How did you first discover you were aphantasic?

Tom Ebeyer Staff asked 2 years ago
10694 views 86 comments

I always find this question so interesting. For most of my life, I didn’t realize that others were actually visualizing their thoughts and memories… I thought it was more as a figure of speech than a literal description of how people were thinking. I had such a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that visual representations were being created in someone’s “mind’s eye”. I still do, to be honest. How do you understand something that requires it’s experience? It’s almost like trying to explain the colour purple to someone who only sees in black and white… good luck! It was my second year in college when my girlfriend (at the time) opened my eyes. We were talking about a mutual friend we’d just seen, and how she was wearing the same thing she was the last time we saw her a year prior. I was amazed she could remember that kind of detail… “How do you remember what she was wearing a year ago??” I asked. “Well, I can just see her in my mind”… WHAT?! I then spent years obsessively asking everyone who’d listen about their imagination experience. Helplessly searching for “learn to visualize” or “no mind’s eye” on google only led me to sadness… how can I be missing what seems to be a vital part of the human experience? To relive memories in my mind… see the people, places, and events that meant the most to me? To “picture” what it might be like to visit a destination or “imagine” a success. All the writing I found talked about the benefits of visualizing… even today, a google search shows that it’s still heavily weighted this way. This was years before Aphantasia was coined by Adam Zemen at Exeter. Many discussions have taken place since then and I’ve come a long way in my understanding of Aphantasia’s Strengths. I’ll be writing about those thoughts in the coming weeks and months. How did you first discover your Blind Mind?

Kristin Kumpf April 25, 2019 06:05 pm

I’m delighted to have found this website. I can’t remember the fist time I realized that my inner experience was so different from everyone else’s. I have a number of memories that stand out, but I couldn’t tell you which was the first one. But I do recall that I immediately started surveying my family members and I am the only one who can’t actually see an apple when someone says "picture an apple." I felt sad and kind of ripped off about that. I sure as heck was surprised! It might have been when my partner said that she could remember things by picturing the book she read it in and just reading it off. And she can spell aloud quickly because she can picture the word and just read off the letters. Really?!?!?! Then she started asking me about my experience and it was really hard to talk about. How do I remember things? Most puzzling is that I have a really good sense of direction and she doesn’t. I can "picture" what’s on a certain street corner and find my way back there, but I don’t see anything. I can best say that it’s kinesthetic and descriptive. If I try to picture an apple I may draw it in the blackness behind my closed eyes, and I’ll think of the shape and colour of a delicious apple (one I don’t particularly like), or a granny smith apple (which was my favourite at one time, but is not too acidic for me), but I don’t see anything. I’m just sort of flipping through memories of apples.
I like doing visualizations. Sometimes really interesting ideas come. I can have an experience of what’s being described. I can think about the sound of the water, and the sunshine on my face and I can generate, in the present, something of the feeling I have had in the past in the sunshine by water. Once I had such a powerful experience / idea come up in a guided visualization that I immediately wanted to draw what I "saw" because I wanted to really see it.
I can get emotionally involved in a story and have an experience of the story, even if I’ve never had that experience before. I can be "moved" by it, but I don’t see anything.
Now, in just my short exposure to this website which isn’t much beyond scanning one article and looking at this thread, I’ve had a new realization. It extends to sound. But unlike some of the other folks, I do regularly get a tune stuck in my head. But I sing. I love to sing. So the tune I get stuck in my head is always in my own voice, even though I’m not actually making noise. I have a friend who can write harmonies and she says she can just hear harmonies in her head. I thought she was just a weird anomaly. Wow, you must be like Beethoven or something. Some weird freak of nature. But just now I figured out, it’s my aphantasia.
I write songs, but I have to do it. I just now tried to make up a tune in my head…. absolutely can’t do it. Who knew? And frankly it’s a bit disturbing. I guess it’s only sad to me because now I know that others can. Bummer! Somehow it was easier believing that those who could were outliers with unusual abilities rather than thinking that I have an unusual deficit. Wow. What lessons can I draw from that?!? Comparisons are odious!
Interestingly I do sometimes have vivid dreams in my sleep. And occasionally, in the early stages of sleep where I still think I am awake, I am aware of seeing images. Even in those guided visualizations, if I am approaching a meditative state, I may get a flash of something like I would experience in a dream. More often I get a "vivid idea" of something that is almost a picture… more like an impression.
I do wonder if my aphantasia is protective in my line of work. I am a psychotherapist. I have heard some stories that are quite ghastly; "unimaginable" cruelty. And some do haunt me a bit. How much harder it must be to push such memories away if they come with the full spectrum of sensations. When I think of this, I am tremendously grateful for my "deficit."
Thanks for putting website together.

Kat Williams replied 2 years ago

“Somehow it was easier believing that those who could were outliers with unusual abilities rather than thinking that I have an unusual deficit. Wow. What lessons can I draw from that?!? Comparisons are odious!”

I’m a writer, and have been since I was a young child. But I’ve always struggled to get past the good stage, to anywhere near great, and one day I realized that one of the biggest obstacles has been my need to speak what I’m writing out loud – and how rarely I’m in a place where I can freely do that. I determined that how little actual privacy I’ve had, over the course of my entire life, got in the way of developing my fiction-writing skills. And the reason I need the privacy to be able to speak what I’m writing, especially when it’s dialog, is that my 65WPM typing can’t keep up with how quickly I’ll forget a line I’ve just thought of, or entirely lose the thread of a fictional conversation I was crafting. If I can say the words, I can retain them longer – just as I’m sure I could retain them longer, if I could hear them in my head. And yes, I often feel a certain resentment that this simple lack of ability has impacted how well I do something I love so dearly.

And while I’ve certainly heard others express that trauma can be dampened by lack of explicit sensory memory, I also think that the lack of vivid memory can make it harder to move past trauma and process negative experiences. When your autobiographical memory is so sparse, it can make dealing with the emotional repercussions of those experiences more complicated, because you might remember only what you felt and not what actually happened. And I think CBT is inherently flawed if its not an aphant-aware form. I’m also convinced that my subconscious finally ‘realized’ a few years ago, that no suppressed emotions were being addressed through dreams, if I couldn’t actually see, hear, smell, etc. what was happening. Because now, when I start to have certain forms of night terrors some part of my mind immediately steers the narrative in another direction and effectively ends the part of the dream that would’ve otherwise had me crying in my sleep or waking up in terror. It’s been about 3 years since I’ve had a nightmare involving claustrophobia, acrophobia or zombies – dreams which used to plague me weekly – and I have full recall of several times those dreams started to manifest and then suddenly the story went another way. Not that I remember all my dreams, mind you, but thanks to severe sleep apnea that I’m not currently able to treat, I remember a lot of them – at least for the first few hours after I wake up.

So, there are definitely negative psychological repercussions too.

Christopher Cousins replied 1 year ago

I just put my own experience in this thread but then scrolled up and read yours. The vivid dreams and getting little “flashes” of imagery just before getting to sleep are exactly the same as what I have. When you describe about the apple, that is precisely what I do, I imagine it and sort of draw it and flip through the memories, but I’m not ever *seeing* the apple.

Lia H replied 4 months ago

I feel the same for the singing! I also really enjoy singing and so whenever a song is stuck in my head, I tend to always sing it or at least mumble its tune or lyrics aloud, always replicating it in my own voice. I always hear it in my own voice. I never knew that was tied to aphantasia.

Max Barber February 27, 2019 10:35 am

Hi there, firstly, a great looking website and some good looking swag, I hope you ship to the UK!

I first found conclusively that I had aphantasia in 2015. I had known I had something for a few years before that, but did not know what. Whenever I had some spare time (like today!) I used to hit google and try and find what it was, but the results always leaned towards ‘face blindness’, but I knew that wasn’t what I had because when I saw someone I recognised them, it was only when I couldn’t see them that the problems occured. How many times have I lost my wife in the aisles of a supermarket and gone looking down for her only to realise I had no idea what she was wearing.

I only put a name to it when I found an article from someone big in the tech industry (Amazon or Google or Facebook? I can’t remember now), I was so happy reading the article thinking Oh wow, this is me! Then soon after, as I wrote in my introduction on this site, I found that my daughter has it too.

Since then I have found two friends who may have aphantasia too, but they showed no interest more than ‘yeah, same here’ when I asked them to close their eyes and try to picture their wife or children.

I find the whole subject really interesting and would love to explore it more. I have done two questionaires for university studies, one here in the UK and one in US, but never heard anything much back, seemed like they just wanted to collect data, not discuss it. I am so interested in what differences it creates between us and visulisers!

Jennifer McDougall Staff replied 2 years ago

Hello Max, thanks for sharing your experiences! Was the individual in the tech industry Blake Ross? https://www.facebook.com/notes/blake-ross/aphantasia-how-it-feels-to-be-blind-in-your-mind/10156834777480504/

Max Barber replied 2 years ago

Hi Jennifer, I think that is the one, although I thought I read it in 2015, but maybe I am wrong as I have googled it again and I cannot find anything else that rings a bell.

Shirley Mueller March 14, 2019 10:33 pm

I am 82 years old but just learned two weeks ago there was a name for my inability to visualize the characters or scenes in the novels I read, to arrange furniture in a room without graph paper and a tape measure, to do simple math in my head. I graduated top of my class from a major university and even though many of my generation run from using a smart phone, I love technology and would be lost without my MacBook. I’m sure this has helped me compensate and succeed in areas that I might have stumbled in because of my lack of sensory skills.

It was my inquisitive nature that led me to Google “Lack of ability to visualize” and I was shocked to find others have the same issues. I have been aware that I struggled to visualize while reading as a child. I also remember that when my mother told me to try counting sheep, I just lay there seeing how high I could count which I’m sure kept be alert more than it made me drowsy. As I have been looking for more sources of information I was surprised to see questions in the Exeter survey regarding other senses. I have always known I had extremely poor taste and smell ability (I can’t tell sweet from sour, or ginger from cilantro); I have NEVER had a melody stuck in my head, and although I do have a fair ability to recognize faces I could never adequately describe a relative to someone else – I would describe their personality not their features. I just two days ago sent a text to my adult children and grandchildren telling them what I have learned about myself – but evidently I didn’t pass it on to any of them.


[email protected]

Tom Ebeyer Staff replied 2 years ago

Thank you for your comments, Shirley!

Your description is very similar to many of us with Aphantasia; no melody stuck in our head, a difficult time describing facial features, etc.

What subject did you study at University?

We’re exploring the possibility that this is hereditary, so thank you for sharing your experience. It’s inconclusive if aphantasia is something that gets passed on or not.

Welcome to the network!

Shirley Mueller replied 2 years ago

Thanks, Tom, for your response. I graduated from Pepperdine University with by degree in Business Administration. I am finding your website much more helpful, even though it is just getting started, than the forums I looked at previously.

Nachum Pereferkovich replied 1 year ago

This is an interesting fact – aphants with poor auditory memory. I just thought that ear memory compensates for the lack of eye memory; so it is with me. This is a strange situation: a musician who is completely unable to draw ( unlike my children).

Hannah Cooksley replied 5 months ago

See, I get melodies stuck in my head all the time. But I can’t turn up the volume. I have a poor sense of smell too though! Which I never knew was related to this condition (although I did literally find out about there being a name for it today. I’m glad to know you haven’t passed it down to your children though! Soon with all the screens this will be the norm! I hope I never see that day…

CJ Estrella April 10, 2019 07:27 am

I discovered that I was an aphant days ago by accident when I watched a Youtube video about Aphantism. I was actually half-listening to the vlogger’s explanation until she mentioned about reading books.

