« Did Roz Chast Attend P. S. 217? | Main | The Leader Theater; Our Leader »

September 23, 2006



My wonderful, amazingly bright 17 year old has this condition that we've always referred to as "Directional Deficit Disorder", but maybe Directional Dyslexia is more apt! She is a senior in a huge high school, and after 3 full years there, still can only get herself around using ONE staircase. That means walking from one end of the building (past several staircases) all the way to the other end of the building to use "her" staircase, just to go back to the other end of the building on the second floor. This is a kid who takes AP and Honors classes, and carries a 97 GPA. She does have a touch of (un-medicated) ADD, so I wonder if that could have something to do with it. She's currently learning to drive, and about to take her test. I'm scared to think of her in a car by herself - or just as bad, lost on a college campus in a year. Has anyone heard of any therapies that help with this condition?


I have had this for all my life too (25 now). But because I was always aware of my inadequate navigation skills, if you will, I have noticed that I have sub-consciously adopted certain techniques to get by. I have very good memory, so I have a tendency to memorize landmarks (signs, shops etc.) to retrace my steps to any location. But ask me what direction anything is and I will have no answer.

I have also found that I have a hard time recognizing songs based on melody/music. On the flip side, I have found that I am above average in recognizing faces and names. If any researcher interested in this field is reading this, I would gladly volunteer information to better understand the condition/ how the brain works.


I can't even park a car as I can't tell if it's going left or right. I'm so embarrassed and have stopped driving altogether. Any advise anyone?


Im glad I am not the only one that feels like this. I used to never be able to get myself home. My mom always got mad at me as a kid and a teen for not paying attention in the car. If I didnt have a GPS to tell me where to go all the time I would be hopeless. I remember once when I was 17 I started at a school kinda far from my house and my mom was working and no one could give me a ride. So I decided to start walking home and I was walking for hours and seeing places I passed all the time and not being able to figure out how to get to my house. I never did find my way. My mom was driving around looking for me and I flagged her down at an intersection. It made me feel like such an idiot failure. I have never been able to give someone directions or let someone drive me home. Now I dont feel so bad because im so not the only one.

All the d's

I could do with a remedy or any tips anybody could offer? Recently I had to observed working as part of a placement. I drove with my passenger the observer to get to the destination. I had been there before and it was only a couple of minutes away. I was stressed and took the first turn wrong. My memory of the next 15 minutes is that I drove around 'blind' completely filled with panic, confusion & nausea. It was recorded against me. I am dyslexic and every other d word that I cant pronounce or spell too. I do use a sat nav when I'm on my own but when there are passengers I can't concentrate on the instructions. Good to read all your experiences guys. Maybe I'll be able to find my latest humiliation funny in time? I hope so as ATM it's painful. The observer is responsible for deciding if I pass placement & he made it obvious that he thinks I'm completely stupid. He was openly shocked that any person could be so ridiculous. I have 6 more weeks to go. Cure please . . . ,


I am thrilled to discover that there's thousands like me out there. I always face ridicule from my friends and colleagues. Whereas this is welcome, at times it is quite stressful and frustrating... My question is, what is the remedy?


Wow, there are a lot of us. I just figured that out. I am going to share this with my husband. He has been writing me detailed directions starting with "pull out of the driveway and turn..." forever.

Dan Beane

I am a man, 52, and have had this all my life. My mother says I used to go in closets and be unable to find my way out when I was very young. I must drive somewhere at least 5 times during daylight in a week to have any idea where it is, but still must use gps all the time. I know how to get to church and work from my home. I lost my car in parking lots all the time. Many "friends" have made fun of me for this my whole life. It's great to find a name for it. I saw "The Accidental Tourist" movie, but only remember it had immorality in it. I live in Austin, TX.


I have to say it's amazing to read about this and to find out it's an actual disorder. I always thought it was just a personal trait of mine. Especially when getting lost whilst dropping my friends off at their houses over and over again - much to their amusement!

It would be great if there was any way to have this properly diagnosed, as there are times when this issue can give people a significant disadvantage in life - being late for a job interview for example.

Question for students: If dyslexics get extra time to complete exams, does that mean we should be given extra time in getting to exams?!


Oh my Gosh! I have tried to hide this for years! I thought I was the only person alive who has this. I get made fun of all the time. It gives me anxiety and panic attacks!

jenny diop

Brilliant! I've been laughing like a drain since finding this forum and reading the comments. I have this very problem, inherited from my mother and I feel I'm getting worse. I go the wrong direction when coming out of shops. I can't work out which end of the high street I live on unless I really concentrate hard on the shop signs. I've worked in the same school for four years and still can't find my way around. Remembering routes is a nightmare.Its like my brain reboots overnight and wipes all my data. Interestingly I have a photographic memory and recall the location of any object in my house by building a mental picture. Not so with my external environment. Also I can't touch my index finger with my other hand when my eyes are shut. I have hypermobility syndrome and I have no awareness of my own body in space it seems. I'm sure these things are related. I do laugh alot about it but also panic in certain situations at my complete disorientation.I read Accidental Tourist and loved the characters for this reason. I'm female and an artist. 4 out of the 5 teachers in my art department suffer the same affliction.They're women too. I'd be interested if any of you have hypermobility too or are artists.


