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The Mysterious Illness of Disembarkment

Author: Nikki Jiang

Editors: Megan Liu and Ken Saito

Artist: Jenny Li

Mal de Debarquement syndrome (MdDS) is a poorly understood condition and is far more common than people may think. It is a neurological disorder in which people create false and unexpected illusions of movement. An example would be an airplane experiencing turbulence, even when the patient is not moving. MdDS occurs after extremely long flights or boat rides when a human’s balance instinct is unable to adapt to the new environment. This phantom feeling often lasts up to 24 hours after a trip and affects about 75% of sailors. When this phantom feeling is prolonged over a period, it is called Mal de Debarquement syndrome. Patients may feel a rocking or swaying sensation and dizziness for months, even years after disembarking a plane or boat. Imbalance, fatigue, anxiety, migraines, and confusion are some other symptoms exhibited by MdDS.