I am a bookworm but the way she explained her sides on reading hit me hard – I can’t visualize anything while reading. Maybe this explains why lengthy descriptions bore me, and why I’m good at remembering the characters, the landmarks and the story plot but not the experience like how pretty the protagonist was or how beautiful the Kingdom X was. And as a writer, it was easier for me to write dialogues ‘coz I know what to react on certain situations. But to describe my character’s feelings and their surroundings? Boy it was hard.

I am so glad that there are lots of Aphantasia articles online that answers my memory retention concerns. No wonder why I couldn’t picture-out things on my head every time I draw, or even if I have a reference image, I still need to dig some additional references because I can’t visualize what I really want to draw.

mel9300 replied 4 days ago

Lengthy descriptions bore me as well. I just scan the text to find where the conversation or story progresses!

Trevor Davis April 16, 2019 04:37 pm

I always believed that what I saw in my MIND (Black emptiness} was what all people saw. I thought they just exaggerated what they saw and that they had really good memories for the small detail.

I was always very poor in art class because it was always "Draw something" never "draw this or that" or "Draw this object". Again I thought it was a lacking that I had.

When in Primary School, aged 4 or 5, the teachers told my mother that at the age of 7 I would need to go to a school for Special Needs because I just wasn’t learning anything. At age 5 or 6 when we began to be taught NUMBERS I , within 6 months, went from being the class fool to being top of the class.

I successfully went on to do a BSc. in Mathematics and Computing.

BUT it wasn’t until recently, while listening to the radio that I heard a discussion about Aphantasia and then it all fell into place, for 57 years I thought I was different, lacking a good memory. People said I didn’t care about things and that was why I didn’t remember the details. NOW I can hold my head up because I know it isn’t me.

Kat Williams replied 2 years ago

“People said I didn’t care about things and that was why I didn’t remember the details. NOW I can hold my head up because I know it isn’t me.”

There was a fairly successful book written on ADHD titled, “You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Crazy or Stupid?!” I have no doubt that, over time, that same kind of satire will be applied to the way many of us were treated in school, because of the impacts our aphantasia had. The “not living up to her potential” may have been partly the ADHD’s doing, but I know now it was more than just that. I couldn’t draw a picture of a photo that was sitting directly in front of me, with any degree of clarity, and I got tons of grief in school for that – and my inability to recognize many states or countries by their shape, my inability to connect reading sheet music to playing or singing a note, my inability to retain formulas in both chemistry and geometry and especially how lousy I am at mental math, despite having been quite good at algebra. It’s clear to me now, that people use visual memory to do a lot more than they realize, and that a lack of visual memory (not to mention auditory, tactile, etc.) can impact learning and memory retention far more than anyone has fully explored – especially for those of us at the far end of the aphantasia spectrum. Even many mnemonic devices are based around visualizing the things you’re trying to remember, in particular the Roman Room device, which uses both visual and spatial memory.

Aphantasia may not broadly be a learning disability on par with dyslexia, but depending on the degree of each, in individual cases it can be.

Zoe Aguirre September 04, 2019 05:24 pm

I’va always had trouble drawing, improvising, and quite frankly just truning off at the end of the day. I use to draw a lot as a kid using references but I could never draw anything original. So, because of this, I quit drawing for years out of sheer frustration that whatever I wanted to draw just wouldn’t go onto the page. After a few years i decided to start drawing again to help cope with my depression and my anxiety. I knew I wasn’t able to do original work so I started drawing other works to build up some muscle memory to do my own things. A few months pass and I finally feel like I am ready to try something original. I had the idea of what I wanted to draw and I knew some characteristics that it would have so i started to draw. I spent about 2 hours attempting to draw this idea and nothing was coming from it. I spent 2 hours drawing and erasing and nothing was comingout right. I was visibly frustrated so my boyfriend asked to visualize what I was trying to draw and I thought I had been I mean I knew what I wanted to draw thats all I need right? It was only then when I tried to explain to him that I couldn’t actually see what I wanted to draw that he looked at me strange. He said that he watched an artist on youtube that has something called aphantasia and that I might have the same problem. At first I dismissed it because I didn’t think it would be possible. So, reluctantly I watched the video with him and she asked us to close our eyes and picture an apple in our minds and describe what we see. For me i saw abslutely nothing which was normal for me, but then my boyfriend starts describing what he saw which was extremely detailed. So, that’s when I discovered aphantasia and it made a lot of sense why I don’t daydream or have a difficult time drawing original works.

Nachum Pereferkovich replied 1 year ago

I have a similar story with drawing; at the age of 12, I realized that despite the fact that I liked to draw from the age 5 , the level of drawings was stuck in the age of 9 years; and I completely stopped drawing a for ever (I’m 74 years old). But I love improvisations – musical; and it has become my life profession. Not only did I completely stop drawing, but also play games that require visual memory: checkers, chess, card games; when I realized that it was a waste of time .

Susan Brewster September 15, 2019 02:24 am

Like a number of you, I realized later in life, in my early 40s, that I processed things differently in my head. A friend of mine who is a great fan of graphic novels was trying to get me to read them. While I am a voracious reader, graphic novels do not appeal to me in the least. After reading three or four, I told her I did not want to read any more. She asked me what about graphic novels I did not like. My response was that the pictures get in the way of the story. This lead to a discussion of visualization where, much to my amazement, I learned that other people really can create pictures in their head and that when people are told to picture something in their mind it is not just a figure of speech. I also do not experience visual dreams. Visualization seems to be the only area where I experience aphantasia. I was pleased to learn that there are other people who, like me, are unable to visualize.

Tom Ebeyer Staff replied 1 year ago

Very interesting! I’ve never been a fan of a graphic novel (or fiction in general) and this is obviously the reason. My sister is a big fan and I always thought is was kind of weird… @Kate Ebeyer

C J replied 1 year ago

For me it’s the exact opposite. Because I can’t picture things in my own head reading something with pictures included (like a graphic novel) makes it easier for me to experience what other people experience while reading… I assume.

Christopher Cousins September 16, 2019 03:19 am

I would have to say today… I just read an article about the mind’s eye and how a man without one was asked to think of a capital letter A and then say what shape is in the enclosed part of it. He said triangle but only after imagining tracing the letter, sort of drawing it like when you write it down. I had done exactly the same thing when I thought about the problem. If it is true, and other people can actually “see” things then it feels very unfair I have vivid dreams though and infrequently, just before dropping off to sleep, I may get a flash of something. I certainly think of seeing things and that is enough to remember stuff, but actually seeing them would be amazing if you could just do it at will!

Diana Horn September 16, 2019 10:08 pm

My daughter asked me years ago if i could see anything in my head i said no and she couldnt either. So we both thought it was normal. We only discovered that others could when my daughter went to uni.

It was like a light bulb moment. It explained why i could never do meditation at school they just said that i wasnt concentrating enough. Also as a child i loved buying postcards of the places i visited and i got a camera at an early age so that i could take photographs. As a child My photographs were very important to me and I realise why now. I still love taking photograhs to help me remember.

Also i never could understand people saying i cant get that song out of my head.

Im a total aphantasic and discovered that a lot of my work colleagues also have aphantasia.

So i dont feel alone but i do feel some loss (now that i know others can visualise) that i cant see my dad (who is no longer with us)

unless i look at his photographs.

Tom Ebeyer Staff replied 1 year ago

Photographs are important to me as well, Diana!
What type of work do you do? What percentage of your colleagues, would you guess? I’m very interested to see if we can find patterns.

Nadine Weller September 17, 2019 06:39 pm

Hi, I am super excited to hear about this. I was listening to the show on CBC radio. I had always just thought that I wasn’t creative or wasn’t observant. I didn’t realize that this was a "thing". My most dreaded and torurous class through schooll was always art class. When the teacher would let us have some "fun" and do our own thing was the worst ever! I cannot come up with ideas for my home, or type of car I want, or style or colour of clothes. I can only visually see and decide if I like it or not. I don’t remember what someone wore or the colour of a house or visual details from a show. It’s amazing to know that there are others out there who get it. I feel so blessed that I heard Tom today. I never considered it wierd, just me, lacking total creativity and me that notices nothing, just me….

Tom Ebeyer Staff replied 1 year ago

I’m glad that my voice was somewhat helpful on CBC radio today! You’re certainly not alone 🙂

Luc Jeanneau September 18, 2019 02:45 am

Hi Tom,
So glad to hear you speaking of your experience on the CBC doc project. I like you am a total aphantasiac. I have known for about 4 years now that I have aphantasia. I was at a yoga class at the Vancouver YMCA and the instructor was leading a guided meditation. Her intent was to paint a vivd image of a walk in the forest. I think she was just particularly bad at describing it, because instead of relaxing to the cadence and sound of her voice, I started wondering what the point of this was.
No one can see this anyway I thought to myself. Why would people keep using guided imagery if no one could use it. I started thinking about my Grandma who often says: "put yourself on the corner of X Avenue and Y Street". I thought of common saying’s like counting sheep, and "picturing other people" during sex. It kept eating away at me that maybe I was doing something wrong.
So, when I got home, I Googled "can other people actually visualize things", and down the rabbit hole I went. Blake Ross’ article put a name to it for me. I identified with almost everything. Then I started, almost obsessively, pestering friends and colleagues about their mind’s eye and visual imagery experiences. I had colleagues with photo-realistic descriptions, friends who could replay memories with visuals, sounds, and smells. I felt like I was missing a basic, joyful, human experience. It felt very isolating because people would just challenge it and say I was crazy – or get tired of me trying to explain something I couldn’t quite grasp yet.
Since then I’ve given talks about it and have come to recognize the strengths it provides. Though I am able to recall certain happy loving moments in my life, they often come with a lack of emotional attachement and detail. I wish I could step back into the sights and sounds of my travel – but this inability has bred a love for creative endeavours like photography, that create snapshots I can relive. I find myself using trial and error problem-solving in my work, as I can visualize a solution or conjure and emotional or sensory reaction my interventions might have.
You may all find this ironic, as I primarily do sensory processing work with children.
Anyway, I am glad to read about others experiences and to grow my knowledge and involvement in this small community. If there is any way I can help or get involved, I would love to. If anyone wants to go for coffee in Vancouver, I’d love to hear your stories and experience.

Tom Ebeyer Staff replied 1 year ago

Thank you for your story, Luc! Like you, I was quite obsessive when I first started looking at this; and people telling you that you’re crazy seems common without a simple way to describe the experience. Even then, it can be hard to wrap your mind around.

Just yesterday my family had to put down our dog, who’s been an important part of our lives for 13+ years. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I also wish I could step back into those great memories when he was a pup, weekends swimming at the cottage, etc. There’s no getting around this part of it. Instead, we focus on our strengths and find solutions that work for us. Like you, photography is a solution I’ve leaned on to help with capturing memories.

We’re thinking of starting a meetup that aphantasics can host and publish through the website. Is that something you’d be interested in? I’m in Toronto but if there’s enough interest we can organize a few across the country.

Deborah Anne Corr replied 5 months ago

‘Though I am able to recall certain happy loving moments in my life, they often come with a lack of emotional attachement and detail.’ – How that resonates! i am highly emotional in the moment but have had difficulty coming to terms with my inability to be ‘feeling’ once out of the moment, and I often consider myself a cold fish, whereas people describe me as extremely loving . I have found my lack of ‘feeling’ memory quite upsetting.

Gerry Cadotte September 18, 2019 02:20 pm

I was watching an artist in Victoria British Columbia do an absolutely life like "dot" portrait of a woman from memory about 15 years ago. We sat around and talked for around 30 minutes and I was absolutely blown away that he was "just copying what was in his mind". He was stunned and couldn’t understand that I didn’t have the ability to "close my eyes and just picture it". I only just found out that there is a name for it today and that other people have the same issue.

