Six Phantom Phenomena


Most of you have probably heard of the phantom limb sensation, which is what amputees sometimes complain of feeling after losing a limb. Described as painful by many, people say it feels as if the amputated limb is still there, even though it clearly isn't.

Though certainly not nearly as unfortunate, another phantom phenomenon has been making the news lately: phantom BlackBerry vibrations. That's when you feel like your PDA or beeper is vibrating even when it isn't. I know this phenomenon all too well and often find myself digging hastily through my many pockets to locate my Treo (which has been set to vibrate since the day I bought it) even when it really isn't buzzing.

All this got me thinking about other phantom phenomena. Here are four more that really annoy me:

Phantom Ocean Waves This is the sensation you feel after you've been rocked around on a boat at sea, or even playing in the water at the beach. It's that rolling feeling that sometimes affects you not just hours later, but DAYS later. For instance, I remember being bothered by this rolling sensation while trying to sleep at night a full week after a 2-week cruise, island hopping in Greece. Doctors have a name for the extreme version of this phantom: Mal de Debarquement Syndrome. For some unfortunate souls, it actually lasts years.

Phantom Grass Itchies This is an odd one: after lying in the grass, I often feel the blades on my skin hours later as I'm walking around or driving in my car. And it frequently itches something awful!

Phantom Spider Webs You walk through a spider web, struggle for ten minutes to get the darn thing off your arm (or worse, face!), and for the next couple hours, even though you could swear you got it all off, it still feels like it's stuck to you. Blech!

Phantom Insect Bites Need I say more? This one can be triggered simply by thinking about bugs! For instance, I was once visiting a friend in Greenwich, CT, and she suggested we put knee-high Wellington boots on to keep the ticks from getting us while we walked in her woodsy backyard. For the rest of the day I felt like I had ticks crawling all over me. Double-blech! [note: loyal _floss reader mri correctly states below that a form of this phenomenon is known as formication.]

Care to commiserate or add another to my ever-growing Phantom list?