Do you know the movie Groundhog Day? It is a classic film starring Bill Murray where he relives the same day of his life over and over again. Well, that appears to be the case for this young man who had to drop out of university as his feelings of Déjà vu had become so bad.
His life has been affected so dramatically that he no longer watches TV, listens to the radio or even reads. He simply feels that he has experienced it all before. When he spoke to doctors he reported feeling like he was “trapped in a time loop” and he claimed that each moment felt like he had already lived it. Oddly he doesn’t seem to suffer from any of the conditions that would typically lead to the repeated feelings of Deja vu.
Doctors have therefore theorised that perhaps these episodes have been brought on by panic attacks. They also state that it could have been made even worse by the use of hallucinogenics. Dr Christine Wells who is a psychology expert from Sheffield Hallam University thinks it may well be the first case of persistent Déjà vu caused by anxiety.
Although it is common to get this feeling occasionally, recurrent feelings are often associated with conditions that affect the temporal lobe such as epilepsy. Tests have been carried out, but the young man, who does not wish to be named, doesn’t appear to show any issues associated with the condition. Nor did brain scans reveal any issues with his brain.
His only real ailment appears to be his anxiety, which is linked in particular to a fear of germs. This led to certain compulsive behaviours like repeated showers. His anxiety gradually got worse with the added stresses of the university and as his mood decreased so begun the incidents of déjà vu.
To begin with, these episodes would only last a few minutes but he has experienced far more prolonged incidents. They seem to have gotten worse with time. One example of this was when he went on holiday to a location he had never visited before and reported the feeling of being in a time loop. He has claimed that the experiences are very frightening. I can’t say I really blame the poor guy. He returned to Uni in 2017 but reported that his episodes were becoming increasingly intense.
different from normal
Dr Wells has suggested that the patient she is treating doesn’t experience Déjà vu in the traditional sense. For most of us, it’s that strange feeling of familiarity. For this person, they feel like they are retrieving old memories. It wasn’t just a case of that subtle “spooky feeling”. Wells has stated that cases like this are uncommon but usually have links to other psychological disorders such as epilepsy and dementia. In this rare case, it seems like those links aren’t present though. Wells believes it is an unusual anxiety response. She believes that when the patient becomes anxious their neurons “misfire” leading to the deja vu. Which in turn leads to more anxiety and therefore more misfiring neurons.
If her theory is correct then the patient would be the first ever example of somebody suffering from psychogenic déjà vu. These vicious circles or feedback loops as they are known are seen in the brain in instances where people have panic attacks. Therefore it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that similarly, anxiety can lead to déjà vu.
The difficulty with this case is that nobody actually knows for certain what causes Déjà vu. There are some good theories But there is no definitive answer. Dr Wells in the meantime will continue exploring links between depression and anxiety and recurrent Déjà vu.
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