I figured picturing it in ones “mind’s eye” was one of those quirks that let artists be artists, and since I’m an engineer – I’m built differently. I had no idea that almost everyone else could picture something in their mind and actually "see" it to some degree.

I find it strange that I’m a Professional Electrical Engineer who can recall facts, figures, dates, codes and perform some pretty advanced math, but can’t picture a horse in my mind’s eye. I know intuitively it has eyes, ears, a mane, and what each piece “should” look like, but I can’t picture it standing there.

I’m wondering if anyone else has trouble reciting the words to songs as they play, or is that just something unique to me? Again, I have no issues with memorizing facts, figures and could memorize the lines to a song, but there is no way I could recall them in time to sing them as the music plays.

Tom Ebeyer Staff replied 1 year ago

Very interesting to hear your professional background, Gerry. Shows us we can perform in high-end careers without a visual imagination. How do you think Aphantasia affects your engineering practice? Are their strengths or weakness’ you could identify?
Interesting re: music and would love to hear other thoughts. Personally, if I know the song well, I could sing along. I probably couldn’t recite the words unless the song is playing, though. Then the rhythm of the music just helps the words come out.

Carolin Eberman September 18, 2019 05:16 pm

Hi Tom,

I heard the CBC documentary too and was interested to find there is now a name for Aphantasia and a bit more awareness.

I am 40 now but was an 18 year old psychology major in a class of undergraduates completing the VVIQ when I realized that I had Aphantasia (not yet termed). I kept asking my psych professor for clarification and finally I just said to him that from the instructions I didn’t understand why everyone wasn’t rating themselves as 0 for imagery. What was with these students who were claiming to create pictures in their heads!

MY professor at the time had done a lot of research which included visual imagery so he was highly intrigued. He indicated that he had only ever met one other person with this inability to visualize. We spent a lot of time discussing this and we did some additional assessments.

One of the things we discussed was dreaming. My professor asked if I saw pictures when I was sleeping. I answered that I thought I did. And I do. But at the time, I needed to check. For a long time after that I would wake up just as I was starting to drift into dreamimg and would sit up in bed and say “I saw a picture”!

I’m still highly intrigued as to why I can see pics in my head when I’m asleep but not when I’m awake. Are the neuropathways different? I’ll have to explore this site and see if there is any discussion on this topic or maybe post a discussion myself!

Tom Ebeyer Staff replied 1 year ago

Dreams are one of those interesting topics that require a lot more work. Different researchers have different perspectives on it. Personally, I don’t believe I have visual dreams.. I do recognize the visuals in my dream; ie. “look at that purple wall” will be something I say in my dream, but it’s experienced through thought and monologue, I never remember having ever seen what the “purple wall” actually looks like…. very interested to hear more about your dreaming experience, Carolin

Tim Clarke September 19, 2019 01:37 pm

Similar to many others here, this is a new realization over the past few weeks since I stumbled across an article on the topic. All of the same manifestations that others mention, most of which get offset by having a very strong overall memory. For example, I’ve learned to "remember" a lot of facts about what someone looks like – hair colour, eye colour, hair style, memorable features, etc so that I can give some semblance of describing them verbally. However, have no image that I’m drawing upon, and if someone asked me to draw a picture, it would look like a 4-yr old drawing (I’m 48) and I would have no idea how to make it better.

The "picture a horse" exercise makes me think of several times over the years trying to draw a bicycle. I know that it has two wheels and bars that go between them, but I would draw ridiculous shapes because I had no memory of how the bars connect and no image to draw upon.

Interestingly, I have a math degree, very mentally adept with numbers and a strong memory of facts and figures – perhaps compensating for the lack of visual memory?

Miranda Bass September 20, 2019 06:54 pm

I found out a couple of years ago. My husband had read an article about it and came to the kitchen where I was meal preping and told me the story and was like "can you image?" My response, "Baby no one can see images with their mind, thats just a expression." Lets just say that the conversation was a bit of a explosion for both of us. I have been conducting informal questions on my family, friends and co-workers since and I have found two people like me. My old admin assistant and one of my friends. Its amazing watching the people who have it freak out because you don’t. Its also interesting finding people who do have it. They get so excited to know that we are different when we just always thought people were speaking in methaphor. I have had some responses that annoy me, including my Bosses, bosses, boss telling me she felt sorry for me. I always thought that if you actually saw images that you were hallucinating.

Wei September 22, 2019 12:16 am

I was sitting in class about two weeks ago and my teacher decided to do a mindfulness activity. We were told to close our eyes and visualise a beach, feel the sand between our toes and smell the salty air. I didn’t participate because I thought that no-one could ACTUALLY see the beach, feel the sand and smell the air. Afterwards the teacher pulled me aside and asked me why I didn’t participate. I said "It seems pointless to me. When you close your eyes you can’t see a beach. You just see black." And she told me that actually people can see stuff in their mind like images. I got very confused and started researching and I realised that although I could hear things in my mind (songs etc.) and taste stuff in my mind I couldn’t see, smell or feel in my mind. I kept researching and saw it described as Aphantasia. I have an identical twin sister and she can visualise perfectly with a 8-9 clarity so I have no idea why I can’t.

Tom Ebeyer Staff replied 1 year ago

Interesting to hear your identical twin sister can visualize quite well, while you cannot! One hypothesis for Aphantasia is that it’s genetic, but that obviously hasn’t been proven. Hope you find the resources here useful!

Wei Seet replied 1 year ago

INobody in my family has Aphantasia but maybe certain types of Aphantasia are genetic. I'm not fully Aphantastic as I can taste and hear in my mind extremely well so perhaps only full Aphantasia is genetic? I have no idea I'm just theorising

Space Anarchist replied 1 year ago

Aphantasia does seem to be hereditary in some people. If one identical twin has it and the other does not, that might mean that it is epigenetic: that is, it shows up during fetal development due to different physical and chemical conditions within the womb. For instance, one twin may have absorbed more of a certain chemical from the blood. Something would have influenced the development at some point after the original fertilized ovum split into two. Alternatively, it may reflect some change that occurred during infancy or early childhood.

ANIKA BRKIC September 28, 2019 07:56 pm

I found out by watching a video from a youtuber called AmyRightMeow. She talked about her experience with aphantasia, and I realized that I had it too.

Ken Rode October 02, 2019 03:08 pm

Some number of months ago, my boxing coach told me that I should visualize an opponent in front of me when shadowboxing. He seemed to be talking about something that could almost be seen but I had no idea how to do that. That was the first inkling I had that something was up.

The thought that I might be somehow different kept rolling around in my head for a while until a couple of weeks ago when the word “aphantasia” first appeared on my radar. I started looking into it and from what I could read online, it sounded like that might describe my experiences pretty well. I very recently purchased Alan Kendle’s book and on opening and skimming it, found my own life pouring out of its pages through the words of people who experience what I experience.

I’m a pretty introspective person but I feel like I’m just on the edge of a significant chunk of self-discovery, a better understanding of why I am like I am.

Eric Johnson October 06, 2019 02:29 am

I first heard the term on a prosopagnosia mailing list a couple of years ago. Before that, it never occurred to me that there was a difference like this.

My first thought was that of course I can visualize things. To me, visualizing a ship in the water was more of a knowing that it would be silly to find a ship not in the water (ignoring drydocks). It never occurred to me that people could actually see a ship in the water in their minds.

Until tonight, I never even thought about about it also affecting things like sounds and smells. I can kind of “aurialize” sounds, but it is very faint and is of music such as The Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkle, Yesterday by the Beatles, … , and sometimes of voices. Even then, it doesn’t really sound like I’m hearing it.

As for smell, I sat back and thought about different smells such as cooking various foods and I get nothing. If I think of a hamburger cooking, the smell is probably the least thing that comes to mind. If I was cooking a hamburger and it didn’t smell like a hamburger cooking, I would probably never notice the change.

David Reed October 06, 2019 06:36 am

I recently learned about Aphantasia from a reddit post and it has explained a lot. I am a 53 year old software backend/algorithm guy and process improvement expert. I hate “user friendly” graphical user interfaces (Windows and the like) and have been saying for years I would still be happy with just DOS. I can imagine and empathize with end-users and recognize what works well and what does not. I am horrible at the layouts of User Interfaces and Reports in visual pleasing formats. I am awesome at many areas of Trivia. I have a garbage pit mind that can remember anything I read or write but very little of what I see or hear. I had learning difficulties with this until I figured out that if I take notes during a lecture I remember it all with never reading that note again. I hate Computer Based Training and YouTube how to videos. I would much rather read a new car manual than have the salesperson give an in person demonstration of my cars features.

Artistically I am a mess. I can draw and paint well but only from a still-life setup or from a picture or from detailed knowledge (maps, fractals, engineering diagrams). I can remember lyrics if I have read them but i cant hear a song in my head to get started on singing right. I sang lullabies to my children, but the tune and and pitch would be different every time I sang. We now have a car DVD player and I am finding I enjoy the movies better without the distraction of the video.

My life is changing and I am trying to find ways to change my habits and processes to take advantage of my new found insight.

Elizabeth Nicholson October 08, 2019 07:57 pm

I came across the term ‘aphantasia’ a few years ago thanks to the BBC. I’m a mechanical engineer by training, in management now. The family joke was always that I could navigate really well, but never remember people. I ended up re-introducing myself to a colleage I’d worked with for a long time at a Christmas party because they had changed their hair, clothing style, etc. I used to think I had prosopagnosia, but it didn’t quite fit. Now, I’m sure it’s aphantasia. The VVIQ test confirmed it.

I’m a voracious bookworm and prefer reading or listening to watching. I’m able to recognize pictures or shapes, but unable to draw, even my stick people look bad. I’m also poor at other creative skills for art, drama and writing. I don’t dream in pictures, but I do dream in words. I’ve been listening to audiobooks to go to sleep for decades now as counting sheep doesn’t work. I’m very good with maps and directions, although I think of it as a series of steps. i.e. go double the distance then turn twice. Right and left are very confusing, I’ve trained my family to give driving directions as ‘driver side’ and ‘passenger side’.

One oddity in my visual memory, while I can’t "picture a horse", given something to see I can colour match with something that is not present. Somehow I have a good colour sense. I’m not mentally ‘seeing’ the colour, but I can look and something and decide if the colour matches. The mental memory I do have is for music. I can hear how an artist sung something, but when I try to duplicate it, I’m tone deaf. Taste, smell, etc don’t have much memory from me either.

Konstantine Konstantine October 14, 2019 10:45 pm

I’m was’nt born with it, so it was easy to understand. I lay at bed. prepairing for sleep, and at one moment I noticed… idk, emptyness in my head. I was panic a bit, try to take few integrals (3rd term student, don’t judge me) and it was OK. Tryed to recall few thing from memory – my sister face, limon taste, apple smell and… nothing. I remember facts, but not things. Tastes, sound, images – nothing. It was stressfull for me, but in few days I have adapted. So, I’m already 2 weeks without phantasia. It’s a little better with images – I can remember some things from my previous life, but it paced… above of my vision field, i can’t see anu details. And I repair my inside voice, but still can’t imagine music.

Also it hard to remind a big amount of my memories. Look like i feel it in my head, but wire memory->mind is broken. I hope my imagine will back to me, but if not… I glad i’m not alone. Thank you all

Shayne Hanks November 16, 2019 07:15 am

I discovered only last year, at the age of 46, via seeing an internet about the discovery that some people don’t have a mind’s eye, that I have aphantasia. So much of my life suddenly made sense to me in a way that it never had before. For example, I could never tell what something was going to look like, such as rearranging furniture in a room, unless I actually did it. I also arrange my memories of the past in an autobiographical and factual way – memories are sequential and tied to locations and experiences and I can not "re-live" these; only recall that they happened. I also have the ability to remembers obscure facts and figures which is only great for trivia nights. It also helped me to make sense of why I speed read in that much of the detail in novels seeks to "paint a picture" in the mind of the reader – and although I would take in these details there is never any concurrent formation of images.