This is a great discussion! I am 32 years old, from a small enough area, yet I cannot figure out how to get someplace I've been hundreds of times if I try and drive there myself. I get all panicky. This is not a big city, but I cannot visualize how to get somewhere. I know in my head what the building looks like but have no idea which roads to go down to get there. I will spend 10-15 extra minutes navigating streets (some of them one way streets so I have to be careful), frantically search for my destination. I can also be in the basement of my house I've lived in 7 years now and I don't know which rooms are above me. Whenever I leave the office at a clinic appointment, I stop outside the room and don't know how to get to the waiting area. I have constant dreams of being lost. In fact, I got lost during the first week of school in 7th grade, searching for my math classroom for 15 minutes before having to go to the office, and the secretary had to take me to class. I was 20 minutes late. It was a small school and only had one floor! My dreams, which are recurring, have the common topic of getting lost in school and not being able to find my locker, going on a trip and not being able to find the hotel room, or being lost on a cruise ship and unable to locate my family or our cabin. I wish I knew when someone said "go North", which direction that actually was. I do not "get" this concept and it doesn't come naturally to me. I have an amazing memory otherwise and can memorize things by sight and associate birthdays and dates with peoples' faces, and I'm an awesome speller and consider myself to have an above average reading level/intelligence, but directions = terrible. My mom is the same way but probably a little better at me at navigating.

Ruth Lightner

This is an amazing site and I am so thankful to somehow stumbled into it. I have been challenged all my 72 years with things that these wonderful people have shared. Somehow I have learned to accept that this is a part of who I am and find ways to cope and live with it. At times it has been quite frustrating when I would get asked what"s wrong with me and they would just roll their eyes as I did not have a clue why this was happening - getting lost in a restaurant coming back from the ladies room, lost in an office building, visiting in a hospital, getting off an elevator, getting back to the highway from dropping someone at their home, leaving a hotel room to try to find the elevator or way out, line dancing was a disaster trying to learn, could never follow which way hands and feet were going in exercise class, having to write down how to get back out of a place as I could not process in my mind to reverse directions and a whole bunch of other things that challenged me. Best of all, I was a truck driver both local and over the road for over 40 years and could not even figure out which way to turn coming out of the truck stop. I had a stack of index cards with all kinds of information written on them, neatly filed and organized to I could function in my career. People who knew me and what I went through to cope and survive in life just shook their heads. The biggest challenge was the fact that no one knew how I could be so smart, intelligent and tops in my field when I couldn't find my way out of a paper bag. I decided a long time ago that I was very grateful that I had all my marbles, had my health, blessed with many wonderful friends and family, lived in the good ole USA, loved my chosen profession, as an owner-operator, and at times a company driver and later in management positions in the transportation industry which I totally loved, and was able to teach and mentor the younger ones coming up, What more could I ask of anyone. I figured out some will like me, some won't for whatever reason, so what, NEXT. My Creator gave me so much more that the few challenges I deal with and I live every day with an attitude of gratitude for the fantastic ride I have enjoyed in my life. Thank you all so much for sharing as I now understand that there are quite a few of us out there with the which way do I turn, how to I get back to my seat, and what other kind of exercise or fun things can I do that won't totally confuse me. You are an amazing group of people and I am fortunate to have found all of you. God bless you all and sending you lotsa Angel hugs. Ruth

Lora Whitney

Thanks for this article which I can print out and show to friends who don't understand where I'm coming from. I used to think I had directional dyslexia because my grandmother dropped me on my head when I was a baby. I am glad this isn't the cause of my disability. No one else in my immediate family suffers from this, although my dad had some problems as a child from being a lefty forced to write with his right hand. I even hesitate when forced to make quick right or left changes of direction. I have to think which hand I write with first. Sometimes I stop for green lights and go through red lights, although I am not color-blind. If I manage to get to a new destination O.K. I often have trouble reversing polarity to get home again. Turning the map upside down totally perplexes me. I never know what direction I am facing, but I learned the directions from my home. If there are alternate routes to destinations I visit frequently for shopping, etc. I always take the same route which I navigate my visual markers. I am distressed when forced to take a road detour and I really resent those quasi-official guys in the orange jackets who stand at intersections and tell me I have to abandon my chosen route, then won't give me good directions for getting back on track. I never drive on strange back roads just to see where they lead because I am afraid I will go miles and miles out of my getting lost trying to get home. Sigh. For some reason, I can interpret walking tour maps much easier than driving maps, maybe because then include pictures of landmarks. Another frightening aspect of my disability is that I can drive a route repeatedly over the years, but if some time has elapsed since I last went that way, my mental map is a complete blank slate. If there is a continuum of how severe one's disability is, I think I have a bad case of directional disability. Heaven held the person who asks me for directions on the street! Thanks for the chance to share...


