Deja vu is a French word that means “already seen”. French philosopher and psychical researcher Émile Boirac first coined the term in 1876. Deja vu includes the feeling that a person has experienced the present situation before. The deja vu types include pathological and non-pathological deja vu. Some people think of deja vu in a paranormal context, but traditional scientific approaches reject deja vu as precognition or prophecy.
Deja vu is an everyday experience for people. Experts estimate that roughly two out of three people have had the deja vu experience at least once. But people still misunderstand it. It is tough to study deja vu in a laboratory. Hence, we have a limited understanding of it. Though, there are a few theories about deja vu which might lead to this defect in the brain.
Deja Vu involves experiencing a feeling that what is happening has happened before and is like a sudden or strange odor or taste. Deja vu may occur when specific aspects of a current situation are in some formerly occurring state. We get a powerful sensation of familiarity if there is an overlap between the components of new and old conditions. The deja vu types include pathological deja vu (safe) and non-pathological deja vu (unsafe). Most people experience non-pathological deja vu that has no adverse health effects. As a healthy brain can experience deja vu, this does not imply that you should raise the alarms.
Deja vu can be a sign of a neurological disorder. Individuals with epilepsy often have focal seizures in one area of the brain. These seizures usually happen in the temporal part that stores memories. We call them temporal lobe seizures. Seizures involve bursts of uncontrolled electrical activity that cause nerve cells in your brain to misfire. The shortness of focal seizures and the fact that people remain awake when they experience them make it hard to recognize what is happening.
Main deja vu types
I have mentioned the deja vu types below.
I have discussed these types in the paragraphs below.
- Non-pathological Deja Vu
Non-pathological deja vu is safe. It is a characteristic of healthy people. About two-thirds of healthy people have had deja vu experiences. People who travel and watch films are more likely to experience deja vu than others. Furthermore, people experience deja vu more in feeble conditions or under high pressure. But, research shows that the experience of deja vu also decreases with age.
- Pathological Deja Vu
It is a condition causing seizures that center on the temporal lobe of the brain, the lobe most involved in processing sensory inputs and making visual memories, understanding language, and making emotional attachments. Some scientists believe that all cases of deja vu are pathological, as they are associated with mild epileptic episodes and improper electrical discharges between neurons in the brain. It is one of the deja vu types that people with temporal lobe epilepsy experience. Temporal lobe seizures can produce feelings of deja vu. Signs that you may have a temporal lobe seizure versus a regular deja vu experience include:
- Loss of awareness of surroundings
- Repeated swallowing or chewing
- Unusual finger movements, such as picking motion
- Sudden, unexplained feelings, like joy or anger
- Problems controlling your muscles
- Twitching in your muscles
- Having sensations that involve vision, taste, smell, hearing, and touch
- Suspecting you are about to have a seizure
How to handle?
If you want to deal with deja vu, you need to stay calm, take care of yourself, and make the most of the experiences. I have mentioned the ways that will help you handle the experience according to the deja vu types once you have recognized it:
- Take slow and deep breaths. Having a deja vu experience can be overwhelming or even frightening. You can deal with deja vu by taking a few deep, slow breaths to calm yourself down.
- You need to focus on the current moment. You can deal with deja vu if you focus your mind and senses on the present. Being mindful of how you are feeling and what you are doing can help you decrease feelings of anxiety and stress.
- You need to decrease your stress levels. Some studies report that deja vu symptoms happen when people are stressed. You can deal with your deja vu by doing things to lower your stress. Identify the things that have stressed you out and sort out ways to reduce the stress.
- Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing deja vu frequently. Experiencing deja vu frequently, especially in children and teenagers, maybe a sign of epilepsy. You may be experiencing one of the unsafe deja vu types that can be problematic.
- Help yourself by enjoying the feeling of deja vu while it lasts. Some research shows that experiences of deja vu decrease as you get older. So instead of fighting it, document it, and enjoy the wonder and novelty of it while you can.
- You need to separate deja vu from other experiences. For this, get more information about deja vu. It will make it easier for you to deal with deja vu and appreciate it.
It is hard to study deja vu by the researchers, partially because it happens with no warning and often in people with no underlying health issues that might play a part. Moreover, deja vu experiences end as quickly as they begin. Depending upon the deja vu types the feeling of deja vu may be so transient that if you know little about deja vu, you may not even know what happened. You might feel a bit uncertain but quickly brush aside the experience.
Experts suggest several different causes of deja vu. Most of them agree it is more likely related to memory. I have described some of the widely accepted theories about deja vu below.
It suggests that deja vu happens when you see something at two different times. The first time you see something, you see it with a brief distraction. Since you didn’t give the experience your full attention for the first time, it entered your perception and seems like two unique events. But it is merely one continued perception of the same event.
Another theory suggests that deja vu happens when your brain malfunctions. It is like experiencing a brief electrical malfunction, like the one that occurs during an epileptic seizure.
Many experts believe deja vu has something to do with the method you process and recall memories. Even though you cannot access that memory, your brain still knows that you have been in a similar situation in advance. This process leads to an odd feeling of familiarity.
Deja vu can also be related to psychic experiences, such as remembering something you might have experienced in a previous life/dream.
Author: Dr Tahira Rubab Hafeez
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