Mind & Body

The Man Who Had Déjà Vu for Eight Years

In the movie "Groundhog Day," Bill Murray's character experiences the same day over and over, unbeknownst to the people around him. Something horrifyingly similar happened to one British man quite recently.

Related Video: What Is Déjà Vu?

What If There Is No Tomorrow?

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.

The Cause

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.

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Why does deja vu happen? Find the answer to this and other questions in "The Science of Why: Answers to Questions About the World Around Us" by Jay Ingram. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Curiosity Staff October 10, 2016

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