Really amazing to read all of these comments. I am 44 years old and have known I was different from everyone I know when it comes to finding my way. Simple things like leaving a table to go to the ladies room in a large restaurant and then finding my way back to the table can be challenging for me. I use my GPS everyday and worry that it will malfunction when I am far from home. I too did very well in school and am high functioning in all other ares of my life. My husband, friends and colleagues often make fun of me for taking the "long way", little do they know I'm just happy to get there at all! Get this - I work in residential real estate! I often get "turned around" when I am in large houses and really need to do my homework if I am showing houses in an unfamiliar area. It really helps to know I am not alone. I know there are successful treatments for dyslexia. I wonder if there is anything people like us can do to improve our sense of direction?


I've known for a few years now that I'm directionally dyslexic.
People are always amused by my lack of ability to find my way around. It's such a stressful thing to deal with; especially when you need to be somewhere by a certain time. My dreams are forever consumed with feeling lost and not being able to find my way...
I try to explain it to people as: I have a clear vision of where I am and where I want to be,... It's just all the steps in the middle of how to get there are missing...

Kaye McMullin

I have had this most my life but did not know what it was until I read the Accidental Tourist and then looked up your website. I am 68 and been married over 50 years and thank goodness my husband is willing to help me with this and not be upset with me. Right now I may have to report for jury duty tomorrow and I am just petrified as I cannot figure out how to get to the courthouse. I cannot read a map. My husband has offered to drive me there even though he has to work tomorrow if I am called in. I am shaking I am so scared and don't know what to do. I am not stupid. I am retired but have worked as a secretary and office manager etc. with 45 years experience and done fine except for getting lost. My husband has to drive me to my new job several times before I can do it alone. If I have to make two or more turns I am lost. I now have a GPS and that so helps me but I will not get on bypasses and it wants me to so that is bad in town and will not help me tomorrow. I know left from right but not North from South etc. and cannot learn them. It won't happen. Kaye


I know everyone has been saying this but I feel the same comfort just to know that I am not the only one out there who cannot find their way around. I have been teased by my family and friends so much that it has really started to upset me. You can only laugh at yourself so much before you start to wonder if you really are as stupid as everyone thinks. Today I had to choke back tears when my sister laughed at me and made fun of me in front of my friends for not being able to find my way back from buying a water bottle twenty feet away. I have to drive a route between five to ten times before I can memorize it. Even then, if there is a road closed or something I am completely lost. When I was little I would always get lost in restaurants finding my way BACK from the bathroom. Everyone figured that I would just grow out of it... but this happened more and more. I would wander around until a waiter would take pity on me and escort me to my table. If I have to alter my driving route in the slightest way I will get completely lost in areas that are very close to me. The night before my sixteenth birthday I was severely nervous because I knew that I would be driving soon and all of my friends would realize how directionally challenged I was. I didn't drive for a long time mostly because I was anxious about getting lost. It is so great to hear about other people undergoing the same stressors (not that I am happy that people are stressed out a all) because I feel less like a total freak. I wonder if there is any "cure" or way to make this go away. I just don't want to live my entire life like this...I feel like I am hard to put up and am constantly apologizing for myself. My mother thinks that it is sort of endearing, but I fear that with age it will become more and more irritating to people around me.

Ros Nunez

I hate maps and I've always wondered why I couldn't understand directions when people explain them to me. When they start gesturing with their hands on which way I should go, I get even more confused. Then when I heard that my dad is the same as me, I sorta realized that it was probably some kind of condition which he could have passed on to me. My sister think it's funny, and sometimes laugh with her (my own accidental tourist experience are kind of funny) but I do get frustrated. Like when I need to get someplace and I can't find it, even if I've been there several times.

I remember, when I was in the first grade, I told myself that if the hand I write with is my right so the other must be my left. Now I'm already 24 and I'm still doing it. I run my thumb over the callous on my finger (from writing) just to make sure it was my right hand.

It's really comforting to know that it isn't just me; that other people are with me on this. My family has always been very supportive, even before knowing that it's an actual disability. They have always been very careful when giving me directions. Sometimes they give them to me in installments. Like, to get to point C, I have to get to point A first and then they'll text me how to get to point B and so on.


Ha. I used to get lost on the floor I worked on for a big corporation. All those rows of cubicles. I tried to be slick @ first, but people started to catch on. Like....your cube is that way.I could not tell you which way is North. I was 9 or so b4 I really got L and R down. I have to write everything down and really focus. Cause one wrong turn and I lose it in my head. I started to look this up to see if something in me was possibly broken cause I was looking @ a map of a place I wanted to go to literally 2 miles form home and was confused as to why the freeway was where it was on the map. So sad. lol

Sarah Sparks

Oh my word! So good to know that this is real! I have been talking about it lately because I still can't get around chicago by myself because the L is a mystery to me! I have absolutely no sense of direction (in fact, it's usually exactly wrong if I guess) and I have always struggled with left and right (driving test=nightmare).

I don't know if other people have this either but I also blank on people's names that I've known for years for one to two minutes sometimes. The worst was my senior year of high school when a boy I'd known since kindergarten greeted me and I couldn't think of his name. I recognize them, but I cannot think of their name.

I also have a really poor memory. I write my own music and then have to play them over and over again in order to memorize my own written words. I memorize the music fine though (I don't know why that is).

