A 23-year-old student has had to drop out of university after an 8-year déjà vu experience left him unable to cope leading a normal life.
He said that he felt like he was reliving the past over and over again and that he was “trapped in a time loop”. He stopped watching TV, listening to the radio, and reading newspapers or magazines – as he thought he had already read them.
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The world most extreme case of déjà vu?
The Journal of Medical Case Reports published details of the case. Doctors are baffled as the man does not suffer the usual neurological conditions which normally accompany severe déjà vu. Doctors say that panic attacks and LSD may have tiggered the condition.
The Telegraph reports:
Report author Dr Christine Wells, a psychology expert from Sheffield Hallam University, said it could be the first case of a person experiencing persistent déjà vu stemming from anxiety.
Although most people experience occasional feelings of déjà vu, more frequent and intense forms are usually only seen in people who have seizures in the temporal lobe, a condition called temporal lobe epilepsy.
However brain scans showed no sign of seizures or neurological conditons. The man also underwent a series of psychological tests to check his memory which failed to show any major issues either.
The student, who has not been named, first complained of symptoms of déjà vu early 2007, shortly after starting university.
He had a history of feeling anxious, particularly a fear of germs, which led him to wash his hands very frequently and to shower two to three times per day.
But his anxiety worsened when he began university. Anxiety and low mood led him to take a break from his studies, and he then began experiencing déjà vu.
The early episodes sometimes lasted only for minutes, but other attacks could be extremely prolonged, the case study reveals.
For example, while on holiday in a destination that he had previously visited he reported feeling as though he had become ‘trapped in a time loop’.
He reported finding these experiences very frightening. He returned to university in 2007 and he described the déjà vu episodes as becoming more intense.
In 2008, he was referred to specialists for neurological examination. Tests for epilepsy were normal and he was treated with a range of medications.
He was assessed again in 2010, by which time his persistent déjà vu caused him to avoid watching television and listening to the radio, as well as reading papers and magazines, as he felt he had already “encountered the content before”.
“Rather than simply the unsettling feelings of familiarity which are normally associated with déjà vu, our subject complained that it felt like he was actually retrieving previous experiences from memory, not just finding them familiar,” said Dr Wells.
“Most cases like this occur as a side effect associated with epileptic seizures or dementia.
“However, in this instance it appears as though the episodes of déjà vu could be linked to anxiety causing mistimed neuronal firing in the brain, which causes more déjà vu and in turn brings about more anxiety.
“If proved, this could be the first-ever recorded instance of psychogenic déjà vu, which is déjà vu triggered by anxiety rather than a neurological condition such as dementia or epilepsy.