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Do I have synesthesia?

Tell us about your case


If you experience something you think might be synesthesia but you’re not sure, tell us about it in the comments on this page. You can write anonymously if you prefer. I’ll reply as soon as I get the message.

Do I have synaesthesia?





16 comments:

  1. Hello. I was hoping you could tell me whether any of the things I mention below are synaesthesia.

    I moved to an English-speaking country when I was 4 years old, and had to learn English as a second language through immersion. I distinctly remember associating specific English words with images, such as "June" with a specific image of fish fingers being cooked or "weird" with a cartoon dog with black, fluffy fur. I can't remember whether these associations were consistent, and they didn't stick as I don't make these associations anymore, but I wanted to put this in there anyway.

    The next thing I think could be synaesthesia is that it is very easy for me to associate songs with colours, however I'm not sure about this as it's something I have to prompt myself to do. When I remember to make associations, however, I can say confidently that Splendora's "Shirt On" is an orange and yellow song, or that another song is a lilac song. Other times I'll initially say, for example, "it's a navy blue song", then immediately disagree with myself and decide that a dark, warm red fits the song much better, with no reason connected to the mood or the typical connotations of these colours, I just know if it doesn't fit. Is it possible that I just didn't notice I made associations between colour and music so easily until I learned about the existence of chromaesthesia? Does it still count as synaesthesia even though it has to be prompted?

    For what it's worth, I also make associations with songs to people I know, based on different factors.Sometimes it's because of the person's voice having some kind of connection to the sound of the instrument used, for example, an old teacher of mine was associated with a particular violin song, and I was just trying to explain the reason there and I couldn't, I don't know why they're related other than their voice has something to do with it. Most of the time I can't even tell if it's related to the voice or another characteristic of the person, it's just involuntary and frankly a bit annoying as it makes me cringe and tends to stop me from enjoying the song when it's someone I don't want to be thinking about.

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    1. Hi! Thanks for writing about your case!

      From what you say I would be inclined to think that you don’t have synaesthesia, or that these are not examples of it at least, but you could certainly “test” yourself if you wanted to check.

      The most interesting one is your song-to-colour associations. People with song-to-colour synaesthesia have a very strong conviction about what colour each song is, they usually have it with all or most songs, the idea of any other colour being associated with a particular song is “wrong” and unpleasant, and the colours are very consistent, they wouldn’t change. It is automatic, but while most would get their colour perception straight away, I’ve heard of others who it comes to gradually and not necessarily on the first listen of the song. I think it sounds like you don’t have it, but you could do this if you wanted to test it out: make a playlist of songs (the more the better). Make sure you use a system where you won’t be able to see the album art or other colour influences before, or as, you listen. Listen to all or part of each song and note down the colour it suggests. Then save that list of colour correspondences, don’t look at it again in a few weeks, or months, or however long it takes to be sure you’ll have forgotten what you wrote, and repeat the process, to see if your colours are consistent. If you have this type of synaesthesia you would have very high consistency, about 90% or over. You could even repeat the test several times if you're not sure.

      I wonder if in the case of Splendora’s “Shirt On” you were actually influenced by the album art, as I’ve noticed it’s predominantly yellow and orange. Does your lilac song have lilac coloured album art by any chance? The album colours can be a problem though, and can actually cause confusion to synaesthetes too, if they have milder associations!

      The word-image associations from your childhood (I love June being fish fingers by the way) would probably have stuck if they were synaesthesia, and there would have been a lot of them. The song-person associations are quite fascinating. They don’t really tie in with any type of synaesthesia though.

      Hope this is helpful!

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  2. I think I have olfactory-visual synesthesia, but I'm not sure. I have always sort of applied shape to smell instantaneously. But I only sometimes get color immediately and sometimes it comes after shape and sometimes it never comes at all. Like my friend's house is a green triangle and vanilla extract is red bubbles in a glass, but my hand soap is just colorless thin shapes leaning up against each other. As in the previous example, the visuals also range in complexity from simple geometric shapes to three dimensional objects, sometimes even with backgrounds. Also, I have severe anxiety, and when my anxiety gets bad, I don't experience the visuals clearly or even at all. I know this is a lot, but any guidance you can give is greatly appreciated.