Sue Williams

I am 75. Years ago I read the Armchair Traveler and was overjoyed to put a name to my odd directional problem that family never understood and made fun of. The hardest part of my job was traveling because I got lost so often and then sometimes panicked. I was an accomplished student but in school when I came to drafting and projected forms at different angles, etc. I had to quit the class. My nightmares have always involved being lost in school and late for class or unable to find my locker. One odd thing in my life makes me wonder if it's related to geographic dyslexia: I always have to pause a few seconds and decide which hand or foot to use in sports like soccer and baseball and I cannot follow someone facing me giving dance or sports directions. I am a professional artist and can use either hand to draw, paint or weld equally well but I prefer my left hand for the most part. Obviously there is some kind of brain activity that works differently for all of us with this directional affliction.

lori buchanan

this is a documented and (now) well studied disorder. see http://www.gettinglost.ca/ for all kinds of data, researchers, videos etc. a young researcher from he psycology dept at the university of calgary is leading the charge on the investigation of this. he has a test in which one of the questions is something like : how many times did you get lost in your house this week? I am bad but I ain't THAT bad. It seems that some people are though and a look around this website is fascinating.


Thank you. I have spent the last 46 years being made fun of. I have absolutely no sense of direction what-so-ever. I feel sick for days if my Company send me to an unfamilar destination as I know I will get lost. My husband prints out maps photos etc. for me to follow - which sadly rarely help. I often lose my car in multi-storey car parks, and lose myself in trying to find my way out of a department store. All I hear is blah blah blah if I have to receive verbal instructions. I have had 16 house moves (not sure if this is relevant). I also had great trouble in learning to tell the time as a child (even now I still struggle with the 24 hour clock!) I don't consider myself a stupid person as I hold a managerial position within a large company, however I have often found myself being used as an example by so-called work colleagues, friends and family as the butt of many "getting lost" jokes. I have even joked about it myself, all the time though wondering why I have this inability to follow geographical directions. To my delight, today I discovered your page with the help of my eldest Son who also suffers from the same condition. I am so relieved.

Martain Chandler

During the day: never get lost. Landmarks are easily remembered. The sun gives me clues as to the direction I'm going.

At night: agonizingly disoriented when I drive some place new. Even the moon, which I rationally know should give me clues to which direction I'm going, seems rather ambiguous.

Kaye McMullin

I have had a problem with directions and getting lost all my life and I am 67 years old now. It was not a large problem for me until at age 34 we moved from our hometown to another state and that is when I realized I could not find my way around and could not learn it like people would tell me to do. I can't tell you how many times I have been lost and had to call my husband to come get me. Anytime I needed to get anywhere my husband would draw me a map or take me there the day before to show me what to do. I had no idea this had a name until I read The Accidental Tourist and saw this in there so I then went on line to see if it was a real thing and found out it is and also was relieved to see the author in the book say it is not treatable which I already knew. I can learn to cope with it and I can do things to get through with this and with my husband's help and now having a GPS (boy, is that ever a help) I can make it. I always knew I was not stupid as I have held office jobs for over forty years and always done a good on any job but if I make more than one or two turns I can't for the life of me figure out then how to get where I need to be. I don't tell many people as they give you a look like you are stupid as if they don't have this they do not understand it at all. I did not grow up on a farm and being told where the sun is and such and now it just means nothing to me.


(First of all, sorry for my bad english)
Now I feel relieved... I'm 23, and all my life I've made excuses to hide I have no idea which way turn to go home. I have no problems with maps, maths, or tell wich way is left or right. But I can go 30 times to the same place with friends, and not be able to go alone. So I thought it was a big lack of attention. If I walk a new street, I can walk 2 streets away and be unable to tell how to return to the shop/car/ whatever. In my first day in highschool, at 13, I got lost even when I had been there before with my parents, and my mother gave me directions. I saw a classmate facing the opposite direction and I didn't follow him because I was embarrased to confess I didn't know where I was going. I almost cried and I felt so relieved when I asked a girl and she was going there too, and walked me there...

It's so embarrasing, people ask me why I don't get my driving license, and I just tell them I don't need it, because if I admit I think I would get lost, they just say I'll be used to it easily, but I know it's not true. I'm terrified thinking about driving with a friend and get lost a few streets from a common place.
There was once, when a friend insisted a lot about driving me home (to my summer residence), and I refused it to the point he thought I was scared of going alone with him or something, when the truth is I was afraid he could drive along streets I don't know, and be unable to tell him which way to go (so I took the bus).

Now I don't feel alone anymore.


I have recently met a friend who has this condition, something I haven't seen before and I was puzzled how she would be even lost when getting outside of her hotel room.

While I am fairly good at finding my way, even in a new city I have not visited before, there is something else that puzzles me and I am truly bad at. I have a very hard time actually giving directions. Ask me how to get in my house and I can't answer. Stop me in the street to ask me how to reach a certain place and I will get very anxious and not being able to give an answer unless it's something very obvious. I can't even understand how some people when asked about direction, reply so fast with such detail. It's like the have a GPS in their brain. While I could also find my way, I have to walk it instead of imagining it. I can't imagine the way before hand, I have to see the landmarks to decide where to go next.

I am wondering how many people have this problem with giving directions.