Iblis Bane November 21, 2019 07:33 pm

I’ve known for 32 years. Of course, nobody knew what it was back then. I was 10 years old and participating in an extra-curricular program for kids who (I subsequently suspected) they thought might be "gifted," and there was one of those mindfullness excercises that so many already mentioned…the "imagine yourself on a beach" routine.

It was while the others present were relating their experience that I realised they were actually experiencing it. Whereas I was simply reciting my knowledge of what being on the beach "felt like" (but what I really meant was "included" or "comprised of&quot.

Being of an enquiring turn of mind, I raised the question regularly with people, but I couldn’t grasp their experience any more than they could grasp mine.

Then a few years back, the only other aphantasic I’ve ever met, sent me a link to the WSJ article, which led me to the paper, which led to the survey / whatever. I keep tabs on the research every now and then, and that somehow led me here.

Dax replied 4 months ago

i found out 35 years ago, but i was a bit older, 20 and at university.
I never met another aphanasic in that time. Not that you ask everyone, but i had have the discussion with most friends and lots of people when the subject turns to “imagination” or “minds eye”.
Spent many years thinking it was extremely rare, surprised to find out it could be 3%.

Andrew McCombe November 23, 2019 08:41 pm

OMG I am so happy to have found this website! I’ve had this ‘condition’ for years and no-one would believe me when I said that I can’t picture things.
Firstly, let me explain my Aphantasia: When asked to visualise something, like an apple in the palm of a hand, or a number, I can see it, but only for a quick flash, and quite dim. I can remember what things look like but I just can’t picture them.
It first occured to me that my experience was out of the ordinary when listening to one of those self-help tapes around 15 years ago (I had issues with confidence at the time). One of the well known techniques to improving confidence is to visualise yourself doing something you want to do. The tape suggested improving your golf swing by visualising each step. Of course, I couldn’t do this.
Its was only recently I discovered other people shared my condition after reading an article on the BBC website.
I’m wondering if there is a link to dementia or other degenerative diseases that affect people later in life?

Lauren B December 04, 2019 03:40 am

I discovered I had aphantasia a few months after my 20th birthday in random conversation. I was at a church group talking to one of my mentors. She was asking me questions about different ideas. The coversation took a turn when she asked me if I get pictures in my mind when I give people words and then I asked "What do you mean?" She asked me to picture a beach and I responded puzzled saying something like "I can’t do that. What are you talking about?" She looked at me with a puzzled face. She spent the week looking into this and the next week my other mentor told me that he researched this phenomenon and found evidence that it really is a thing. My entire world and life as been completely different ever since. This is mainly because how my brain processes things is so different. My relationship patterns made so much sense. Grieving is easier because I cannot see the person’s face. The way I tell stories and describe things is all because I cannot visualize. Any traumatic experiences are simply forgotten in the visual sense. I have had moments where I get something and it is abstract for like .5 of a second and then it vanishes. I have told my friends and family about it and they have responded with "It makes you make way more sense." I am learning every day how to naviagate this status in my brain while trying not to get frustrated that I cannot see anything like other people can.

Jorge De La Cerda December 09, 2019 12:06 am

Several years ago, I was listening to the Hello Internet podcast and the hosts started talking about subvocalizing as they read and I distinctly remember that I did not have a voice while I read. I then forgot the word for subvocalization for several months until I remembered and looked at the Wikipedia page for "subvocalization." Under the related pages part of the Wikipedia page was a link the page for aphantasia. I knew immediately that I had aphantasia and looked into it more.

Jorge De La Cerda December 09, 2019 12:06 am

Several years ago, I was listening to the Hello Internet podcast and the hosts started talking about subvocalizing as they read and I distinctly remember that I did not have a voice while I read. I then forgot the word for subvocalization for several months until I remembered and looked at the Wikipedia page for "subvocalization." Under the related pages part of the Wikipedia page was a link the page for aphantasia. I knew immediately that I had aphantasia and looked into it more.

Wright Melissa December 14, 2019 06:55 pm

I found out I had aphantasia two weeks ago after reading an article a friend shared on Facebook. It completely explained why I always have to ask people to draw a picture whenever they’re trying to explain anything visual. And for years I thought that when movies depicted someone’s memory as a sepia or gauzy-covered version of reality, that it was just some sort of artistic device. Because nobody can close their eyes and replay or revisit what they have seen. I see nothing but dark grey when I close my eyes during isualization exercises or meditation. I am an avid reader, but I can’t stand overly descriptive language because my brain slides all over the words trying to form a picture. I read and enjoy a story’s plot, dialogue, skillful use of language, and strange facts about culture, history, lifestyle, belief systems, and etiquette. But I definitely don’t enjoy reading about the decoration of houses or the descriptions of someone’s face and fashion. It does make me feel like I’m missing out on something big. And I can’t see how people aren’t spending all their free time daydreaming when they can see actual pictures in their minds!!!

Brookie Kookie December 15, 2019 12:48 am

I’m only in highschool and until a few weeks ago I didn’t realize how most people actually see in their mind. As many I always thought it was a figure of speech. So when I read a book in english class and the teacher asked us to describe the characters in detail the most detail I could given was what was said in the bookitself, (blonde hair, fair skin, short ect.)

I knew it was a bit abnormal compared to most that I couldn’t see things in my head. Whereas some people could see things as clear as possible, I’ve never seem anything but black.

I have good memory, I can remember songs work for word, I even write them. I enjoy drawing and especially original characters. Which is how I get a visual for book characters.

But it wasn’t until my uncle passed a few weeks ago and I couldn’t remember his face I realized how upset I actually got when i couldn’t visualize. Where I can describe what he looked like, and how he sat I can’t see his face without a picture, I can’t remember the sound ofhis voice in my head. At first I thought no one could but when my aunt and parents told me they could still see him sitting in a chair watching tv or the sound of his laugh I knew it wasn’t normal.

The sad thing for me is that while many people dont have an impact in their life other than a feeling of missing out I cry sometimes or feel out of place compared to family or peers. I even often feel like a bad person for being unable to remember things so important as the faces and memories associated with loved ones

WalterVivian Kevitz December 31, 2019 03:30 am

I am 73 and found out other prople could see things when they closed their eyes when I was about 20. At first I thought they were teasibg me. I could not see anything. When my 18 year old daughter died in an auto accident I had to carry her picture with me because I could not remember how she looked without it I was a computer system designer and did not have a problem with my work. My 37 year old son who is a sucessful Civil Engineer also has the same problem He just found out today At first he also did not believe other people actually saw pictures in their minds until he asked his co-workers Needless to say he stopped asking when the others could not believe he only saw black.

Ben Hayes January 08, 2020 03:55 am

I am also a Civil Engineer, and I discovered it (I didn’t know what I was called at the time) when my boss took a plan drawing of a road and brought it to eye level and looking along it. I looked at him like an alien and said what are you doing, and he was visualising the road from the plan, which blew my mind and made me realise this was something I could not do.

Maggie Morton January 12, 2020 08:44 am

my grade 4 class (raised in canada) used to do mental imagery to help us relax, which was fine, i just checked out…. when they made us DRAW what we saw though, that was the opposite of relaxing… everyone else could do it and i didnt know why.

funnily enough, when more information on aphantasia started coming out, so many of my childhood friends contacted me to tell me as they recognised me in the narrative.

Ian L January 16, 2020 12:42 am

I started suspecting that something was different during a religious ed class in 4th or 5th grade. we often did these ‘imagination sessions’ in which a CD would ask us to closes our eyes and picture a scene. I found these incredibly borning and useless as I couldn’t picture anything at all. A fee years went by and similar excercises came up in school where I was asked to visualize and explain what I saw in essays and short stories. Since I was a lot older than I was when the thought of being different first eneterd my mind I was finally able to start searching for answers. It took a while but I finally landed on aphantasia and I was shocked at just how vivid everyone else was able to see when I saw ‘normal’ imagination described for the first time. Tuly a mind opening revelation!

Liam Lagan January 30, 2020 10:58 am

First realised it was a ‘thing’ when I read an article on BBC (https://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054). I had absolutely no idea that this was a condition. I had always taken ‘counting sheep’ to help get to sleep as a figure of speech. TV dramas (especially police shows) where there were flashback ("yes, the suspect had a mole on left cheek and hat was wearing a brown hat&quot, I put down to artistic licence. I have no issues with memory, just picturing things. I can in my dreams. Not sure if connected, but if I see people out of context, I often don’t recognise (eg colleague out shopping) and my wife has learned at family gatherings where there are cousins I haven’t seen in years, to lead with their name, even though I know them. Once I have the name, then I can proceed as normal. I know in some circumstances that I should know names to faces, but can’t ut finger on the name, so just ‘grunt’ which mat come across as rude. At work, when there were staff sessions talking about ‘picturing yourself relaxing on a beach, with wind gently blowing’, I thought it was all rubbish, not knowing that others could in fact do this. Really glad there is now a website – as still not convinced people believe me when I say I can’t picture things. Probably most difficult time was on death of my father. I remember all the times I had with him, but I can’t picture those times whereas my siblings seem to have private videos in their head which they can replay.

luke sullivan February 08, 2020 03:46 am

I’m 33 years old and I found out this evening on when someone posted the Red Star quiz on Facebook. I thought it was a joke at first. I’m having a really hard time processing it even now. It can’t be all that bad, I think; after all I’ve been going through life this long this way. But I’m starting to put connections together. And starting to understand how other people might see the world and I gotta admit it’s kind of a bummer. I have to admit almost wish I hadn’t figured this out. It explains so much, but you know, when people say they can "see" something I can’t help but think I’m gonna be jealous of that in some way.

It’s been pretty encouraging just reading a lot of people on here who seem to have similar stories, but it’s also been encouraging reading about civil engineers and people with different stories. It’s good to see a lot of diversity in your neurodiverse populations. So, what do Aphantastic people do with this seemingly life altering bit of information? Do you get over it eventually or does it bug you every time someone says they can "picture it now?"

DAVID WALKER February 08, 2020 12:41 pm

I discovered I had no visual imagery and everyone else did (except my father!) when I was in college taking anatomy class. I spent hours on dissections and had to study in the lab, my classmates studied off of pictures. The other college experience was my soccer coach asking us to visualize our formation and strategies for the game at practice on Friday. So Friday night, I would go out onto the field and practice moving and thinking about what he told us. No one else was on the field, they were visualizing! It was 1979. I’ve been asking and quizzing people about it ever since, and my father is the only other person who was similar. I have 6 siblings and they visualize.

I am not aware of dreams. I have never visualized in a dream. I would find that frustrating! I always said I went to sleep and it’s a black hole, which was always my experience until 2 years ago. Now, maybe once a month or every 2 months, I have a vague notion a dream happened and some sketchy plot, but no image, no voices. I don’t like those nights, I liked my black hole and a restful sleep!

Erin Thomas February 09, 2020 03:22 am

I was on facebook 15 minutes ago and I saw a post about picturing a red star to test if you have Aphantasia.

That’s how I realised I have it.

The weird thing is that, I’m pretty sure I used to be able to visual things to some extent.

Like I remember being able to imagine making out with someone or doing yoga relaxation journeys but I just relised that was yeeeaaars ago.

A few years back I remember getting really frustrated in Savasana as I couldn’t visualise what the instructor was saying. And pretty much haven’t done it since.

I also rarely dream and definatly not in the detail I did as a kid.

