The Tachysensia Population Is Larger Than We Thought
Shouldn’t we know more from scientific literature?
Posted Nov 13, 2020
After several hundred thousand views of my last post, “In The Time of Tachysensia,” on October 29, 2020, I wondered why so many readers are interested in tachysensia. It was the second posting on the topic of fast feeling and tachysensia to fill my inbox with detailed stories of repeated odd feelings of time and speed discordance with reality.
“I was so frightened all the many times that it happened when I was young,” one woman wrote. “Still today at 40 years old, after not having a fast feeling episode for what must be over 20 years, the fright is always with me that I might one day experience an attack again.”
That message represents a typical feeling for the more than 60 readers who sent statements saying that they have not had symptoms in many years. Even without the symptoms, the dread of having one continues. Early experiences of auditory hallucinations bring on associative fears and signs of mental illness, yet for one understandable reason or another, many healthy people also regularly hear voices.
Before reading further, a warning: I want everyone to know that I am neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist nor neurologist, though rather a mathematician and science journalist now interested in this fascinating condition that some have called tachysensia. What I bring here is information collected from research papers surrounding episode features common to readers’ accounts of tachysensia experiences. So, I must express some words of caution. Tachysensia has received relatively little empirical and clinical coverage in the scientific literature. Some symptoms highlighted in this post might require clinical attention. If you have any concerns about your symptoms, my advice is first to consult your physician, then, if necessary, to consult a neurologist.
Think about it: There are many sensory perception experiences associated with some clinically dreadful psychoses. But let us focus on three features of tachysensia. The first is the feeling that surrounding movements are speeding faster than they truly are. The second is that sounds are much louder than they should be. For most healthy people, such occurrences are frightening and stressful but of no serious concern. The third is hearing voices under a conscious comprehension that they are not actual. Hearing voices does not necessarily imply a psychiatric disease. We are often the narrators of our own thoughts. Though many psychiatric disorders include symptoms of auditory hallucinations, it seems that hearing voices does not by itself point to a psychiatric disorder.
Being aware of tachysensia spells as they happened gave some story sharers the power to control their symptoms. Many responses from readers, who bravely contributed their stories, affirmed they were alert during their tachysensia interludes, stating that they were able to control their symptoms.
“At the time, I figured out how to control my tachysensia,” one reader wrote, “I was a musician. I used counting rests and reality checking to eventually extinguish my fast feeling.”
At 12, she learned to control her attacks by constraining her attention to the experience, ignoring the feeling. “As I ignored it,” she wrote, “ I increased my ability to see the reality around the edges of the feeling.”
Curiously, an overwhelming number of reader messages were from musicians. Why? I wonder. Is the music talent gift something that comes with an extraordinary timing derivative? The musician referred to in my first tachysensia post, “Is There Such a Thing as Tachysensia?,” posted on October 21, 2020, is compensating by composing a piece inspired by her sensations.
Timing is one of the fundamental background perceptions of music. So, in that particular case of musicians having musical talents for innately counting marked beats and conscious alertness to those beats, especially for classical music, sporadic disconnects might occur. From the professional musicians I spoke with, I learned that many have metronomic senses of the measured beats when they play; however, many have moments when that metronome in the head gets unleashed to take on an undue pace.
Another group consists of readers who cautiously confided their episodes to their therapists. A wide range of analyses attributed symptoms to everything from PTSD to work-stress to migraines. Even in cases that presented some troubling auditory hallucinations, therapists downplayed the fear.
"My therapist said she felt it was stress related to work," wrote one.
“Likely, it's caused by your suffering from PTSD after your car accident,” said another.
None called for a clinical evaluation. That does not surprise me. It seems that we are hearing from people with mild symptoms who received agreeable opinions. What about the others? The ones we do not hear from, or the ones who are not telling the full diagnoses? There must be readers out there who are having more severe bouts of auditory hallucinations, folks who are not willing to share what they have heard from experts. Auditory hallucinations can be alarming, given its association with the long list of psychiatric disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, Lewy Body, etc. But they can also be quite usual under certain circumstances of stress, sleep deprivation, and prescribed medication, not to mention mind-altering drugs.
Ah, that leads us to LSD, ecstasy, psilocybin, and a host of other psychoactive drugs. A few readers did mention psilocybin: a psychedelic gold cap mushroom sometimes called the magic mushroom. For some users, just a quarter gram can bring on a mighty time-altering experience.
“I’ve had times of fast feeling when I was younger,” one responder noted. “But when I tried a bit of a magic mushroom and that fast feeling came back to make me remember how it once felt. Everything around me was whirlwind fast-forwarding.”
I’d like to hear from you, dear reader. With so many readers having concerns about this topic, I’d like to know how many have experienced symptoms connected to what we have been calling tachysensia, or fast feeling.
To get a handle on data, I’m asking readers to please send a message to email@example.com, stating age, gender, occupation, average duration, number of years of spells, and anything else one is willing to share. Anything sent will be kept confidential. Keep in mind that it may be a while before you receive a brief answer; the object of this survey is to gather foundational material before investigating the syndrome further.
© 2020 Joseph Mazur
Saskia de Leede-Smith and Emma Barkus, “A Comprehensive review of auditory verbal hallucinations: Lifetime prevalence, correlates and mechanisms in healthy and clinical individuals,” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience,” 7 (2013): 367.