have to life with it.

Qua Aphantasia, your right. Long way ahead of us and I think if it gets the attention and resources it deserves a lot will change !!



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