I’m actually feeling really upset by this realisation. I wish I hadn’t learnt about it ?

ashley hamilton February 09, 2020 05:19 pm

I literally just saw a tweet about it and have been reeling – it never occured to me that I didn’t see things? I can’t imagine things but I feel like I know things, like in the articles about picturing a loved one I can’t just close my eyes and see a face but I can think of their features and think about them. It’s all very bizarre.

My boyfriend is always frustrated with me because when he asks what I’m thinking I turn it into a whole spiral and this makes a lot of sense I think?

Bob Pockney February 09, 2020 08:39 pm

I just found out one day ago about Aphantasia. I’m 70 and I’ve gone my whole life not realising about this. It was a tweet referring to the "think of an apple" thing that very quickly lead me to this. Most people can actually visualise a beach, a horse, an apple and describe it ? Err, what ?

In me this applies to vision, taste and smell, however, I can hear music in my mind, sometimes in great detail. I saw a tweet this afternoon which referred to "There is a house in New Orleans" and immediately I was hearing The Animals song in my head and I probably haven’t heard that for many decades. So. is that the way it works with images for most people ?

I feel somewhat disturbed by this, but in a way pleased that I’ve got this far in my life without awareness that others could see pictures in their minds.

Donald ZEPP February 10, 2020 11:14 pm

Two days ago, just a few days short of my 75th birthday, I saw the post below in a Facebook group called “Science diagrams that look like shitposts,” and realized that on its scale, I’m a “5.“![]( http://zeppmusic.com/Temp/aphantasia.jpg)

Now, I would have just assumed everyone else is a 5, too, so, I looked into it and found out (a) most people can “see” mental images, (b) that not being able to do so is called “aphantasia,” and that it’s not only a thing, but that, (c) I am decidedly aphantasic.

Beyond that:

The biggie: I do not “see” mental images. I’m quite good at remembering details, but do not “see” any remembered images. I cannot “see” deceased relatives’ faces, though I can remember the photographs I have. When I look at those photos, though, I sometimes feel as if I’m looking at strangers. Absent the photos, I can remember who’s in them, their general layout, where and approximately when they were taken, but I cannot visualize the photos’ layouts.

Strangely, I have for decades described myself as being “visually tone-deaf”. Now I think I know why in part: I simply do not remember in images, so there is no way for me to reproduce an image that my brain has captured. I can not tell–without looking–what anyone in my family is wearing (or even the color[s] of their apparel) at any given time. I do not know what color eyes anyone has unless it has come up in discussion–when of course, I simply remember the word(s).

As long as I can remember, I have been known for absent-mindedness: I frequently lose track of things. Now that I am aware of my aphantasia, I wonder if that’s partly because I don’t have a mental image of where I last saw something–I have literally to rely on making a mental note of its location (and when I do, I can find things easily).

I have played music for almost 60 years and have taught it for 56 years at this writing. I definitely hear music internally and have many times had out-of-body experiences in which I was listening to myself play what my brain was telling my hands to do.

I do not have internal monologues or dialogues while thinking: I think in concepts, not words.

When I was living and working in France, I acquired a rudimentary ability to speak and understand French. I remember in particular an evening where my wife and I had attended a party, where, our being the only anglophones present, the entire evening was spent in French. As the French are wont to do, there were spirited discussions of politics and sociological matters, and I had these on my drunken mind as my wife drove us home.

We had stopped at a traffic light when I explained to her one more reason that I had been right about something or other and she turned to me and said: “That’s nice dear, but you can speak English now.” I replied “I am speaking English,” to which she rejoined “No, you’re not. What exactly did you just say?” And, by Jove, she was right: I had still been speaking French. I had not at all been thinking in words, French or otherwise!

I dream in color images, but they fade very rapidly. Just this morning I dreamt about a situation in which there was someone serving food at a counter. I remember that the foods were colorful. I remember that the person was a young, fair male. But I cannot now picture the dream in any way.

Overall, I am fascinated by the discovery that not everyone experiences memory the same way or to the same degree. I have long wondered why I have never had a problem remembering scientific names and other trivial minutiae (my graduate degrees and much of my professional career were in research entomology) yet I cannot remember where our furniture had been after having being told that it’s been moved.

I clearly have been aware of my visual shortcomings and am pleased to learn that aphantasia probably explains much of that. I don’t see it as being a “condition” or deficiency, as I have gotten along quite well in life with an excellent memory for detail and a passably good ear for music. Instead, I merely consider it to be a part of who I am, sort of like the fact that I have… um… brown eyes (sorry–had to check the mirror there).

Giselle Ihrig February 12, 2020 07:03 pm

I just found out today, which led me to this website. My friends and I were talking and one of them brought up how she thought it was insane that some people don’t see what they are imagining. Everyone else agreed and I was really confused. How can someone possibly see what they are thinking? They explained to me: if they thought of an object, an apple for example, they would see the apple. They would see the color, shape, details. I still thought they were messing with me. They kept getting me to think of stuff to see if I saw something, but I never saw anything. Not even a bit of color. Throughout the day, I kept asking people I knew and they looked at me like I was crazy. What do you mean, you don’t see anything? Like just black? I have yet to ask my family if they have this, too. I am just wondering how so much of my life went by without realizing that people see what they imagine.

Judith DeWitt February 18, 2020 04:32 am

I am 68 years old and only discovered the name "aphantasia" recently.

When my sister and I were young – perhaps 8 to 10 – my mom used to put 12 to 20 items on a cookie sheet, then give us a minute or two to look at and memorize them. She would then cover the items with a towel and tell us to write down everything we could remember. I was not very good at it, because I had to memorize a word list since I couldn’t see anything in my mind.

I never could figure out how to visualize when being talked through a relaxation exercise where, for example we were to imagine ourselves on a beach in the sun, listening to the waves, etc. I prefered the methods that had you tense a muscle group then relax it.

Whenever I read books, I always had difficulty remembering which character was which if the story skipped around a lot, so I would make descriptive lists to help me keep track.

And I’ve always had difficulty memorizing music and keeping it memorized – I don’t hear it in my head when I’m not singing or playing it or listening to a recording or live performance.

Then about 12 years ago, I was learning prayer of the imagination – insert yourself into a Gospel story – and I wasn’t able to do it. I had no sensory experience at all. When I asked my spiritual director, he said "Nonsense! Anyone can do this. I want you to try something for me. Close your eyes and picture your husband’s face in your mind’s eye." Needless to say, I didn’t see anything, so we agreed that I could just use the words and my feelings to enter the story.

Later, at a book club meeting, I asked people about their experience when reading a book and they all told me gruesome scenes were a horrible experience for them and sometimes made them feel physically ill. I, meanwhile, would, for example, be feeling sorry for the poor horse that was killed.

I’ve always been able to discuss bodily functions, injuries, blood and guts and other gross stuff while eating because I never saw/tasted/etc. any of it. I still sometimes forget the aversion people have to such discussions at the dinner table.

I do, however, dream in colour with all senses. And I easily recognize people’s faces although putting a name to a face has always been difficult and I can forget someones name randomly.

About a month ago, my husband read an article on aphantasia and sent it to me asking if it sounded like me.

Indeed it did and does. So, I am self-diagnosed with aphantasia. It sure explains a lot and reassures me that I am not lacking in intelligence, merely in the ability to visualize.

Olivia Huang February 18, 2020 05:46 pm

You know how when you were little and your parents asked you to imagine sheeps jumping out of fences to help you fall asleep? i always thought it was just a phrase. But back then, i thought everyone’s the same, especially when there weren’t any discussion about whether we could see things in the mind or not. Until two weeks ago (I’m 28yo) when I saw a story posted on a website talking about people who lack the "minds eyes", when i realize "OMG" this is the last puzzle piece of my confused life…

I say its confusing becuase i sometimes feel guilty but not wrong-doing about fading the any emotions of someone I loved/knew so quickly after they passed away or gone from my life just couple days later (my grandparents, my aunt, my dog, my ex, etc). Becuase I couldn’t see any images at all, i could only recall memories or faces when I see the pictures. I thought I was cold-hearted, and my friends think that I have the "superpower" to not lingering on the past at all…

It all makes sense now. I’m excited to learn about myself more and about this condition, and knowing that I’m not alone in this case makes me feel stronger.

A Dishinger February 18, 2020 08:17 pm

A Scottish fiction writer I follow told his readers in our Facebook group about his own aphantasia last year. I had no idea that my inability to "see" things in my mind’s eye had a name! I have struggled for years to be able to visualize during guided meditations. I thought I was just really, really bad at it. Turns out that I can remember things almost exclusively by feeling them — almost to the point of synethesia, feeling colors. I had just assumed I had a bad memory, but I could always recall things that were physically or emotionally intense — just not visually. I still have what I think are visual dreams, but the brief memory of them is always visceral and verbal, not visual. Photographs can help me remember things somewhat, so I do rely on them quite a bit now. I am the kid of a visual artist, so not being able to see things in my mind’s eye has always seemed weird for me. I am better at things like pottery, though I have been teaching myself again to draw — just not from memory. I like a challenge!

Beth Respess February 21, 2020 06:17 pm

i had a typical "mind’s eye" until i developed a large cyst in my left parietal lobe and required brain surgery 4 years ago. i have been trying to describe the change in my ability to visualize ever since, and was stunned to read about aphantasia. It was the first time i ever saw someone explain what i have been trying to describe for years!

Nancy Sullivan February 22, 2020 09:35 pm

I found out last year, when reading Oliver Sacks, The Mind’s Eye. I was 70. I couldn’t believe that people really do have mental images—everyone I have talked to does. I was born with it, and all my ilfe, I thought "visualizing" was a figure of speech. I thought I was visualizing when I described in detail something that I could possibly see or had seen. I have vivid, visual dreams. I have a great memory. Always won spelling bees. I do mental math, but, I don’t see anything. I remember faces, but not names. I found out about aphantasia today, and i’m thrilled to be here. I "see" a total blank, gray or red, depending on the light. I have an inner voice (running dialogue all the time), but no sound. I don’t know that I would want to have visuals when I close my eyes or sound. I think it would be sensory overload. I can imagine it might be nice. Can’t wait to find out more. I also have visual snow (mild case), and I don’t know if that has anything to do with aphantasia.

Hanna R February 23, 2020 06:43 pm

My best friend in highschool told me about his daydreams. He went like "you know, when you imagine meeting that princess or prince and you just make up stories and see imagine your life." I realized that I couldn’t do that. I always have trouble, e.g in job interviews, imagine yourself….wtf I have no clue. There is an advantage of not being able to imagine things, you cannot make up all the situations that could happen and panic less easily. i also realized that i get disappointed much less, because i cannot imagine the perfect person, job, appartment, vacation place, etc.

Pascal Pons February 23, 2020 10:04 pm

I found out today, my 10 year old son asked me "How does it work when you see and hear things in your head ?". I started to make a regular non-answer for complex children’s questions. I froze after one minute of discussion asking him back: "but do you actually see things in your head? hearing things I understand, but are you really seeing things ?". I first thought my son had a very cool un-common ability, just to discover a few minute later that I was the un-common one after asking my wife and my two other children…. an evening of Internet browsing brought here to share my astonishment of being so "blind" for so long.

