The Man Who Had Déjà Vu For Eight Years

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In a 2014 issue of the Journal of Medical Case Reports, physicians described a person with a very strange ailment: a 23-year-old man complained of persistent déjà vu. By the time doctors saw him in 2010, the British college student had already been experiencing a constant, debilitating feeling of having seen and experienced everything before for a full three years. At first, many of these experiences lasted for only a few minutes, but they got longer and more intense over time. For example, he told doctors about one time when he went on vacation to a place he had been before and had the terrifying sensation that he had become "trapped in a time loop." Eventually, he swore off watching TV, listening to the radio, and reading newspapers and magazines, since it all felt like information he had already encountered.

Scientists know that certain neurological conditions such as dementia and epilepsy can cause a repeated feeling of déjà vu, but the man in question had a clean bill of health. That is, except for severe anxiety. His anxiety-related germophobic history, which led him to wash his hands constantly and shower two to three times a day, is what doctors suspected as the culprit. If true, this would be the first published report of persistent déjà vu caused by anxiety. Unfortunately, since the case report wasn't published with the man's name, we can only guess whether he found relief or if the déjà vu persists to this day. Learn more about the science of déjà vu in the videos below.

What Causes Déjà Vu?

We don't know, but we have some theories.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. About two-thirds of the population have experienced déjà vu at least once. 00:25

  2. Déjà vu might be caused by a neuron spontaneously firing or a delay in a neuron's transmission. 01:11

  3. Some theorists hypothesize that déjà vu arises when the brain recognizes a few familiar elements in a new setting. 01:51

The Man Who Had Déjà Vu For Eight Years

Hear about this strange case study.

How Déjà Vu Happens In Your Brain

Go inside the human mind to see exactly what's going on.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. People don't begin to experience déjà vu until they're at least 8 or 9 years old. 00:24

  2. Patients who experience persistent déjà vu tend to have brain damage in their temporal lobes. 03:22

  3. Presque vu occurs when you are searching for a word you're familiar with, but can't seem to remember it. 04:17

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