Tachysensia: Understanding The Mysterious Phenomenon Of “Fast Feeling”

Periodic distortions of sound and time are familiar to those with this strange condition.

Laura Simmons - Editor and Staff Writer

Laura Simmons

Laura Simmons - Editor and Staff Writer

Laura Simmons

Editor and Staff Writer

Laura is an editor and staff writer at IFLScience. She obtained her Master's in Experimental Neuroscience from Imperial College London.

Editor and Staff Writer

clock with light distortions indicating time moving fast

An episode of tachysensia can have you feeling like the world has gone into "fast-forward" mode.

Image credit: kitti Suwanekkasit/

“Sounds are much louder and time contracts so everything feels like it is happening faster.” That’s the description of tachysensia given by a Reddit community formed as a gathering place for people who experience this mysterious, once-nameless, sensation. That community now has over 5,000 members, and research is only just beginning to catch up and try to put this wealth of anecdotal evidence into some scientific context.

What is tachysensia?

One of the difficulties with tachysensia is that it’s hard, even for those who experience it, to accurately describe it, something that comes up time and again as you scroll through posts on r/fastfeeling. Many express relief at finding a community of people who understand the peculiar sensation, having experienced confusion, ridicule, or blank indifference from family members and health professionals.


It wouldn’t be the first time that a group of people with an enigmatic health condition have found each other before medical science has caught up. A recent example is the COVID-19 long-haulers, who were sounding the alarm about the possibility of lingering effects from the virus long before this knowledge was widely available to the public.

One expert who has been working hard to understand tachysensia is Osman Farooq, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Neurology at the University at Buffalo. In 2021, Farooq wrote a description of the condition for Psychology Today, after receiving numerous personal testimonies from people keen to share their symptoms.

“Tachysensia is a distortion of time and sound. It is reported to consist of time moving fast or slow, or a combination of both in which a person may feel like they are moving in slow motion but everything around them is in ‘fast forward’,” Farooq wrote. "Sounds can also be altered, where there can be an amplification of sounds, in which everything appears very loud or also muffled, as if 'hearing underwater.’ These alterations in the sensations of time and sound can be very troubling for the individual experiencing them.”

Personal accounts were being collected as part of a survey, some early results of which were discussed in a later post for the Psychology Today blog. While the small sample size made it difficult to draw conclusions, there did appear to be some patterns: most people reported episodes of tachysensia lasting between 5 and 10 minutes, with between 2 and 12 of these episodes over the course of a year. There were some outliers, reporting either particularly long episodes or episodes that occurred more regularly. 


It was speculated that for most, the symptoms begin around puberty, and indeed there were several testimonials from adolescents who were alarmed by the sudden onset of these bizarre sensations. 

While the post concluded that a lot more research was needed to fully understand the condition, it seemed likely that for the majority of people, the short-duration episodes were likely to be an atypical presentation of migraine. But could there be another possibility?

Alice in Wonderland syndrome

There’s another unusual condition that some have linked to tachysensia. Alice in Wonderland syndrome (AIWS) is a collection of disorders that cause altered perception. Many people will be familiar with Lewis Carroll’s story of the same name, in which the eponymous Alice has some seriously weird experiences involving a chronomaniac rabbit, a grinning cat, and a tyrannical queen, to name a few. Alice – we’d argue inadvisably – munches her way through some suspicious delicacies whilst in Wonderland that cause her to feel larger or smaller than she actually is.

People with AIWS can experience similar feelings. Some see things as being larger or smaller than they are, or closer or farther away; sometimes this feeling extends to parts of their own bodies. AIWS is tricky to diagnose and often occurs as a secondary effect of other conditions like stroke, and in one documented case, a tumor. It usually appears in childhood, and the episodes generally last for minutes rather than hours.


You may already be seeing some of the parallels with tachysensia, as Mario K. Shammas discussed further in a 2020 paper. A study of the literature showed that cases of “fast feeling” had actually been described before, and been linked to AIWS. 

Shammas argues that while it could be easy to dismiss conditions like this, which seemingly cause no physical harm, as quirks of the human experience, there is a lot that they could teach us: “Such distinctly eccentric phenomena as AIWS, properly studied, offer us the deepest insight into the most fundamental questions of neurology – those that tie back neurology and psychiatry to their original metaphysical roots.”

The overlap between AIWS and tachysensia has also been acknowledged by Farooq, but it is worth mentioning that there are those among the fast feeler Reddit community who dispute that there is a link. 

Ultimately, formal research into this phenomenon remains lacking. AIWS itself has only relatively recently begun to spark the interest of neurology researchers again, likely due to the advent of functional imaging techniques that have made deeper investigations possible. The r/fastfeeling community was only launched in 2018. 


While the evidence so far seems to suggest that tachysensia is likely harmless, and often temporary, there could still be a lot of value – both for the fast feelers themselves and the wider scientific community – in more in-depth research. As writer Joseph Mazur concluded in the 2022 Psychology Today blog post: “With so many cases of a condition (very likely many millions) that we now call tachysensia, it seems astonishing that the medical community continues to be relatively unaware of the syndrome.”

“With more research, we should have more definite answers. That will come soon.” 

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.   

All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current.  


  • tag
  • psychology,

  • neuroscience,

  • perception,

  • time,

  • Alice in Wonderland,

  • Perception of time