It is comforting to find a website with others who share my problem. I have read articles over the past few years about directional dyslexia. It is miserable, affects all aspects of our lives. I cannot go too many places by myself, but will drive anywhere if someone is in the car & can direct me. It affected my choice of career, jobs and just about everything I do. Thank G-d my daughters do not suffer from this & my husband has an excellent sense of direction. My parents also had a good sense of direction. I am the only one in my immediate family with this issue, but do have one first cousin who says she has problems with directions also. Living in NJ which has lots of confusing highways does not help - I try to stay on side streets, even if it takes longer, since it is easier to turn around & try again. Our parkway and turnpike terrify me, since there are few turnarounds. I will drive highways that may seem more dangerous (like rte 22 in NJ) since there are many places to turn around & correct my route. Hoping one day for cars with built in systems that can be programmed to drive themselves - I probably won't live long enough to see them (I'm 52) - but a blessing for future people with this issue!

John (Portugal)

I've noticed that the overwhelming majority of the posts here are from women which makes me think that this condition is not very common in men. I dont think it has to do with men being afraid to admit since you can post anonymously..
I'm a 25 year old man and i dont want to sound too dramatic but i feel this 'condition' has ruined relationships and careers i might've had. I relate to a lot of what has been said here. I only started noticing i had a problem after i got my driver's license and at first i thought i was just not paying enough atention but i've come to the conclusion that it was something i couldnt control.
I feel like the humiliation in my case is heightened by the fact that i'm a man. Not knowing which way to go, or worst, not knowing how to get to a place i was just 5 minutes ago when u're driving with friends in your car is incredibly emasculating. When i go to dinner parties i get incredibly anxious because there's a good chance someone will need a ride.. The worst question someone can ask me after inviting me to something is "Are you driving there?" because i know that means i'm going to be asked if i can give person X a ride and i dont have a reason to say no, so a lot of the times i just find an excuse and just dont go. It annoys me how easy and intuitive it is for everyone else.
I'm sorry for any misspellings. English is not my native language. Any news on the message board for the... directional impaired?


How wonderful to read these posts! I'm laughing because some of the examples of directional dyslexia are so ridiculous sounding -- but they're true! I have experienced most of these examples myself! How about when you use a public restroom in a mall? You have to walk down these long corridors, make a few turns....of course it's a nightmare trying to find your way back out! I always turn the wrong way leaving the bathroom. And how about parking lots? Horrible. They're so big and generic, impossible to find your car unless you are very diligent with remembering a lamppost or something. I too, cannot reverse directions to find my way home, and must write each reversed direction on paper. Even at that, I can only hold one or two directions in my head at one point, and must constantly refer back to the page while driving. I've passed it along to one daughter, unfortunately, and she seems to have it even worse than I. She's 15 yrs old, and says she will never learn to drive because she will never know how to get anywhere.
Thanks for making me smile (with relief that I'm not alone).


I thought I made up this phrase (directional dyslexia) for myself. You tell me left or right, and my brain just goes hey-wire, and because I cant figure it out, I just choose a direction. I get yelled at soooo many times while driving. "I SAID RIGHT, WHY'D YOU GO LEFT?"
"I'm sorry, I'll just turn around" I'll usually say.

Forget trying to tell me go north/south/etc on so-and-so street.

I feel so stupid, but I really don't think I can help it. I tell people that it has to do with me being left-handed so my brain works differently. Is anyone else wo experience this left-handed?

All I have to say is - THANK GOD FOR GPS! And I'm glad I'm not the only one with this problem.


This is wonderful!!!! I realized that I am wrong 90 to 95% of the time when I have to decide to go right or left, even in my work building I say I have to go "up" when it is down and viceversa. When I realized that it was a three dimensional problem I started joking that I have "directional dislexia" which lead to searching the net, which lead to this wonderful blog!!!

I hate it when people think I am an idiot when I am behind the wheel.....My father used to have the same problem. I believe I am worse than him.

So.... cool for this!!!

Brenda Wederquist

I just found this site by accident. I had coined the phrase, "Directional Dyslexia" for my condition, thinking that I was the only person in the world with this problem. It makes me feel a little better knowing I am not the only one out there that can't find my way back to the table at the restaurant without leaving a bread crumb trail. I have it really, really bad. It is so difficult to explain to people why I never go to the city to shop and am content to stay in my small town where I can find my way around a lot easier. If I get lost, I can just drive around awhile until I finally recognize where I'm at and nobody is the wiser. In the city, my heart is in my throat and I am terrified. I am fine if I have a navigator telling me every turn to take but even a GPS is not enough help for me when driving in a city of more than 15,000. I have had this problem my entire life and can even remember my first episode. I was walked to school on my first day of kindergarten by my parents and the school was only 3 blocks from home. In the "old days", one walked to school and home, parents didn't pick you up and bring you home. When it was time to go home, I walked to the corner of the school and just stood there, crying. I had no idea how to get back home, which was just three blocks away. Luckily, a neighbor saw me and knew who I was and took my hand and led me home. My parents had to walk me to and from school for over a week until I learned to walk the three blocks by myself. I also have a problem with "up" and "down" when trying swim under water or when jumping on a trampoline. Obviously, my athletic skills are nil.


