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Aphantasia is a characteristic that affects how some people use their imagination. People with aphantasia are unable to form mental images in their mind’s eye, meaning they cannot picture things in their head (WebMD, 2021). Aphantasia is not a disorder or a disability, but rather a variation in human experience (BBC, 2020). Aphantasia can be congenital (present from birth) or acquired (due to brain injury, illness, or mental health condition) (Cleveland Clinic, 2021).

The prevalence of aphantasia is estimated to be between 2% and 4% of the population, but it may be higher as many people are unaware that they have it (Cleveland Clinic, 2021). Aphantasia can affect different aspects of cognition and perception, such as memory, creativity, spatial reasoning, dreaming, and empathy (Verywell Mind, 2021). However, people with aphantasia can still lead normal, fulfilling, and creative lives by using other forms of imagination, such as verbal, auditory, or tactile (Psychology Today, 2021).

Aphantasia in children and young adults may pose some challenges in education and social development. For example, children with aphantasia may have difficulty with tasks that require visual imagery, such as reading comprehension, spelling, or mental arithmetic (Psychology Today, 2021). They may also struggle to relate to others who can visualize things easily or to express their emotions through imagery (BBC, 2020). However, these challenges can be overcome by using alternative strategies, such as verbal descriptions, diagrams, mnemonics, or physical models (Verywell Mind, 2021).

Aphantasia is not a problem that needs to be fixed, but rather a unique way of thinking that can be embraced and celebrated. People with aphantasia can still enjoy art, literature, music, and other forms of creativity. They can also form meaningful relationships with others who understand and respect their difference. Aphantasia is not a limitation, but an opportunity to explore the world differently.

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Signs of aphantasia

People with aphantasia may not realize that they have it until they learn that most people can “see” images in their minds (BBC, 2019). Aphantasia can be congenital (present from birth) or acquired (developed later in life due to injury, illness or mental health condition) (Cleveland Clinic, 2021). Aphantasia may affect different aspects of cognition and perception, such as memory, recognition, dreaming and creativity (GoodRx, 2021). A recent study found that people with aphantasia have different pupillary responses to visual imagery than people without the condition, suggesting a physiological difference in how their brains process visual information (Medical News Today, 2021).


BBC. (2020). When you can’t picture your own family: Life with aphantasia.

Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Aphantasia: What It Is, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment.

GoodRx. (2021). Aphantasia: Symptoms, Spectrum, and More, Explained.

Medical News Today. (2021). First physiological evidence of aphantasia found in the eye’s pupil.

Psychology Today. (2021). Aphantasia.

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Verywell Mind. (2021). Aphantasia: When You Are Blind in Your Mind.

WebMD. (2021). What Is Aphantasia?

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