For those of you who lost the ability to visualise, was it sudden or a degradation over time?


This is a little investigatory as I am new to the term Aphantasia and looking into if it is something I am effected by, I came across Aphantasia in the last year while looking for answers but didn’t think it applied to me as I used to have a very vivid memory, or so I thought.

I’m not sure where understanding fits in with memory, I would remember the components and the steps I took to assemble them into something that resembled understanding each time rather than memorising the end result, this was handy if new information was presented so if the components changed or different steps for assembly were needed, this could be easily visualised and the new paradigm adopted but I could also see the old model along with the changes.

Growing up, my memory was very good, I thought of it as a cinema, visuals, sound, but with smell and taste with an accompanying rolodex where everything was indexed; somewhat eidetic.

I would remember conversations, what people were wearing and on which day, I’d be able to picture what I’d read, where the paragraph that contained the information I needed to recall and what it was in between.

I was good with faces, not as good with names but I’d build associations with someone else with the same name or I would be able to remember the conversation where their name was mentioned.

As a teenager I complained of my memory getting worse, I was losing the ability to visualise my memories and I used to rely heavily on the visuals for my memory.

Something that may have been missed in my childhood, which I am trying to also get to the bottom of at the moment, is that I may have ADHD; I am currently awaiting assessment.

My memory and imagination was heavily visuals based and over the years I’ve observed it erode, it’s now at a place where when I’m asked if I can picture an apple, the answer is both no and yes.
It’s dark, a blackness though I might get a flash of part of something but then it’s not clear. What I’m seeing isn’t an image of an apple I’ve crafted, it’s an image of an apple I’ve encountered before but it’s at the bottom of a puddle and there is a film of petrol on the surface obscuring most of the image. I can identify the part I can see as belonging to an apple because I’ve encountered an apple before and I “know” what one should look like but I can’t tell you the colour or feel; I can pick a colour and a texture from memory but they wouldn’t come from an apple I’ve crafted in my mind’s eye.

I used to have a vivid imagination and mental imagery was a bit of an escape for me and now it’s not possible to conjure an image, even my spelling has deteriorated because I can’t see the word I want to write, thank goodness for spellcheck.

In looking into Aphantasia I see that some people never had the ability to visualise and some loose the ability, for those that lost it was it sudden or a degradation over time?

Anyone else had a similar experience?

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io oggi mi ho scoperto di soffrire di hypofantasia, ovvero la estrema difficoltà di dare un immagine al pensiero . prima d’ora credevo che immaginare fosse per tutti come lo faccio io, quindi nel mio caso lo sono dalla nascita, o almeno fino al ricordo più lontano

Thank you Shaf for sharing your experience.

My own experience was similar in losing my visual imagination over time.  There was an informative video talk by Professor Zeman (Exeter University) hosted by this site last year. He contrasted Aphantasia with Hyperphantasia.  I was initially only interested in the Aphantasia, but then it reminded me that my visual imagination was very strong in childhood.  I even had imaginary childhood friends which to me were real.  Since those days it has been a gradual decline. The shift along a spectrum from one extreme to another is interesting and hopefully will be researched more as we learn about these experiences.

Importantly my imagination has remained strong throughout. I miss the visual aspect of imagination, but there are bigger challenges out there.  I am oddly grateful that they came up with a ‘label’ which allowed me to appreciate I am not alone.

I used to have some imagery as a child, I could use it to replay an entire TV episodes dialogue for long car journeys. My long term memory also used to be pretty good as a child, I could remember a lot about things I was interested in, and could remember things people said and where everyone was with specific details about the colours and patterns of things long after others forgot. My short term memory has always been terrible, a combination of my (at the time undiagnosed) ADHD and aphantasia (I could only use imagery sometimes and never for things like copying off the board or mental maths). 
I noticed my long term memory getting worse as a teenager, though no one believed me. It was basically gone by 16 after I finished my GCSEs. It’s been getting worse and worse ever since. I now have total multi-sensory aphantasia, which seemed to develop gradually over years as more trauma happened and my mental health got worse and worse.

I’ve always been daydreaming, now it’s just through manual narration of dialogue without the visuals or other senses, though I’m also autistic and constant daydreaming is a common coping mechanism for us.