Hyperphantasia! The Joys of an overactive imagination

I only discovered this recently, that some people can not see images when they read. They call this Aphantasia. I was so upset to learn that so many people miss out on the magic of mental images.
I think I fall at the opposite end of the spectrum. Hyperphantasia.
I see so much when I read that it distracts me. It’s not just images though. I hear, I smell, I taste. I get so wound up in exploring another world inside my head that sometimes it takes me months to finish a book. The more I love the book, sometimes, the harder it is to read.
No wonder everyone called me a daydreamer!
I was teased as a child for living too much in an imaginary world, but that never stopped me. I never stopped being creative. Now that I’m an adult, I have a career in the film industry, Im an author, a musician and a painter. I can never get enough of the fantastical realms within my own mind. There’s nothing better than getting out those ideas and expressing them through image and sound.
I love being a daydreamer.
The main character in my upcoming book, James, is also a chronic daydreamer. Though his dreams are more nightmarish. And of course, his nightmares also have the unfortunate tendency to come true.
It’s been a while since I gave an update on my plans to publish, but I swear there will be more news very soon!
In the meantime, I’m going to just grab a book and have myself a little daydream.
Is there anyone else out there who has Hyperphantasia?

14 thoughts on “Hyperphantasia! The Joys of an overactive imagination

    1. Thanks for your reply, Mattie! It’s amazing how many views this post has had over all my others. I think there are more people with hyperphantasia than you’d think. The world is full of daydreamers who spend most of their energy fighting to to avoid daydreaming. You should try asking people you know about it, you might be surprised to find you’re not so alone.

  1. I came across this post while looking up hyperphantaia. I’m a computer scientist, but spent seven years at college / Uni studying illustration (I actually have no computer related qualifications). I too have issues with daydreaming, but I don’t just visualise images in my head; I problem solve in four dimensions. In my work, I see things from multiple angles at once and begin to dissect them into small pieces until I find the problem. I even dream solutions to issues.
    Everything has smell, texture and colour, including letters, words and numbers. I think my particular version of hyperphantasia would make me a good toy maker or 3D artist, rather than a story teller etc.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Lee! You certainly have a fascinating approach to problem solving. Yes, I know what you mean about everything having a smell, texture and colour. It can get very distracting at times just exploring the complexity and wonder in the world around us that on the surface might seem mundane or obvious. Great to hear from you, Cheers!

  2. I believe that I have hyperphantasia. One example I can give is that a few months ago, I was shopping and to occupy my mind while looking for my mother in another aisle, I daydreamed about some story I started a day or so ago. I briefly forgot about being in the store until I came to and realized how deeply disconnected I was for that short time. It felt like I was really in that alternative reality.

    I regularly make up stories to occupy my mind day and night, or even just interesting scenarios, and I sometimes physically and verbally react to someone fictitious in these stories because the imagery is so strong. Sometimes when I am not even thinking about a character I made up and my mind is quieter, I will get a sudden mental flash of a person whom I have never seen nor imagined before. The ages, clothes, hair, faces, and skin color vary, and these flashes are always quite interesting. I have joked to myself that I am seeing a glimpse of my future children and descendants.

    1. Hi Valerie,
      Thanks for this wonderful response. Sorry for my delay in getting back to you, I recently got married and it seemed to swallow my life for a while.
      This is so fantastic to hear. I always knew there were other people out there like me!
      I get so distracted by this kind of momentary mind-stories that I regularly miss what happens around me in ‘reality’. It certainly was hardest at school when I’d miss information that the teacher had explained to the class, etc. Though, I do firmly believe that it is a gift and I would never want to live without my wonderful day-dreams. Keep on dreaming I say!

  3. Very cool concept! I actually stumbled upon this article because I am the very opposite – aphantasiac. I spent my entire life not realizing that it was unusual. I always assumed when people spoke of “picturing” things they were doing the same thing I was doing, i.e. running through a clinical checklist of visual features which they had committed to memory. When I found out what aphantasia was, that I am one of them, and that most people literally can picture things, I thought, “Wow, that must be a really efficient way to think and remember!”

    One thing most people take for granted is how much of your memory is stored visually. I am very forgetful of things unless they stand out enough when I’m looking at them to make me basically say, “Remember that this house has blue shutters.” If I also want to remember that the house has white windowsills, I have to commit that to memory as another list item, separately and consciously. Most people, apparently, just remember an image of the house and can recall those and many other features with considerably less effort. NEVER take that for granted! I would LOVE to be able to store information that way!

    At any rate, I recently had this fun brainstorm for a fiction story about someone on the opposite end: they can picture things so vividly that they seem real. “I suppose that would be called ‘hyperphantasia’,” I thought, so I Googled it and found this blog post. It’s pretty awesome that there really are people who have such vivid imaginations! You’re a lucky bunch!

    If you (author) or any of your readers are willing/interested, I think it would be awesome to discuss both aphantasia and hyperphantasia with people who have experienced them, in order to help me (and maybe others!) form a better notion of what kind of fun fiction story is lurking between the two subjects. We could start an email chain, Facebook Group, or whatever people prefer.

    1. Hi Robert,
      Thanks for your reply and for sharing your story. Truly fascinating.

      It’s amazing to me that this vast difference in how people recall visual memories has been overlooked for so long, and like you say, that we all take for granted our minds processes and assume that everyone is the same.

      I think there is definitely a few great story ideas in this subject matter. This blog post gets more hits than any other, so we know for certain that there is a big interest in this out there!

  4. Hi, I believe I also have hyperphantasia, i currently am an author, designer, artist, photographer and run two businesses and am always thinking about cooking, writing, reading and anything else my brain latches onto while already working on something – i thought i was just neurotic for years. It has only been recently highlighted to me because my husband has Aphantasia, so although told as a child i was a daydreamer (i started writing books at 6), i seem to him like i am stuck in fantasy land. Literally and permanently. And he doesn’t get it. We only discovered his Aphantasia because i was trying to get him to ‘see’ what i was saying and i was trying to justify why i love reading and writing fiction. And he just couldn’t get it – and he is extremely bright and perceptive so i couldn’t work out why. My love of psychology and neurology started my brain working (and imagining) and i began to question him as if he was my test subject! I started to understand he literally doesn’t have images in his mind. He cannot visualize at all. I realised he will never get from books what i do and it doesn’t matter how i try and explain what i see in my mind, if someone doesn’t see it, they don’t see it. I can’t believe it has sat un-researched from 1880 to 2015!! It’s such a difference in ability that i want to know more…

    1. Hi Katrina, thanks for your comment. Yes it is truly a fascinating subject and I am constantly shocked how this has gone undiscovered for so long, especially since people talk so readily about other aspects of how different people perceive things. I think we’re only just scratching the surface too. There is so much to explore and unlock in the depths of the human imagination. It’s up to the ‘dreamers’ to bring their visions to life. Keep up the great creative work! 😉

  5. Hello,
    I believe that I have a bit of an extreme form, that some have tried to qualify as «maladaptive daydreaming». It takes up a lot of space in my life, and sometimes I’ve hurt myself and stuff (if my character is active in my imagination, I have actual discharge of adrenaline and starts to unwillingly move, walk or even run blindly – thought I only/mostly do that at home) but I would not trade it for the world.

    I just discovered aphantasia and I am fascinated.

  6. Yes! I have hyperphantasia, too. I am the world’s biggest pain in the ass, to watch movies with. I keep seeing continuity errors and have to rewind the movie, to check on things 🙂

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