Silas P February 26, 2020 05:13 am

I was musing about the concept of my internal monoluge going on constantly in my head and wondered about how somone who was born deaf would "think", they can’t "hear themselves talking" inside their head, since they have never heard someone talking… so how does their internal monologue work? As I researched the subject, I stumbled across a comment by someone saying "And there are also some people out there who can’t visualize in their head"… and I said to myslef, "wait, what? People can literally visualize in their head? I thought people were talking figuratively when they said that"

Rita di Ghent February 26, 2020 07:32 pm

Like a lot of folks on this page, I just discovered I have aphantasia a few days ago and my mind is blown. Now I’m looking over my life and putting it in this new context. Some of my quirks: I can "hear" music in my head and I perfected my tuning (I’m a singer) by practicing in my head while in bed at night. I teach voice and I don’t have to look at my students to know what they’re doing in their body because I can both hear it and "feel" it in my body (larynx too high or too low, tongue tension, tension in the abdomen, closed throat, etc.) I read the same books over and over. It’s just a distraction; I can’t picture the characters or places. When I watch movies, it’s as if I’m really there and I can be drained afterwards. I have a gift for communicating with animals. I can’t remember what’s in my house (so I often buy the same thing over and over–thankfully I’m not a hoarder). I’m always organizing but never organized. I’ve had a chainsaw in the hallway of my house (unused) for over a year and I’m always surprised to see it there. Conversely, I don’t see it at all. I used to be a good speller; now it’s getting worse and worse. I can’t imagine an object in another orientation (so if someone’s showing me something on guitar, they have to sit on the same side, and not across, from me). I can’t navigate. I live on a small island and I never know my location, nor can I put the little villages on a map. I’ve looked at the same painting in my house a thousand times and can’t remember the very few objects in it or any details of it. When I closed my eyes and think of things/people, there’s only black. My dreams are vivid, in colour, and seem completely real and very emotional. I’ve lived my whole life as a creative. So far it’s said that this isn’t a disability or a handicap. I have to very much disagree.

Robert Walter February 28, 2020 06:10 am

My story is a bit embarrassing. I just discovered that I have aphantasia … and I’m 36 … and a PhD student at Yale studying cognitive psychology and philosophy …. specifically, on visual perception and cognition. It’s bad enough that I hadn’t even heard of aphantasia earlier, but that I didn’t even realize that I had it (or perhaps more correctly, that everyone DIDN’T have it). I got a few good hints when I ran as a subject for some colleagues’ experiments on visual imagery and completely failed most of the tasks, as well as with talking to my advisers about the phenomenology of perception. I’d really like to run some experiments on aphantasia in the near future; I just need to get a good subject pool together. I just found this website and I might use it to recruit some people!

Robert Walter February 28, 2020 06:11 am

My story is a bit embarrassing. I just discovered that I have aphantasia … and I’m 36 … and a PhD student at Yale studying cognitive psychology and philosophy …. specifically, on visual perception and cognition. It’s bad enough that I hadn’t even heard of aphantasia earlier, but that I didn’t even realize that I had it (or perhaps more correctly, that everyone DIDN’T have it). I got a few good hints when I ran as a subject for some colleagues’ experiments on visual imagery and completely failed most of the tasks, as well as with talking to my advisers about the phenomenology of perception. I’d really like to run some experiments on aphantasia in the near future; I just need to get a good subject pool together. I just found this website and I might use it to recruit some people!

Joan Knight March 01, 2020 08:42 pm

As stated by others I thought counting sheep was simply an expression and didn’t know that other people can see things in their mind when asked to visualize something. In about 1988 I asked a friend if she could see something in her mind when asked to visualize a scene and she said yes. This was the first time I fully realized that I was different than other people. In June 2016 I heard Bob McDonald on CBC’s Quirks and Quarks speak about aphantasia and now had a name for what I have – or don’t have. I not only don’t visualize but I also don’t hear music and can’t smell or taste anything unless they are in front of me or I am eating something. I do ocassionally have visual dreams but most are like reading a book. I note that some people say they are very good at spelling. I am now but in high school – more than 50 years ago – I tested in the top 5 percentile for reading and the bottom 5 for spelling. The guidance counsellor at the school didn’t believe such a score was possible. I suspect it was because of the aphantasia. Like most things there are both advantages and disadvantages to having aphantasia. Advantages – I never get ear worms; I can read about horrific things happening but the visual images of them don’t keep me awake at night; Disadvantages – my memory is quite quirky about things I have done on trips (someone will say I did something and I have to trust them that it happened) and I can’t see an image of my deceased mother or father.

Rachel Lambert March 03, 2020 10:23 pm

I discovered this past weekend at age 27 that I have aphantasia, like many others i always thought "imagine you are on a beach or in a wood" was just a way to tell you to try and feel relaxed, not actually be able to visualise something. We were discussing memories at a party and my friends noted they could close their eyes and be back at our old school, I didn’t believe they meant actuallt so I queried and yepp they can! It suddenly dawned on me that I was the odd one out! I can’t visualise, smell a smell that’s not there or anything else.

It feels very odd now knowing that everyone else can see the world differently and think about loved ones, it makes more sense to me now why I like to have physical photos around to remind me of memories and can remember how I felt in those moments through the photos and videos I take.

Like some I can dream, I don’t always but I can, so I imagine it’s something to do with my concious brain not being able to do this, I can recall dreams, but like I recall memories, I can describe them but I can’t visualise what I saw.

It seems crazy I’ve lived this long without this coming up before!

Lizzy April 01, 2020 03:30 pm

I literally just found about all of this! Clicked on a link to an artcle on the Guardian website entitled "I have no mind’s eye…" because I was curious and my disbelief mounted the more I read – as if people can actually re-live memories…. not just think about what happened but actually see it! Then down the rabbit hole I’ve fallen… I’m 36 and had no idea that genuine visulaisation was even possible! Like a few people have said I just assumed that ‘visualising’ something was just a figure of speech. When I close my eyes it’s just black…

Now I’m intensely curious… wondering if this is why my memory for past experiences is so bad and why I find it so hard to maintain close relationships with people if I don’t see them often. Maybe also why I seem to remember feelings but not situations.

So interesting! However will need to find a way to manage my jealousy of those (apparently most?!) people who can close their eyes and actually see, well, whatever they want to. Like somone else in this thread said, if it’s true people can do that how is it they don’t spend all their time daydreaming?!

David Wright replied 11 months ago

Me to!

David Wright April 01, 2020 09:29 pm

Read about this some time ago but didnt pay enough attention.

Read the Guardian article and then read more.

Just asked my wife the Horse question and she could see a horse!

Even described the colour!

Then asked her to see an apple, she could see an apple cut in half!!!

I see nothing!!!

Im a freelance designer in the ceramics industry and quite successful!

I know what im thinking of but just cannot see it!

David Wright April 01, 2020 09:29 pm

Read about this some time ago but didnt pay enough attention.

Read the Guardian article and then read more.

Just asked my wife the Horse question and she could see a horse!

Even described the colour!

Then asked her to see an apple, she could see an apple cut in half!!!

I see nothing!!!

Im a freelance designer in the ceramics industry and quite successful!

I know what im thinking of but just cannot see it!

Amiella Berendt April 02, 2020 03:36 pm

I always thought it would be cool to really imagine story settings and events in my mind and I never realized that that’s what everyone else was doing. It always seemed so made up in shows when characters would imagine things like places and thoughts. I’d heard people say they could picture things in their mind and was confused, not knowing what they meant, but mostly ignored it. I’ve asked some friends (who, apparently, can all imagine) and I felt kind of dejected since I was the only one who, in my eyes, couldn’t imagine. I sort of thought it was just a weird problem I had a didn’t really mention it again. Recently, I was reading stuff on a website and saw an article about a guy who had his thoughts in his head sort of like a voice and I thought that was bizarre. Someone in the comments at the bottom of the article said that they had a friend with aphantasia. I promptly looked it up and did some online tests and stuff. The only thing I see with my eyes closed is what I call "the Void". So, maybe aphantasia is why I talk to myself so much? Maybe that’s why I like to draw – because my only source of such imagery is outside my head. Perhaps I’ll never know…

ccatania September 24, 2020 04:25 am

I can not express how learning about aphantasia has caused me to self reflect on my life.

I learned about aphantaia by pure accident. I was discussing dreams with my son. I expressed that I can’t picture my dreams. I felt it was like dreaming in stories, thoughts, or ideas. My son dreams very vivid dreams so he had a hard time understanding what it is like for me. This sparked my curiosity and I began researching dreaming in ideas. I stumbled on to aphantasia and was so taken aback by what I learned about myself.

I have no visual imagery and this explains so many difficulties I have with remembering people. places, and moments in my life. I have no long term memories of people or events that I dont have photographs of. The photos help me remember my life but not much outside the scope of what I have documented. I thought maybe it was due to past choices as an experimental teen or I was on track for having alzhiemers.

Now I keep learning more….like I cant imagine sound, smell, or taste. It is weird thst you don’t realize you have aphantasia and then it is like hitting a brick wall when you find out.

Without more research, all of my questions are unanswered. Does my past troble in school relate? Was I always aphantasia or did I have a trauma I do not even remember? Can it be fixed? What strategies can I use to help recover lost memories? Can hypnotherpy work for me?

i hope all of you don’t feel as lost with this discovery.


SolarP September 24, 2020 10:46 pm

This BBC article in 2015. Changed the way I saw the world, and actually "woke" me up. Potentially sent me in to a slight depression, but I came out of it with much more joy and wonder in the world. It helped explain so many aspects of myself – it was actually a huge relief.

Louizbeth September 28, 2020 03:00 am

Eu descobri o termo hoje, pelo meu namorado que me mostrou sobre no wikipedia e por meio deste encontrei este site. Porém descobri com 13 anos que não podia imaginar igual aos demais assistindo. Perguntei pra minha mãe e ela disse que conseguia ver cenas quando imaginava e eu achava aquilo impossível. Assim que eu disse pra ela, ela não deu muita bola pois achou que talvez eu tivesse confundindo as coisas, mas foi então que eu percebi que isso acontecia de fato comigo e resolvi perguntar pra outras pessoas.

Louizbeth September 28, 2020 03:00 am

Eu descobri o termo hoje, pelo meu namorado que me mostrou sobre no wikipedia e por meio deste encontrei este site. Porém descobri com 13 anos que não podia imaginar igual aos demais assistindo. Perguntei pra minha mãe e ela disse que conseguia ver cenas quando imaginava e eu achava aquilo impossível. Assim que eu disse pra ela, ela não deu muita bola pois achou que talvez eu tivesse confundindo as coisas, mas foi então que eu percebi que isso acontecia de fato comigo e resolvi perguntar pra outras pessoas.

Madeline Lipke October 06, 2020 01:13 am

How I descoved was kind of weird and at first I didn’t believe that I was actually Aphantasic. This artist on Youtube has it and made a video about it. I found myself on the same boat as her. I felt special at first but didn’t think it was true. I started looking up articals and tests about it. A lot of the test and articals were telling me that I actually was Aphantasic. I stumbled upon this website and then I took into acount how many resources were telling me that I was Aphantasic. Then I started testing my friends and family if they had it too. A lot of my friends said they had the same thing but then were telling me about how much they loved reading and how good the writer was because they could picture it perfectly. I felt really alone. Like no one truly understood my struggle. I had gotten in trouble before i found out about this for not being able to see in my mind. My teachers always thought I wasn’t doing my work because I couldn’t tell them what I pictured while doing it. My parents didn’t believe that I had this. I sent an artical explaining it to my bestest of friends and she thought that it was fake. That hurt. I started doubting myself, like I was just faking it. I don’t know, maybe, I still am trying to convince myself that I am not Aphantasic. I am viewed smart by my peers. At first I thought being this way was a set back, like my brain wasn’t perfect (yes, I cared a lot about being perfect, I think that was from presure of being a great, perfect figure). Now, I see that being Aphantasic is not that bad. I lost my view of needing to be perfect. Also, I am really good at moving objects 2D and 3D. I love how I can do some of these things because I have Aphantasia.

NeilT October 07, 2020 02:44 pm

I was reading an article in the newspaper when I realised what this was.

