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What is Micropsia?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Micropsia is a change in visual perception caused by swelling in the corneal areas of the eye. In general, those with micropsia perceive objects as much smaller than their actual size. The condition has also been called Alice In Wonderland Syndrome, and the effect is sometimes given the fanciful name of Lilliput sight after the novel Gulliver's Travels.

Micropsia is usually a temporary condition that can be caused by several factors. Some types of epilepsy have been known to cause visual distortion. The onset of migraine headaches may be marked by micropsia. In addition, swelling caused by the Epstein-Barr virus has been linked to episodes of micropsia.

Children between the ages of five and ten seem particularly prone to micropsia, as well as macropsia, which causes things to appear bigger than they are. These symptoms, which can prove extremely distressing, may lead to panic or severe disturbance in young children. They are almost always associated with conditions that can lead to migraine headaches at a future point. Such perceptions should be taken seriously, however; in vary rare cases, swelling of the brain or tumors may cause perceptional differences.

Micropsia is a fairly common symptom of the use of both hallucinogenic and opiate-based drugs like hydrocodone and oxycodone. Morphine and heroin in particular are associated with this condition, and may also cause other difficulties perceiving spatial relationships. Such differences can heighten the panic of drug users or of those hospitalized. A calm explanation of this condition is often helpful to those on high doses of pain medication, so such symptoms are not completely unexpected.

In rare cases, micropsia can be of psychological origin. Someone with extreme anorexia might be able to look at a friend and see a perfect figure, but be unable to see such a figure in herself. Visual perceptions affecting body perception are often labeled as body dysmorphic disorder.

There are few studies on how to prevent micropsia in those who seem predisposed due to medical reasons. When illness or migraines cause the condition, it is usually short-lived and is not treated. Control of migraines through medication may cause micropsia to be of shorter duration. Knowledge that the condition may occur seems to be most helpful in easing panic related to extreme difference in perception.

In the case of Epstein Barr Virus leading to mononucleosis, micropsia may present as an initial symptom. This symptom may provide a reason to test for mononucleosis, but usually no specific treatment for the micropsia itself is undertaken. Usually, the condition improves within a few days.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon1003830 — On Sep 15, 2020

I can do it on purpose if I cover my right eye and focus on something 6ft or so away with my left eye.

It’s fun! After about 20 to 30 seconds the object I’m focusing on starts to shrink and then goes backwards until the whole room is 2 to 5 sizes larger. Makes you feel like you are in a huge hall or something. It’s easier to do when I’m tired.

I can make it go back to normal just by closing both my eyes and opening them again and looking around the room at something else.

Don’t get any migraines luckily.

By anon1002650 — On Jan 15, 2020

Actually things start to appear smaller than their actual size. One can cover more area than the original view field. Actually I like the condition.

By anon1000955 — On Feb 06, 2019

I am now 64 years old and have had these symptoms since about the same age (8 years old) as others have described. It would be a few times a year or less. The TV would appear twice the distance as would the rest of the room. Tonight it came back after about 10-15 years of not having it happen. The ceiling was distant and the room appeared larger. I used to describe this symptom as "looking through the opposite side of binoculars, but now I can best describe it as I was viewing things as if I were a small 1/4 scale of myself.

By anon993517 — On Nov 21, 2015

I get micropsia when I focus on small objects without moving my eyes. e.g., when I'm focusing my attention on a static (non moving) and small object such as a coin, or a pin head from a distance of an arms length or closer. I did this as part of meditation practices to improve concentration. When the onset of micropsia occurs, It lasts for a few minutes and I have to close my eyes for a while, and open them regularly to look far off into the distant scenery to get out of this distorted vision.

I guess it's not good for my eyes (I wear glasses by the way) so I stopped using this meditation technique and try just breathing exercises and concentration on sounds with my eyes closed.

In all other cases, I don't get micropsia at all. Only in the aforementioned procedures does it occur.

By anon359348 — On Dec 17, 2013

I started getting this when I was about 5 and it lasted until my early 30s. It was exactly like looking through binoculars backward and it was very frightening. It always happened at night and I was even woken by it. I found that if I focused on something and kept my eyes still, it eventually went away. Because of that, I always had to have the curtains pulled back to allow some light into the room. I'm so glad that I've found a name for the condition and that other people have had it too, because I thought I was the only one.

By anon345899 — On Aug 23, 2013

It's sometimes treated with anti seizures, and tricyclic antidepressants, but you have to stick with your treatment religiously, or your symptoms can and will return. I find that if I've made a mistake with my medication, it generally takes about ten days for the symptoms to subside after restarting treatment.

By anon277646 — On Jul 01, 2012

@anon257000: Can you please tell me how you got rid of micropsia? Like, did it go away gradually or instantly and what did you do to get rid of it?

By anon257000 — On Mar 24, 2012

I stumbled onto this syndrome by accident online. I was astounded. I had this syndrome when I was a child. I called it “big feelings.” I didn’t know how to explain to my parents what was happening to me other than to say I was having “big feelings.” I would also go into panic mode and shake all over. I even missed school because of it. It really distressed my parents, especially my mother. The episodes would usually last an hour or two and then gradually subside.

As I grew older, I discovered that if I watched television, the conditioned seemed to clear up. Maybe it was the result of focusing on something. I don’t know. As I came to understand that it was only hallucinations and it would not hurt me, I grew out of it.

I have never been able to initiate the condition willfully, as someone here claims.

All my life, though, I have wondered about it and wondered what it was. My parents never sought medical counsel for me. I stumbled onto the syndrome accidentally when researching Complex Partial Seizures for my husband, who has epilepsy.

By anon171728 — On May 01, 2011

What is the genetic source for Micropsia?

By anon170214 — On Apr 25, 2011

for me it's like looking through binoculars backward. everything seems a long way away. and it feels that way to. But guess what? i can summon it any time i want. all i have to do is meditate. i think that puts a wrench in some of the theories' gears.

By anon79909 — On Apr 25, 2010

Micropsia usually occurs after a genetic source, and surgeries may induce the risk of the genetic disease. TO anon21058a and anon4446

By anon21058 — On Nov 09, 2008

Can you have microspia after a corneal transplant?

By anon4446 — On Oct 18, 2007

What I really need to know is how this is treated, the micropsia that is.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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