Y: We had lovely weather this weekend. What did you get up to, Don?
D: Well, it was so nice outside that I went out with a friend on her boat all day. And then a funny thing happened. Right after I got off the boat and later that night, I felt like I was swaying or rocking—as if I was still on the boat! I finally fell asleep, and woke up feeling better.
Y: Sounds like you had a case of “land sickness.” Sometimes, after taking a long trip in a vehicle—like a plane or boat—you might feel unsteady on stable ground. That unsteadiness typically lasts, at most, a couple days.
D: I’m glad it went away. When I was back on land, it felt like I was walking on uneven ground. I was off-balance the whole walk home. It was most severe when I lay down to go to sleep. The rocking sensation was awfully disorienting. I knew I wasn’t moving, but somehow, I could feel my body in motion.
Y: Imagine if you felt that way for weeks. That’s called “Mal de Débarquement Syndrome.” The prolonged feeling of phantom motion—lasting for a month or more— is what makes Mal de Débarquement Syndrome different from, say, motion sickness or land sickness. The exact cause is unknown. Though oddly enough, this Syndrome’s symptoms improve with re-exposure to motion.
D: So a car trip or a cruise might help temporarily.
Y: Exactly. Mal de Débarquement Syndrome is associated with anxiety, headaches, and fatigue. Luckily, it’s considered a rare disease. A little land sickness, like you had, is pretty normal.