I don’t bother myself with things that are different from what I experience, I don’t look for root causes of every difference in my life, but I do follow up some things to a fine detail. So when people would say "I count sheep to get to sleep", I just dismissed it as their way of getting to sleep. Not as a defficiency of mine.

So when I read the article everything went "click" and I understood decades of odd things in my life.

Whilst I work in Computing these days I am a natural mechanic. I don’t have to visualise or read diagrams for many things. I just look at them and have an instinctual knowledge of what they tend to be doing. Things impress themselves on me, they don’t stack up in a library of images. As such I can apply one area of knowledge to another even if they look entirely different.

I suffer from one of the core problems of aphantasia. I have a very poor memory, I find languages particularly difficult and find that I cannot keep up with a class learning a language unless I have already gone over the same ground many times.

Hannah Cooksley replied 5 months ago

I have an awful memory too. When I was younger and COULD imagine things to some extent I would use it to help me naviagte things that people had said or done when speaking or hanging out with them. Now that I have NO imagination, I can’t do that. And thus… Awful memory. This disease/condition is a curse. Nothing less.

Elliott Corke replied 5 days ago

Yes. Neil. To all of this! You just “know it would work” right?

That is how I feel. Ihave had a few technical situations where people say “will this work?” and almost instinctively I’ll say yes or no with no real need to work through anything. I’m not always right, normally because I’lve missed a little detail somewhere, but on big picture concepts I’m normmally not far off. Also have a poor memory, much to frustation of my wife, and am poor at languaages except the stuff I learned very early on.

Hannah Cooksley October 07, 2020 05:12 pm

I found out when I was 14. I didn’t know what it was called back then. In fact I didn’t know until today. But it was the first time that I couldn’t imagine something. Even in the vague/ghost way I did before.

I had just been broken up with by my boyfriend. And I tried to remember his face. I couldn’t bring up ANY visual images. I didn’t deal with it very well. I made up something to be sad about and cried all the way home. I wasn’t sad about being broken up with. I was just dealing with an identity crisis. I have always been a writer and to me; having no imagination meant I lost a part of myself that MADE me special and unique. I believed all the things I did were just bland and not as good anymore. After that though I ignored it. I started boarding on bullying people because "their imagination wasn’t as good as mine" and I was trying to compensate for that loss. I CAN hallucinate and dream though which is weird.

I hadn’t much imagination as a child. It was more of an automatic thing. I would be reading a book and images would come into my head (vaguley) or someone would say something and it would be there for a split second. I could imgine things sometimes but not always. I remember when I was VERY young and watching CBeebies. They told us to count sheep to get to sleep that night. I was confused as to how to do it. To ME it just seemed like I had a spark of it. But ignored it every time it was brought to my attention that I couldn’t do it. I’m kinda glad I ignored it though. There is no cure. And I guess it’s best not to wallow on the things we can’t control. To this day it is my biggest secret. If anyone ever notices (I met a sociopath who called me out on it and I became very flustered and couldn’t lie or he’d know) then I’m going to tell them I was in a car crash. I just can’t live with people knowing that for all I’m worth, the things that make me special arn’t THAT special. That I’M not that special.

MarkFarrar October 07, 2020 05:19 pm

I think my first realization that I had no mind’s eye was when I was eight and became interested in mnemonics – the book told you to create visual images of associations between objects you were trying to remember, and I couldn’t see anything.

I obviously didn’t know about aphantasia – this would be in about 1968 – and I assumed that the instructions were sort of metaphorical in nature. I never discussed this with anybody, and didn’t realize there were those who did see images in their mind.

It wasn’t really until the mid-2000s when I moved from the UK to the USA and remarried, and discovered my wife had this amazing ability to see things, with her eyes closed, as though she were looking at them. Of course, I had to take her word for this, but she did explain she had this sort of "visual mapping" system – over a decade after moving to the house, she could still tell me where to find things that she’d brought with her from her own house, including which box they were in, and where that box was in the house.

She was equally amazed to discover I had no such ability.

And since then, I’ve been reading what I can about this conddition.

johnchevin41 October 17, 2020 07:41 am

So now I know I have Apantasia Ive alway told people I cant see pictures they thought it was wierd but I just couldnt believe that they could see images in their head it just doesnt seem possible I can her music in my head in full detail I can draw very good good almost in photographic detail but I have to have the picture in front of me I cant just draw without good to here theres others like me we have a club I do dream with full techni colour I often tell people Im at least 20% more intelligent than 80% of the people around me it not much of a boast if you think about it Ive always been good at anything I turn my hand to but if I meet someone I couldnt describe what they lok like in detail but I wouldnt forget them if we met later I think my memory is very good if you tell me something you couldnt tell me a lie at a later date Id catch you out for sure maybe not seeing pictures helps me I dont think its been any disadvantage to me

Doris Connell October 18, 2020 01:30 pm

Several years ago I was asked in a writing group to picture someone I was close to and describe them. I told the group that I couldn’t and they looked at me like I was just trying to get out of writing, since I am known for writing great descriptions regularly, especially movement and color. I thought everyone watched their own body movements and found pictures on the internet to help them with their descriptions. I was shocked to find out they didn’t need to. Also realized since I have a writing advantage in that all my memories of what things look like are ones I’ve already put into words in my mind, and that I can focus in on memorable details like a color or a shape without destractions. I’ve never been told I’ve put in too many visual details. On the other hand, designing something in my head is futile, probably why I did not follow my dad into architecture. This week, I was talking to my grown daughter about my aphantasia and she realized that she also has it. All of a sudden she and her spouse understood some of the problems that have recently caused arguments between them. Being able to explain why you don’t understand or have to do things differently has really helped. So it led me to two questions. 1) Is there an hereditary factor? 2) Is there any relationship to ADHD?

Liberty October 18, 2020 05:42 pm

I started rehab for CRPS and then had to work through visual relaxation and GMI. It was a shocking realization making me wonder where I go from here.

Peter Smidfelt October 19, 2020 10:27 pm

I’ve always known that my memory isn’t like other peoples. I can’t remember names, ranging from people to technical terms and arithmetic. I’ve mostly heard it’s because I don’t care enough. Rather hurtful when I really care about the "nameless persons", love facts and to learn/understand everything I have before me, and to top it off managed to study theoretical math at university level and still not "care enough" to memorize multiplication tables.
I can remember the storyline of a movie I saw some ten years ago after watching minutes of it. I have always known that I have a rather good ability to understand and remember correlations/logical models but not simple automated knowledge. Remembering complex and challenging mathematical proofs was rather easy, but retelling a simple exact definition was impossible when I had oral exams at university.
When I encountered people who compete in memory, I found out what set me apart. They talked about visualization, imagining a room in your mind’s eye, with color-coded things in it. They even said that we all can do it!
Four letter word here!
It was obvious to me! They were wrong based on “evidence to the contrary” – me, myself and I can’t see a thing in my mind’s eye. Visualization doesn’t work at all for me! Nor do I hear, feel, smell or taste in there!
I tried talking with people about it, and most didn’t believe me. You know the story! I’m an alien being, but thankfully I never doubted my conclusions about this whole thing. It’s not a disability, and it’s no superpower. Some things are harder for me, but my brain seems to compensate in a way that gives me an easier route in other areas. My emotions are definitely affected, they are strong in the present, but I have no triggers to make me relive them or indeed anticipate them. It’s not just practical and logical stuff, it is an integral part of who I am. How my emotions work and how I interact with others.
Through the years I’ve searched the Internet for information about the phenomena and only found trinkets. I’ve found some talking about experiencing it but more who uses the exact opposite to “evidence to the contrary” to tell them that their experience is false. There are a whole lot of people saying: I can do it, therefore you have to be able as well! They can’t imagine that the world is more complex than they themselves can relate to on a personal level. With their level of imagination there could be no blind, deaf, paralyzed people and because sharks can sense magnetic fields, humans as well should be able to?
You can imagine my reaction when I finally found the word APHANTASIA – I would like to say I heard someone shout EUREKA, but…
This last month have been a revelation, I’ve gotten words to describe myself, and I’ve had insights of my inner workings that helps me understand what makes me tick. Earlier tonight I told my 80-year-old mother about all this. She as well has a degree in math, but she’s also artistic. She started a two-year education at an arts collage at the ripe age of 72, and I have a lot of her beautiful paintings on my walls!
She wasn’t at all confounded at my description of my aphantasic mind – she just heard me describe her world. She was rather puzzled though, when I persisted with the audacious idea that some 98 percent of humanity can see things with closed eyes. She can hear, but everything else seem to be blank. I belive this is a story with a sequel…

Sean Connaughton October 22, 2020 04:15 pm

I had never heard of aphantasia until last week.
I am 55 and decided to do on online diploma during lockdown and found studying much harder than when I last did it over 30 years ago. I was struggling to remember tables and charts as I couldn’t visually recall them. I went online to look for study aids and came across Tom Ebeyer’s video on YouTube and thought, “That’s me”
I started going through things like how I struggled with visualising during meditation and never really ‘saw the beach or felt the waves.
I also took the VVIQ and another follow up test and was convinced I had aphantasia.
I then asked my wife and daughter if they could visualise things in their minds and both looked at me as if I was mad! “Of course I can” came the reply from both and when I asked them to visualise a table with flowers they both described what they were seeing in great detail.
They were both shocked when I told them all I could see was blackness.
55 and learning there really is a Minds Eye, just that I don’t have one.
Recalling things from my past it all started to make sense! I was always concerned that I remembered things about our children growing up differently from my wife, she could recall vivid memories that I struggled to remember. I struggled to remember names; I remember going on an NLP course to improve my memory but couldn’t see the room in my mind to compartmentalise things.
Now it all makes sense

Micktaa November 05, 2020 12:27 pm

I watched a youtube video 3 days ago based on a reddit thread called something like "What medical condition do you have that you thought was normal?"

I second I heard aphantasia I thought "what the heck that sounds like me!"

I read about it and discovered that most people have a SUPERPOWER called visualization. That visualization wasn’t just play pretend type of thing. I have been completely fascinated and have talked to a several people about this. So far I have not discovered any family members as having it. The last two days I have been beaming at the discovery of what visualization actually is and I can’t imagine what it is like!

Btw I am in my late 20s.

NelleC03 November 06, 2020 09:46 am

I was 15 when I discovered I had aphantasia. I was on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition with a group of close school friends. The walks were 9 hours a day, so there was plenty of time to kill and conversation was usually the way we passed the time. It was on one of these walks that, out of nowhere as far as I can remember, one of my closest friends said, "If somebody asks you to picture a cube on the floor, can you actually see the cube?" My immediate response was to say "No, of course I can’t, there isn’t actually a cube there." The other 4 members of the group looked at me in confusion. It was then that I discovered the 4 of them could actually SEE a cube on the ground if they so desired. I was shocked. Not much more was said on the topic that day, I think we were all too physically exhausted to delve into it, and slightly lost at this point, which seemed a bigger issue. In the following days and weeks, however, I became fixated on this newfound discovery: other people could actually see things in their minds eye. I started to research, discovered there was a term for it a few days later. Aphantasia. Over the past year, elements of my life have gradually started making sense, I’ve realised things about myself and my experiences like my disliking to meditation, or my inability to draw realistically without a reference. Most of the time I don’t even think about it anymore but every now and then a new part of me will make sense, or I’ll become upset that other people have the freedom to imagine whatever they desire. Part of me wishes I was still oblivious, and that my friend had kept his damn mouth shut.

Calle Englund November 19, 2020 07:54 pm

The first time I had that "everyone else can" moment was in a CBT group for anxiety a few years ago, and we were doing a guided meditation, that involved visualizations… my nemesis… and afterwards we were asked to describe our experience. Everyone had varyingly imaginative things to tell, while I sat there silent. At first I thought they were all just making things up, but then when I didn’t volunteer anything, the psychologists leading the group asked me, and I was like "uh, nothing? just the darkness of having my eyes shut". They had never heard of such a thing, so not just the only one in the group, but the only one ever?! Took a while until I found the word for it, and stories from others. So apparently I’m not the only one, just a pretty rare one. Then I read more and realized that most aphantasiacs still have some degree of vividness in their other senses. I don’t.