I read every comment with interest and gratitude. Like some of the other commenters, I feel such a flood of relief that there are more people like me out there. It took me until about age 35 to realize that it was something over which I had no control, and to stop "trying harder," which just made me feel frustrated that such a smart person could not master this simple thing that even children could do without a second thought.

I got fired from one of my first jobs out of high school for not being able to give people phone directions to the business. The owner made it clear that he thought I was being willful and disrespectful by not "learning" how to do this. Obviously, I didn't have the slightest idea how this "learning" would be accomplished.

When I take my evening exercise walk I have to take the same route in my own neighborhood. The same route every night for six years. The rare times I try to improvise I get lost and then fall into a instant wild panic. These panics also descend upon me when I get lost while driving, which is obviously much more dangerous.

My own father still thinks I'm playing dumb when I can't find my way somewhere in my hometown.

I have good friends who live across town and I just can't go visit them. I can't go somewhere in my city that doesn't have a parking lot, since even if I'm successful in finding my destination, looking for parking means that I'm one turn away from being frantically adrift in the universe.

Thank you for blogging about this. I would love to have the cause pinpointed once and for all so that I could finally be understood by the rest of the carefree, directionally confident population.

(Finally getting a GPS system for my dump of a car and I know that will be a big help.)

Empty Suit

I have directional dyslexia. It's not the same as directional confusion. I'm not confused, I know exactly which way to turn. It appears crystal clear in my mind. It's just exactly backward from the real world. My solution is twofold: laugh out loud whenever it happens, and marry (and trust) someone with a good sense of direction.


Thanks for this. I started research because I was convinced that this is something more than just distraction, as some may think. Because I learned how to read and write at a very young age and excelled in school, I was never diagnosed with anything, but this problem always affected me, and it is comforting to know that there's many of us on the same boat.

Janet Blanquies

My sister was actually diagnosed with dyslexia in 1961 so that must have been a pretty progressive school district. I was labeled the "smart" and "normal" one. Looking back, I was just able to compensate better than my sister was. I have spent my life being chronically lost, chronically frustrated and "stupid" feeling because I struggled with math and chemistry even though I am a very intelligent person. This kind of dyslexia has eroded my self-estem, my ability to keep a job, and my interpersonal relationships. It is a serious problem. I have a lot of empathy for the many people who deal with this in their lives. Everything we do takes ten times the effort and perserverence of a non-dyslexic person to accomplish. Kudos to us!


I am so glad this has a name! I am 30 and a PhD student and all my life people have made fun of me because I am chronically lost! I've tried to explain that I just have no sense of place whatsoever, but how do you describe that to someone who's never experienced it? All the rest of my family have a great sense of direction and my mother has an innate sense of where she is, what direction she's facing, and how to get from A to B whether she's two minutes from home or in a completely new city halfway around the world - needless to say, she's completely bemused by the fact that I can get lost in the city in which I've lived my entire life... When I need to get from one place to another, even if it's somewhere I've been a hundred times before, I can envisage points along the route but never the whole route and I can never make the points join up in my head. I don't know anyone else like this, and it's so great to know that I'm not alone! I'm going to start explaining that I have dysgeographica from now on and see if people still think it's okay to laugh.... :o)

Heidi De La Rocha

For as long as I can remember I was labled dyslexic. I had a very hard time with spelling and comprehension, and math, but the hardest is my profound inability to get to new places, many times I have to depend on my husband to take me, which is very frustrating, but the hardest part is remembering how I got there. I never bother with maps, they make no sence to me. I am so glad I saw this sight, it puts more understanding into what I have. I have never hurd of directional dyslexia, but I know this is what I have. I always remember getting lost. One time when I was eleven I wanted to go to a store to buy some pensils. I got so lost I was walking around for two hours. I finaly called my grandmother and she picked me up. I took too many turns and could not find my may back. I was a competative gymnast in colledge, and because I was the smallest I had to lead my team out to the floor. This always caused me so much anxiety. One time I marched are team out in the opposite dirction, some of my teammates were so mad.
I have to say I have learned to overcome many of my learning disabilitys with hard work, but it is always painful. I have children and so many times I can not take them places since I know I would get lost. I am so glad to know there are others that know how it feels. Sometimes you feel so different then others. Thanks Heidi De La Rocha

Mary Anne

I too have struggle with this for most of my life. I jokingly began to call my self directionally dyslexic a few years ago. I knew I how confused I get with directions and I firgured it had to be very similar to those who have reading dyslexia when they try to read the written word. I was amazed when I googled D.D. and so many sites came up!
Could someone tell me which issue of the
Reader's Digest had the article on
Directional Dyslexia?

Amy Wilburn

A lady from my church just told me she has "directional dyslexia." I'd never met anyone before who said she felt as I do. (So I goggled the term and found this page.)

I tell people that for my whole life I've functioned as if someone has just spun me around in the game "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" and let me go. I have no idea which direction to take, and could never tell you which direction is north, south, east or west.

My oldest son has had trouble telling his left from his right all his life, and we've joked it's my fault (although I don't suffer with this particular symptom and he doesn't suffer from mine).

I saw a post earlier in which someone said they always thought their friend with directional problems was a bit stupid. My son and I are in Mensa so I think it's fair to say the disorder has nothing to do with intelligence.