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    1. Hello, and thanks for telling me about your case!
      Yes, everything you say here fits in with olfactory-visual synesthesia. I can strongly identify with what you say about how you perceive the shapes and colours, as I have this type too. And yes, it tends to vary, with a stronger or weaker experience depending on a lot of factors like the strength or type of smell, how you’re feeling, how focused you are on what you’re smelling/seeing, hormonal issues, how your sense of smell is performing at that particular time, how relaxed you are... Anxiety is known to affect synesthesia too: many people report that it’s dulled or even disappears entirely when they're going through a time of anxiety (same thing with depression, and medications for this kind of thing too). It comes back afterwards though, when things get back to normal, as has always been the case for you from what you say. But I hope you’re enjoying your smell visuals now. For me they’re one of the best kinds of syn!

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    2. Thank you very much for your response! There's so little about olfactory-visual on the internet, your site has been super helpful. And yes, I am in a time where visuals are occurring! I smelled some peaches and cream oatmeal this morning- royal blue pyramids in an icy sea :)

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    3. Beautiful example, royal blue pyramids in an icy sea! So you're actually projecting these, seeing them physically in front of you? I'm a bit jealous actually, mine was only that strong at one time in my life (and that's how I found out what synesthesia was in fact), when I had hyperosmia, but the experience was awesome. Do you have hyperosmia or anything like that, that determines the strength of your reaction? Also, do you get any visuals (or tactile sensations) from taste, or only from smell? (I have both and it seems they often co-occur).

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  3. Hi, I don't see my synesthesia type listed on your site, which is not surprising because my case is unusual, though I have heard others say they have something similar on the synesthesia listserv.

    I am totally blind with limitted light perception which I'm usually not aware of on a daily basis. When I smoke marijuana, though, I start to be more aware of the light I can see, and it feels as if the light is tugging my body/eyes in different directions. I'm then able to take this inner sensory data (a mix of vestibular and proprioceptive input) and not only make predictions about where the light I'm seeing is coming from, but also about what I am seeing. I definitely have visual/tactile synesthesia which you do have listed, because it feels like I'm touching whatever I'm seeing, but I don't think the proprioceptive aspect is represented. I know the synesthesia is drug-induced, but you could easily argue that the drug is just inducing access to the light (the scientific literature confirms the effects of cannabinoids on the retina). Anyway, i thought it was important to draw attention to my case because I think it could possibly help other blind people, or people who have visual aphantasia. I believe that I'm using the vestibular and proprioceptive senses as a back door or compensatory way to access 3d physical and mental images, and that a wearable that provides vestibular stimulation might be more effective for some people than existing sensory substitution efforts like the BrainPort. Unfortunately, though I've spoken with some prominent scientists, this has largely been a futile twelve-year mission. I'm hoping to find both researchers who are interested and other people who could benefit.

    More information is on my researchgate profile: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tasha-Raella-2

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    1. Hi Tasha! Thank you for getting in touch! First of all I think what you tell me about here is fascinating - both the enhanced light awareness aided by marijuana, interpreting the possible mechanisms, and your mission for future research - and I'm very interested in finding out more. The first thing I'm going to do is to read your papers on your Researchgate profile, I've started by looking at "What Blindness is" and this tells a story that I want to know more about. Then I’d like to comment it with you! As to a mention of something similar to what you experience on the Synesthesia Tree website, you’re right, I have nothing like that at the moment. With regard to the vestibular and proprioceptive senses, I don’t have anything on the vestibular sense and what I have about proprioception are just a few mentions. Mainly it is about it being a concurrent for synesthesia – not an inducer as in your case – and it is in the sections on Auditory-tactile synesthesia, the olfactory and gustatory types of synesthesia, and mirror kinetics. But these are about sound, tastes, smells and movement observed producing the sensation of bodily movement or bodily perceptions. For proprioception as an inducer, I only have something in the section on motion-to-sound synesthesia, where some people feel their own bodily movements and hear them in the form of sound. So, nothing related really. On my list of things I’d like to add to the site one day is something about drug-induced synesthesia. Synesthesia as it affects sight-impaired people is another very interesting subject, but anything I could write about either of those subjects would be much more general than what you are describing here, and I must say I have no actual expertise in any of these subjects, only willingness to learn! I’m going to read your papers and I’ll answer you again when I’ve read them. It’s great to meet you!

