Deja vu has puzzled people for millennia. The sensation, in which your mind tells you it has seen the events transpiring around you before, is unnerving.
Some people only experience deja vu a few times in their life. Others report experiencing the sensation several times a year. And still others have never experienced the phenomenon. But imagine, for a moment, experiencing deja vu nearly every moment of every day. That’s one man’s reality.
The British man, who remains anonymous, was profiled in a recent article in the Journal of Medical Case Reports.
His troubles started in 2007, shortly after he started college. Worsening anxiety and chronic depression led him to drop out of school, but his mental health issues persisted. His recurrent deja vu episodes began soon after.
The early episodes lasted only a few moments. But soon he was experiencing deja vu nearly constantly for weeks on end. He saw a psychiatrist and pleaded for help, saying he felt "trapped in a time loop."
He was prescribed a cocktail of medications, but they did little help him. Several years later, with his deja vu present as ever, he found it unbearable to even watch television or read. His entire mind was swearing to him that it had seen, heard and experienced everything going on around him before.
Dr. Christine E. Wells, who oversaw the man's case and authored the Journal of Medical Case Reports article on him, says his case is leading to new theories on the causes of recurrent deja vu.
"Most cases like this occur as a side effect associated with epileptic seizures or dementia,” Dr. Wells said. "However, in this instance it appears as though the episodes of deja vu could be linked to anxiety causing mistimed neuronal firing in the brain, which causes more deja vu and in turn brings about more anxiety.”
If the man’s deja vu is indeed caused by his anxiety, his case will go down in psychiatric books as a groundbreaking one.
"If proved, this could be the first-ever recorded instance of psychogenic deja vu, which is deja vu triggered by anxiety rather than a neurological condition such as dementia or epilepsy,” she says. "The case on its own cannot prove that there's a link between anxiety and deja vu, but our findings raise the question and it should be studied further."