It is a little frustrating to live with it... but not too much since I don't remember ever being any other way. And sure enough, friends and family members do find it amusing. I think it's very interesting how one's brain can work perfectly fine in some things, but be a complete mess in other areas.

Thanks for the info. I'll have to tell my son about your site, and we should check out "The Accidental Tourist."

Amy :)


I remember being a small child and getting lost constantly. Terrifyingly lost, a lot of the time. I'm used to it now, and it doesn't bother me often. Except if you end up in a bad neighborhood after dark. My sweetie is also directionally dyslexic. If there's a right turn/ left turn decision -which should be 50-50, ninety-five percent of the time, we go the wrong way! Even after visiting someone's house ten times, we can't find it. I have had a car crash because of my "directional dyslexia." One interesting fact about me, I can remember the name of almost everyone I meet, without trying, and I see at least 10 new faces a day. I know at least two thousand people by name and they are practically strangers! Great job skill since I'm in hospitality. But, I can't remember numbers, and even forgot the date of my own birthday once. Totally unrelated? We'll never know until someone does a study. Thankfully, my six year old son does not have this trait. At two years of age, if we said we were going to the park and turned off the regular three mile route for some reason he would strongly convey his displeasure. He knew the way better than the adults! wish someone would do the study.

Susan McDonald

It is truly a relief to have read these emails. Thank you for sharing your personal info about our weird problem!!

I feel like you do: people think we are dumb (we are not) and insist we aren't paying attention. I swear, after I "learn" how to get somewhere, the next time I try to go there, I am in a kind of FOG, trying to remember how I even started to go there!

I thought for 50 years that I was perhaps the only person in the world that had what I call (like others) directional dyslexia.

Then my sister told me that she gets lost a lot when driving, and that her son "is always driving around lost." And, I think my grandma had the problem.

So, I think it probably is inherited. I would like to know if my brain is functioning differently from people who don't get lost easily.

Thanks again to all my fellow sufferers who wrote.

Kathleen Poetzsch

Wow, I have had this same thing my whole life, and I also call it directional dyslexia, because that's what it seems to be. This is NOT just a bad sense of direction, it is the inability to find your way anywhere unfamiliar, without doing extreme research on the internet and mapping it all out ahead of time! I am better if there is someone unafflicted in the car with me to give me confidence and read maps for me. (I also cannot fathom maps, they are just a colorful jumble of lines and numbers to me.) It is really humiliating, especially in my own town, to have to plan out how to get places. I literally have to have traveled somewhere 25 times before I start to feel comfortable going here. Why has no one investigated this problem? It is obviously not uncommon, look at all the folks who have posted about it in the past few years! Maybe there is a problem with our brain chemicals or something!

Paul W

I have to print out internet directions to go to the store. Once I know it, Im fine, but if there's a some type of detour or blockage, I wont be able to get there. And often, internet directions are wrong, and I have to go home and start over.


WOW! I didn't realize there were so many people out there suffering from this same "being late 'cause I got lost" situation. I started calling what I have directional dylexia after I began working as a teacher with kids who couldn't get those pesky numbers and letters straight. This has helped me become much more patient and willing to help students try to find ways to cope. I suppose we dysgeograpics could have support meetings but too many of us would be driving around trying to figure out where we were actually supposed to be. I'm wondering if others have this thing that I have where it looks like you are going one way and feels like you are going another... a sort of 'flip' version of direction. Or is this what everyone has? I remember playing the 'flip' game in class as a kid, to keep from being bored. Of course, when I got bored with my little game, and focused back on class, I would realize I missed instructions, would have to ask for help, and would end up staying after school for talking... I too am an intelligent woman but feel sooooo stupid when I get lost. I would love to learn to sail but am afraid I will find myself in the middle of the ocean surrounded by hungry sharks...

What an interesting site. Thanks

Karen Wylie

I have been suffering from a directional disability for 54 years. I need to write large directions on a paper and keep it beside me anytime I go anywhere. I can go to the same place up to 5 times before I can remember how to get there. If it has been a few months since I went there, I need to get the directions again. I do not know where north, south, east or west is but do know my right from my left. I cannot understand a mirror image.I need to look back if I back up the car and have bumped into things a few times. I cannot follow dance classes, Tai Chi, Yoga, or any class where the instructor faces me and I have to do a mirror image of what they are doing. If anyone knows of some help for this please let me know. Karen


my husband says that not only can i not find my way OUT of a wet paper bag, i cannot find my way INTO a wet paper bag! i have had directional problems all my life, i coined the phrase "directionally challenged". my friend also has this problem, and when we try to travel together it is trouble! it's comforting to know others can identify with me.


I have it too! I did read an article years ago that said such a thing existed but I did not know it had a name. It came from my father's side as I have been told amusing stories about problems with marching in formation and square dancing.

In my case, ballet lessons were horribly frustrating because I was always behind the music as I tried to figure out which foot was which.

I love my GPS.


I also always get lost. At school, I had great difficulties learning topography. I just couldn't remember which place was where. Does anyone else recognize this?


i feel so much better knowing its not just me :) i had to drive to missouri when we evacuated for ike. its a 500 mile drive and it took me 700 miles. i dont even know where i went wrong or how i fixed it. we got there in one piece and thats all that really matters.