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  4. I'm pretty sure I have auditory-tactile synaesthesia although sometimes I can't really define a feeling that I get when a sound happens such as someone speaking, I can feel their voice and I know where the sensation is coming from but I can't explain how it feels. I don't usually get a feeling on my skin but inside my head like a vibration or a sort of slap or tap (with earbuds and headphones) and I get feelings outside of my body as well, is this typical for this type of synaesthesia?

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    1. Hi! I think what you say could correspond to auditory-tactile, yes, if you basically identify with the concept of it and how it manifests, bearing in mind that the actual physical sensations can vary quite a lot from person to person and are probably even unique in some cases. If you notice that you get the same sensation from the same type of sounds each time, then that would make it clearer that it’s synesthesia and not something else. Earbuds and headphones tend to increment the effect as the sound is clearer and nearer and distractions are shut out, so that makes sense. Feelings outside your body, that’s interesting! Is that like as if you had extra limbs or something? (some auditory-tactile synesthetes mention that) or do you mean the physical tactile sensation just floats near to your body without being part of you? That ties in with synesthesia in general, particularly taste-to-shape synesthesia for example, it’s tactile-but-just-outside-your-body, but it's certainly possible that someone could have exactly that kind of tactile feeling with sound.

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  5. I think I might have some form of synesthesia, but I am very new to this. Any time I am intimate with my partner,(and my previous partners) and especially during sex, I see moving colors, sometimes the colors have textures too. It is not consistent at all (meaning I have them every time, but the colors/textures/shapes are not consistent)and really doesn't have any bearing on the "quality" of sex, but it does change nearing and during climax. For instance, I often see a silky white with bursts of blue or green, or it may be a velvety red that swirls and changes shades. Near climax I will often see a sharp triangle break through, or maybe a fuzzy circle begin to grow until it covers my whole vision. I can "see" these even with my eyes open, but it is particularly clear when my eyes are closed. I didn't realize that this was a "thing" until I had a particularly satisfying evening and exclaimed that I "saw orange". My boyfriend was completely confused and asked me to elaborate, and when he still had no idea, I looked it up and found this site. I also see these color patterns when receiving a massage, or when anyone has prolonged contact with me, but not if I touch them (for instance, placing my hand on a shoulder).
    Is it normal to see this only during intimate moments (or similar)? The other few articles that I found seem to suggest that this is usually found in people who have another verifiable form of synesthesia.
    I'm so sorry that this may be TMI, but I'm very curious, and not sure who I could ask about it.

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    1. Hi, and thanks for writing! What you describe is a classic example of what’s known as “sexual synesthesia” and what I call “sexual (and romantic) synesthesia”, because it tends to also occur at loving, romantic moments with a stable partner as well as happening in a sexual context, and that seems to be your case too. The colours, patterns and images are exactly as you say, and from what I’ve found from studying many accounts of it, they are actually consistent in very few cases. So you certainly have this! The question is whether in general it should be considered synesthesia or another type of phenomenon. At the present time it is considered synesthesia, i.e. most of the major researchers classify it as such, but that might be because it’s a relatively recent discovery and very little research has been done on it so far. Normally in synesthesia the photisms perceived are abstract colours and/or shapes that appear consistently with the concept inducing them, always the same, and with this phenomenon both abstract and figurative images are seen and they tend not to be consistent, so it might not fulfil all the requisites to be considered synesthesia. Another clue of course is whether the people who have it have other types of synesthesia or not. A lot of synesthetes report having it… but no research has been done on whether it’s something that synesthetes have or whether it’s just as common in the general population. I think in future we’ll be able to answer these questions though, when more research is done into this fascinating subject, and I’m sure it will be! So until the contrary is proved… you can consider it a type of synesthesia 😊
      That’s interesting you get it too with massage and touch: there are other reports of that. If you haven’t already seen it, you can read about those on the page on [tactile-visual synesthesia](https://www.thesynesthesiatree.com/2021/02/tactile-visual-synesthesia.html) and see if you identify. This is certainly a very similar phenomenon to the sexual one you describe, and I would go as far to say that it’s probably experienced by the same people.
      As I say, there just isn’t enough research on it yet to say whether we should consider it synesthesia or another fascinating phenomenon in its own right… but for the moment I’d say “Welcome to the club!” and perhaps you could look at other types and see if you recognise yourself in any of the descriptions, beginning with [the most common types of synesthesia](https://www.thesynesthesiatree.com/2021/04/the-most-common-types-of-synesthesia.html): it often happens that people have types of synesthesia they are just not aware of.