Abigail Christensen December 08, 2020 06:02 am

I saw a youtube video of an artist explaining aphantasia and how they went off of facts they knew about what they were drawing. I was confused because I thought it was normal to not see anything in your mind.

David100351 December 19, 2020 05:23 pm

Yes, it was only indiscussing things with my wife that I came to realise that I was different. It explained so much about how people thought I just wasn’t trying at school, how art and geography were a nightmare, and why I’ve never been able to remember poetry I couldn’t sing.
Of course, I needed to read an article in a newspaper to finally nail it. I was around 60, I think.

mynd December 27, 2020 10:11 am

I found out almost 40 years ago while in algebra class the teacher was teaching us relaxation techniques. Part of the exercise was to visualize an A floating in a stream. I could not but knew the rest of the class could. I took note of this but never considered it a deficit. I knew from a very young age that I processed things differently. I was full of energy and learned things by a form of imagination. I watched the older kids riding the bike and wanted a turn at 4. They said no until I wore them down and they put me on the bike and had to call the parents to go get me. My dad bought me a bike at Christmas when I was 4 1/2 and I rode it first try also.

I have spent most of the years trying to reverse engineer my thought process and the best I can describe it is that I add to my memory a feeling like how did it make me feel. This is a great advantage when trying to fix something because how it will feel working is the solution.

The gift is if you only seek the truth the solution to problem is something you just feel. Your experiences become your reward and if you are born to be inquisitive you end up with, I will say a very strong gut instinct but you know how why and what for to do something, my experiences are gathered together when I need a solution to a problem and I kind of smell the solution out and weigh it to calculate percentage of success rate by noting all the good and bad in it.

Only desiring the truth and excepting your wrong is easier for me because a lie has never had a place in my memory and vigilantly processed before true is recognized.

I am totally blind in the mind’s eye but wonder if it is not an evolutionary advance because I have not found where I could be more efficient with the ability to imagine something because to feel it work has always seemed like a gift to me.

Peachy_peach January 21, 2021 12:54 am

I am not sure if I am aphantasic. I am good at imagination and thinking about things that aren’t necesarily real, but I’m not sure if it’s the same thing as the visualization that everyone else is experiencing. I don’t actually see things in my mind. I can sort of think about it, but it’s not the same as seeing with my eyes. I want to know if I am in fact aphantasic, or if this is just normal "visualization". If anyone could answer my question that would be great!

Lori Williams - Blake January 28, 2021 08:08 pm

Hi. I just found this website and haven’t even really checked it out fully yet. I was reading this article online and figured I would check it out. I am 51 and discovered the term blind minds eye a few years ago. Two things happened that make me say hmmmmm! The first, I was impressed with my 7 year old niece. We were both talking about drawing and we agreed to draw eachother pictures. She jumped right in, grabbing a piece of paper and pencil and just drew it without looking at an object or picture. Me on the other hand had to ask her for a book so I could draw from. At some point I started thinking maybe my niece had a gift, so as I looked into it I dicovered that she was drawing from images actually in her head. Not to discredit her, because she actually is exceptional in drawing but I realized that was typical and I was I that had an issue. I tried to find out more information and found an Aphantasia test that confirmed what I knew – Nothing – Just Darkness! Noone I knew ever heard of it, the more people I talked to, the more I felt like a crazy person! haha What brought me back to wondering about it was when I was meditating. So much visualation work involved and I would lay there with my eyes closed trying so hard to visualize but couldn’t. I was thinking I must have been doing something wrong. One day when I was doing a one on one meditation with a professional, I grew frustrated that I couldn’t actually picture anything. It was at that time, that I put two and two together. Imagination – Visualization – Duh! Silly but I had thought of these two incidences as separate things were they are two different actions. One is just an outlet for stress and to be as creative as possible where the other was also an outlet for stress, but to shut down my racing brain. As strange as this sounds, both of these outlets for stress were actually causing more stress because of my frustration of not having the ability to visualize and not understanding why. After the end of a 28 year marriage I am trying to start over and am interested in a more creative career so I want to have a better understanding of this condition and how it will affect my future. I considered it could be due to a car accident I was in at 15 where I hit my head off the windshield. Although I shattered the windshield, I didn’t have one scratch on me – just some glass pieces in my hair. But I asked my daughter to close her eyes and visualize a boat or something and she said she couldn’t, that she knows what a boat looks like, but can’t actually see an image of it. Then I asked my son to get the same answer so I’m thinking maybe this is inherited. Anyways – I am glad to have found this site know I’m not alone in this and now I can educate myself further.

Greg Smith February 05, 2021 05:20 pm

I’m 67 years old. I really don’t remember when I realized that the majority of people could visualize in their head. It was probably less than 5 years ago or so. Of course, I knew about those people who had “photographic memories,” the ones whose tests in school were virtually “open book.” But, I just assumed that they were the minority and the majority of people were like me. My wife has a photographic memory as does my son who is a chess player and can play blindfold chess and I just figured he inherited it from her.

With Google, I found the term Aphantasia and discovered that I was the exception rather than the rule. A lot of things in my life suddenly made sense; poor spatial skills, difficulty learning to read, the extreme torture of spelling bees, difficulty with anything mechanical, anything involving memorization. On the other hand, I am pretty good at tasks involving logic.

My Aphantasia is virtually complete. I can see absolutely nothing in my head. If I want to describe something I have to first verbalize the description while I have it in front of me. Since a “picture is worth a thousand words” that’s a lot of words to carry around with you all the time. Nevertheless, I have quite a few memories of growing up. But they are verbal descriptions of things that happened, people I knew, etc. They have no visual aspect to them.

Having a name for the way my memory works has been a big help in developing coping mechanisms such as multiple computer screens. If I’m going to take something apart, I take a picture of it before so I can put it back together. I know that I’m going to have to give up my man card and actually read those directions, carefully, and compare the physical object to the pictures. If I really need to remember something, I will create a verbal description in my mind. Having a name and better understanding has made life less frustrating because it has led to understanding, acceptance and adaptation.

I hope Aphantasia becomes better known and researched so that teachers understand it and are able to adapt their teaching mechanisms for those students with it in much the same way they have done with dyslexia.

Yi Jun Lin February 16, 2021 05:08 am

So one day I decided to try out meditatation, but I never see anything in my mind, except that I would fall asleep every time. So finally I decided to google to see if I did anything wrong. And I came across this word aphantasia. In my case, I could not picture, smell, taste or talk in my mind. However, I do dream alot, vividly. But communications in my dreams are not verbally but consciously. I don’t feel pain or taste anything in my dream, all I have is emotions, such as happy, anxiety and sad.

Elliott Corke February 17, 2021 11:37 am

I am genuinely so glad I discovered this site. I’m not going to write a lot of detail now as I don’t have time, but my experience is very similar to others. I have always known I could never actually "make" images in my head, but like others I had assumed it was simply a figure of speech. Like Kristin I have a very good sense of direction and spatial awareness but never make pictures of places, I just "know" where to go and am very good at translating a map into the real world.
My lightbulb (or lack of it) moment actually came sometime around 2005 when a teaching colleague of mine in an assembly of students (I would guess there were probably about 200 12 or 13 year olds). He asked everyone to shut their eyes and imagine themselves in front of their house and then to walk to the kitchen and get something out of the fridge. He then asked who made a picture of their house to walk through (sea of hands) and then who didn’t (a couple of students and me). That to me was a revelation and led to an interest in the subject which I didn’t do much with until a couple of years a go when a couple of my friends mentioned it and it led to a discussion with my wife who can visualise her walk to school as if it was yesterday!
I can’t. I know my walk to school and could walk it now if I had to but there is no visual imagery associated. Just a feeling of "I just know" which seems to be very hard to explain to a visual thinker. At first I thought maybe we were experiencing the same thing and describing it differently, but it soon became clear that she had a very clear image of the location.
Going back to the visualise an apple thing. The best way I can describe it is I have everything around the apple, all the appleness as it were, but not the apple itself. I knjow what it would be like to bite into it, how I would expect it to taste, look, feel etc. but the apple isn’t there and if I try to concentrate on visualising the apple for too long I do start to feel the beginnings of nausea and I wondered if anyone else feels that, it is almost like it pushes me away.
But I have a great sense of spatial awareness. I used to be very good at archery and fielding in cricket. I can predict trajectories very well and can think through if something will "work" very quickly. It just feels like it would!
I work in the drone industry and we create 2D and 3D maps and models alongside standard imagery. Again, I find it very easy to know where the drone should be to get a good image in terms of light, angle, speed etc. to get a good photo or video. In this case it sometimes feels like my aphantasia is sometimes beneficial. Since starting to create 3D models as part of drone photogrammetry I find that the best way to think of it is that I have the wireframe or pointcloud but no overlying imagery. So when I shut my eyes and put myself in that dark place and try to visualise something I am getting the 3D impression without the overlying imagery.
Anyway, there we go. It is great to read other people’s experiences.
Oh, I also enjoy singing and music as others do and can copy 2D art well, but find it hard to create my own. I am much better with 3D stuff like pottery or woodwork.

Stéphane Berthoux February 17, 2021 12:16 pm

I am a 52 year old student in psychology at Université de Paris (Institut de Psychologie).
I spent 52 years thinking that people were talking about mental images in a metaphorically way…
I know understand that the meaning of "Picture this !" really means see the picture in your mind… Such as Counting sheeps, "you see what I mean"… I could go on and on the subject… Pretty amusing…
My 28 year daughter is like me, athought the youngest (20) is not. Amongst my close friends, one is as well, same age, female.
I just discovered it by chance, about two weeks ago thru a student whatsapp group, in which one of my peer posted a video of some french teenager reporting his aphantasic experience… And I told myself : "Oh this is me !" (In all the perceptive aspects, but dreams, which are vivid).
Truth to say, this doesn’t change anything in my life (with the sensation not to be in an freaky episode of Black Mirror). To me, imagining is done thru thoughts and concepts, and works pretty well this way.
Thru the WISC, I perform pretty well and evenly in all measured sub categories, with a resut situated between 125-130.
As an individual with an inquiring mind and studying scientific psychology, I just think I can contribute to research as a participant and benefit at the same time of the results. What Else ?
In the meantime, life goes on…

mel9300 February 18, 2021 12:02 am

So many things make more sense as I stumble on Aphantasia and this site. It was a recent experience with trying to visualize during a meditation and not being able to "see" anything that I googled it and stumbled on forums, this site, and the quiz. All I can say, is mind blown. Im now pieceing things together from some of my experiences. More self discovery to follow.

But, I will say, now I know why I have never been disappointed in the movie or show adaptation of a book. I never created an visual reference that the director "could have gotten wrong". And, I’m ok with that.

Chriscar February 21, 2021 07:05 am

I have just discovered aphantasia and it has come as a complete shock to me that most people imagine and think differently to how i do. I am now trying to understand just how negatively my life is perhaps affected by all of this. My experiences are that I never ever hear any voices or music, any sound at all in my head. Neither can I visualise anything in my mind. I know what I am thinking about but I cannot picture anything at all, my memory is not very good, and I can only recall events because I know that they happened, not because I can picture any of it. When I dream it is the same experience. If I awake in the middle of a dream I can remember a little of what it was about, but zero actual vusual detail. I dont see my dreams, I only imagine them just like my concious memories, in blindness. I hope there are others with this experience also.

Scroll to Top