Man Has Suffered Persistent Deja Vu—Since 2007
Researchers think anxiety could be to blame in case of 23-year-old Brit
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2015 10:07 AM CST
This image made from video provided by researchers shows a highly-detailed image of the hippocampus region of the human brain.   (AP Photo/Montreal Neurological Institute/McGill University, Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine/Research Centre Juelich, and National Research Council of Canada)

(Newser) – The Telegraph calls it "one of the strangest cases of déjà vu ever recorded in medical history": A 23-year-old British man can't lead a normal life because he feels he's "trapped in a time loop," as he describes it. When his episodes first started in 2007, just after he started university, his déjà vu sometimes lasted just a few minutes at a time. But those episodes got worse, and by 2010, he was no longer able to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read because of persistent feelings of having "encountered the content before." He also dropped out of school. His case was written up last month in the Journal of Medical Case Reports, and the report notes that unlike many patients (such as those with dementia) who experience chronic déjà vu, this man "is fully aware of the false nature of his" and had no memory problems. He's also not subject to any of the neurological conditions (like temporal lobe epilepsy) typically associated with déjà vu.

"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," says report author Dr. Christine Wells. Wells believes this could be the first-ever case of anxiety causing persistent déjà vu: The man had a history of anxiety, particularly in regards to contamination (he's a frequent hand washer) and that anxiety got worse when he started university. Perhaps anxiety caused "mistimed neuronal firing in the brain, which causes more déjà vu and in turn brings about more anxiety," Wells tells the Telegraph. However, the report also notes that after the déjà vu started, the man took LSD once, "and from then on the déjà vu was fairly continuous." (Read about another highly unusual medical case.)