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  6. i'm asking about this for a friend.

    ways they described it:
    "i can't describe people with like character traits and appearances so i link them to images"
    "i perceive everyone as an abstract thing and then the actual person"
    "i see people as concepts and ideas"
    "it's a lot easier to do this with people right in front of me or ones i have a fresh memory of"
    "generally speaking distant black shape is a placeholder until i know someone"
    "there is no meaning to these honestly
    it's just what my brain says"

    examples of people:
    "i see you as a square with rounded corners with like light browns and dark greens"
    "i see you as a shape of some kind, one with fuzzy edges and pastel tones" (later added the shape was a triangle)
    "circle, a fuzzy one with dark blues"
    "a rounded corner dark grey square"
    "harsh red fuzzy rectangle"
    "your shape is medium sized"
    "[Name]'s shape is very very small"

    they also mentioned 3 being yellow, but didn't exhibit many traits of common types of synesthesia

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    1. It sounds to me like your friend has a very special kind of mind and certainly has a type of synesthesia related to person-colour/shape or “aura” synesthesia. All the things they say tie in with a beautiful, slightly complex person-colour synesthesia where the shapes are just as important as the colours or even more so. The descriptions of the shapes are really typical of how synesthetes describe their perceptions in fact!

      On the page of the Tree on figurative images there is a brief description and some examples of cases where seeing other people produces images/concepts/ideas (this type has hardly been reported or studied so not much is known about it yet, but I’ve come across a few cases), or they could read the pages on person-colour, aura synesthesia and personality-colour if they were interested, as all those types have some aspects in common with what they experience. Here are the links:

      https://www.thesynesthesiatree.com/2021/03/figurative-images-as-synesthetic.html#people
      https://www.thesynesthesiatree.com/2021/03/person-colour-synesthesia.html
      https://www.thesynesthesiatree.com/2021/02/aura-synesthesia-projective-personality.html
      https://www.thesynesthesiatree.com/2021/03/personality-colour-synesthesia.html

      It’s highly probable that they do have other types… but they might be weaker or they just haven’t focused much on them yet.

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  7. Hey! I've been looking into this for a bit and I think I may have associative synesthesia! Also to note: I'm a hugely creative mind and also a busy-brained individual so it may also be a combination of those things.
    For as long as I can remember I've always quietly associated tones and sounds in music with colours. Growing up in a musical household, I've always loved the idea of beautiful paintings of colours made from what I've imagined. The best way I can describe what I experience is like that in ratatouille, when Remy is eating the strawberries and cheese, and these colours, textures, shapes and patterns appear around him, but I see those in my mind's eye (not physically in my vision).
    I also imagine images, pictures that could be abstracted or could look like a photograph. I imagine what the song looks like as well, which is cool.
    Some examples of the kind of things I think/see: fender telecaster (clean sound) is an aqua/electric blue colour, tenor sax is deep blue with some hints of purple growing toward red, the guitar in Greenday's 'Time of Your Life' is shamrock green, and I've gotten all different colours from several vocalists.
    Since it's always been something that I've had in the back of my mind, that's where I wonder if it is actually just creativity, since it became so automatic that I didn't really make a point to notice it. Like, it's always been there, but it isn't necessarily something that revolutionises my views or anything - just something cool and private for myself.
    I'm part of a little band and I thought it would be cool to draw everyone's instruments in the colours I perceive them to be, which is also nice!

    So If it isn't synesthesia, I'm still able to make this strong correlation bewteen colour or other visuals and music.

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    1. Yes, definitely synesthesia! That’s a really nice description. I think you should paint what you see... it would look really cool, your band members would appreciate it and I think you will find it very satisfying to actually see it on paper! From what you say about the different instruments you seem to have timbre-colour synesthesia, and also voice-colour… or do you only get colours when people sing, not when they talk? Many synesthetes do actually doubt that what they have is synesthesia because it just seems so logical to them or like a habit and something obvious, but what you say is definitely a chromesthesia thing and not just learned associations, as in the latter case you would have to learn and remember them while synesthesia is an automatic perception and not a memory thing. What you say about “it’s always been there” is certainly the impression that all synesthetes tend to have. I think you should focus on it as much as you can, as that will strengthen it, and enjoy all those beautiful colours that form part of your musical experience. Ah, and you've probably noticed that synesthetes do tend to be creative people!

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