Eli5 why do people have Aphantasia?


I recently got told that people are actually able to visualise images in their head, something which I cannot do, which brought me to the condition of Aphantasia.

Why is this something that I cannot do?

In: 31

It’s pretty rare. Scientist has found that it could be the result of an injury to the brain or a psychosis.

Also you could have been born with it.

I found out i have aphantasia in my 40s. It explains a lot of things that i never understood like counting sheep. But i don’t see it as a big problem, probably because i never had it another way. I guess losing the ability due to some circumstances could be hard.

I realized I had this when talking to other people about how we think. I think in words, like I’m reading a story. No idea why though so I’d be very interested in any replies you get. Oddly I’m an artist, I describe what I want to paint or costumes I want to make with words first then draw what I’ve described. Somehow it works. I have autism and ADHD if that helps.

I embarassingly just heard of aphantasia a few months ago (im 37 :/ ), and it still bewilders me that some people can’t imagine pictures. My brain *only* sees in pictures – when i think if words, i see a picture of the word (usually in a ghetto 90’s 3d Printshop font).

It does make reading fiction an extremely slow process for me because everything i read is converted into brain pictures (in the case if reading, scenes are easier for my brain to create than each word individually). if my brain gets tired of doing that (fiction is like a brain power overload), it shuts off and i will usually read up to 5ish pages without knowing what i just read because my headspace is just a black void.

Needless to say, i dislike reading fiction because it takes so long. I can’t speed-read because my brain can’t keep up without pausing and forming everything i just read to “bank” what it is processing.

As with many things, it is a matter of degrees. I have family members who report rather vivid mental imagery, but for me (and several others in my family) I find my ‘imagination’ (emphasis on the shared root with ‘image’) to work more by feel/”knowing” than by sight.

Think of the difference between someone designing in AutoCAD with basic line drawings, parameters, descriptions of materials etc. vs. a brilliant 3D render complete with textures and animations. I am overly analytical, and this is much less fun, but I find it more practical.

I feel like there’s a thick curtain between the parts of my brain that process imagery from external senses and the parts responsible for trying to ‘envision’ a scene. Sometimes, however, it can be broken… particularly at the threshold of sleep. Also, intense meditation.


edit: For me, it’s like the connections are there, but my conscious mind is denied access to them.