Spacing out

There are many different types of altered states. They can be light or deep; voluntary or involuntary; physical, emotional, mental or intuitive in origin; beneficial or counterproductive; and include any state of mind from being hyper-aware, hyper-focused or inspired to totally zoning out.

It is not easy for others to tell the difference – or even if a person is in an altered state or not. One clue is that if someone is reading, writing, painting, meditating, listening to music, dancing, watching a film, playing or working with something and does not look up and make eye contact or give other sign of having acknowledged your presence when you walk into the room, that person may be in one altered state or another.

Besides occurring spontaneously, different types of altered states may be induced by things like flickering light (e.g. from TV & computer monitors, fluorescent lights), electromagnetic stimulation of the brain, music, repetitive movements (e.g. rocking back-&-forth), drugs, air-born chemicals, pain, shock, fear, sex, stress, sensory overload, allergic reaction, fatigue, precipitation, deep concentration, meditation, prayer, contemplation and hypnosis.

Spacing out is something very common to autistic and intuitive people. There may be many types, degrees and causes for it.

“I have experienced several types of what might be called altered states of consciousness.  Some of them might be related to epilepsy.  (I now believe I had epilepsy as a teen, but tested negative because of poor testing available at the time.)  Some of them might be dissociation.  Some might be called a trance state.  Some are spiritual/metaphysical.  Some or all of them might be related.  It seems too much of a coincidence that I have experienced all of them.  None of these were triggered by the use of drugs, alcohol, herbs or any mind altering substance.

“1. Partial brain shutdown:  I am only partially aware of what is going on.  For example, I could tell that a person next to me is making word sounds, but not what the person is saying.  I am taking in things but not able to process at all.  I can continue very simple repetitive movements but cannot talk or doing anything requiring any thought.  Pretty scary.  I don’t get these anymore, but they were common in high school.

“2. Brain shutdown, mental vacation, spaced out:  My mind just shuts down except for vital functions like breathing.  (I remain standing or sitting or what ever position I was in.)  I do nothing but stare blankly.  Time passes and I have no memory of it passing.  In my teen years, in my room I would often have instances where I realized I had been staring at the wall or a blank sheet for a half hour to an hour.  They are less serious now, thought it tends to happened a couple times a month in the shower.  It is easily broken by my husband yelling at me that I will be late for work though the bathroom door.

“3. Daydreaming:  Sometimes I will become so lost in my own thoughts or a pleasant day dream that I tune out the outside world.  I am not sure if this is properly called an altered state or not.

“4. Open, receptive, trance:  I am not interacting at all with the outside world or physical world.  During this time I am in tune with the either the inner world (my subconsious thought, inner self, etc.) or the spirit world.  During this time I am open to visions, feelings, etc.  I can currently do this at will now, though usually I will opt for #5 instead.

“5. Open, receptive, light trance, both worlds:  This is like number 4 except that I am able to interact with both the physical and non-physical world at the same time with no more distraction than I would have with a normal conversation.  I believe this is my current default state and I can enter into it at will.  I think there may be a little bit of a continuum between 4 and 5.

“6. Disconnected:  My body feels like it is not firmly connected to my mind/spirit/soul.  I feel like I am watching my life rather than actively living it.  Emotions and physical sensations may be blunted or numb.  Interaction with the world is not impaired.

“7. Bliss:  A sense of deep peace, calmness, serenity.  This is usually triggered by repetitive movement (crochet or other craft) or music with an hypnotic or psychedelic quality.  Having to concentrate on something else breaks the bliss.  Normally I am not thinking anything at all, just experiencing feelings and sensations, though sometimes my mind can wander around during this time and maintain the state of bliss.  I am thinking this is perhaps the state of Nirvana some seek to obtain though meditation.  I also feel like perhaps it is similar to what some people may experience on drugs.”

Ilah, probable Aspie and HSP from USA

Some individuals seem more susceptible to falling into a light trance. Some of us are in a state of permanent contemplation and function well in that state, when left in peace.

“I will zone out when thinking or contemplating, withdraw into myself during parties, and develop tunnel vision and extreme distance during times of stress. I believe all these things are Aspie traits, although I suppose trauma victims will fall into one of these mental retreats too. the difference is that for people who have suffered trauma, such withdrawing might be an emergency mechanism, whereas I have degrees of it constantly.”

Tom, Aspie from USA

In other instances the trance or altered state is so deep that it makes any activity or social interaction impossible and little development would take place if the person was left in it for too long (according to autistic consultant Iris Johansson who herself had the tendency to space out as often as possible when she was a child). However, even unwanted trance states one needs to come out of slowly and gently. Anything harsh and abrupt is a no-no!

Sometimes medical conditions, e.g. allergies, can induce brain fog that is totally involuntary and unwanted.



  1. mary said,

    I have always been a very thoughtful person. I will block out everything around me and space out at the most random times. My friends think I am bored or unhappy because I shut down allot, but I know that is not the case. It is starting to scare me though, today as I was driving, I realized I drove over 2 blocks and passed an intersection while I was spaced out! I don’t understand how my body knew when I had to slow down or anything. It’s like my body goes on auto pilot mode. How can this be prevented from happening again?

  2. Emma Mathlin said,

    I have a similar problem, I would be doing something and then I would blank out and would’t remember what I did I usually have perfect functioning I would be able to have a completely normal conversation or be able to walk etc but I would remember nothing at all I commonly have to ask people what I did and compare that to what I remember, I’ve had a few incidents where i’ve winked at a teacher and didn’t know and I’ve also blanked out days of school all sorts, it’s really worrying me a lot I really need to find out what’s happening to me. Please help if you can by commenting below. Thanks I guess. 😦

    • Endrago said,

      Sounds like DiD to me. (Dissociative Identity Disorder) You can search it on the Internet and find out about it.

  3. Lynn said,

    My mother is 66 yrs young, And she suffers from this “Space Out” .. They are calling it a seizure. . Mother can be talking, eating, walking And all of a sudden, BAM ! Mother has spaced out… Some will have to sit Mother down or put her to bed, where She’ll be spaced put for the next half hour or so..
    I’ve asked Mother what, what she’s feeling when this happen.. ” I can hear, see and smell everything around me.. I just can’t speak or move. Once I’m back, I’m very tired and will sleep for HOURS! ” Mother told me.
    Her doctors has ran every test they can think of, but has been unsuccessful with the answers so far. If you have any insight on what could be wrong with Mother, please share.

  4. Evelyn Baker said,

    I space completely out without any function. I am totally unaware and will stay like this for hours. I don’t move, instead, I am completely still. I am unaware of any changes in my vision and will stay in that state when things pass in front of me or lights turn off and on. I don’t hear any sounds or think any thoughts when I am like this. I am completely gone.

  5. Autumn said,

    I have been experienced this in my early 20’s n sometimes now. I didn’t no what it was until I recently came across the term ‘spacing out’ after reading this I now rallied se it was ‘sensory over load’ whereby I was constant worrying about the difficulties a parent had been casing me since childhood. Als, I think it was to do with tiredness and doing too much and not taken taking time to just chill..also I had anxiety overthinking and worrying about all the problems this parent had caused me. So I think the ‘spacing out’ resulted from my mind just having enough of the stress!!!

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