Deborah Herrick

It was just this summer that I learned there is a name for this debilitating condition. When I tell people I can get lost in an elevator, they laugh and think I'm crazy - and sometimes I've thought maybe it's true. Not so. When I was young, I had a very hard time learning to tell time until my grandmother got me a toy that I played with over and over until I learned. It was some kind of balance scale with numbers to hang on either side; they had to match up (balance) with a printed picture. I wish the toy still existed. Sometimes, in trying to simplify things, the school system actually makes them more complicated. Anyway, I also remember in Kindergarten reversing my letters on a card to my mother; I was so frustrated because no matter how often I erased it, I kept printing it the same way. I believe I was headed toward true dyslexia, but made such a tremendous effort that I was able to graduate from high school with honors. My directional problem really became an issue when I started to drive at age 28 (I'm now 57), but I have no idea how to explain my confusion to someone who doesn't understand. It's very hurtful to be made fun of for something I have no control over. My husband is a great help and knows this is serious - he's a psychologist. Fortunately, I've lived in a small community for 20 years and have done well because of repetition, though I still need help on occasion. If I need to drive 60 miles to a doctor (I don't go alone to shop), my husband will take me there the weekend prior to my appointment, giving me landmarks to find my own way. Then he will also show me landmarks how to get back. Sometimes the route is so complicated that he will take the day off and go with me, and usually it's because the building is more confusing than the drive over. After driving to this city hundreds of times in the past 20 years, and knowing the streets are all north and south, when I'm behind the wheel it's like a new city and north south mean nothing to me. Once, following a workshop I attended alone, even though my husband had shown me both ways, I ended up in a nearby state. That was before cell phones and I really struggled to find my way home. It was terrifying. Now, I'm wondering if my granddaughter inherited her dyslexia from me, and that breaks my heart. We had a very difficult time convincing the school that she was not "slow" and finally, on our own, had her tested by the Scottish Rite. She's a very bright young lady with a high IQ who happens to have a disability. Now, as a sophomore, she's told me she's finally "getting" some things she's struggled with for years in school. I'm really thankful to have found this site and read about others like myself. It broght tears to my eyes to know I'm not alone. My husband and I worry, sometimes, about what will happen if he dies before me. He's afraid I'll become a recluse because I won't want to drive outside of our own community. He's problably right. I'll be reading "The Accidental Tourist" just as soon as I can find it.

Vivian Hussein de St Vrain

Posted by Beth:
My stepsister won't drive at all because of it.We never had a name for it back then.Her husband tried to help her get used to driving but it was the usual comments,"your'e not paying attention,your stupid,etc..."The bus service where they were living wasn't that good so she couldn't get a job.Her husbands income wasn't enough to support the family of 5.Her husband got frustrated and commited robbery and went to jail.They went on welfare for 10 years until he got out.She just paniked behind the wheel of a car.She got called stupid and lazy for years.Her husband is working again,her kids are now driving so she got a job with them driving her.I'm sure that's not the only family whose lives were messed up.Before I had a car I would get lost walking places.I thought it was because I was in a coma when I was a child and something got damaged.My mother has it,but covered it up.She didn't get her license until she was 30.My kids are a big help.I always said the streets all look alike,I never had a name for it.I drive to work,which is only a couple of miles down the street.I only have to make 1 turn.My old job I only had to make 2 turns.When you were little did you wonder if something was wrong?How did you find out this has a name?


I'm reading this in a fit of desperation--almost in tears as I just missed an important job interview as a result of this condition. It is so frustrating and embarrassing. I suspected that it was some sort of real learning disability, but this is the first time I've seen it discussed. I am very capable and intelligent on other fronts, and can memorize patterns easily--just not when driving. I wish somebody would do a little research on this condition. Nice to know I'm not alone though.


Alice, I had trouble learning to tell time. I didn't "get it" until I was 11 years old. I still have to concentrate when I look at a clockface.
Like others, I get totally turned around in malls. I memorize what I walked past when I came in, hoping to be able to find it to exit.
I had an argument with a teenager a couple of nights ago. She said her mother should be embarrassed because she can't find her way. I told her about this website and she had a hard time believing me. I told her to Google it. Dysgeographics, unite!


When I was a little girl,my mother hardly took us anywhere unless my stepfather was with us.I used to get lost just walking to school,I figured it was because I was young.When my stepfather died unexpectadley my mother never went anywhere-we thoght it was depression.I grew up and still kept getting lost and turned around because to me everything looks alike and is blurred together.Naturally I get called dummy.After years of hiding my mother admitted she can't find anything.I told my kids so they wouldn't think I didn't want to take them places.Now my kids are older and tell me where to go.My husband thinks it's because I'm nervous.Ive tried to explain it.Now I can show him this websight.

Linda B.

When I decided to become a realtor 20 years ago, my friends and family all thought I had lost my mind. "You can't find your way out of a paper sack" was one of the many derisive comments they made. I told them I was going to consider my ability to get lost going around the block as a handicap, and overcome it. Until yesterday, I had never heard of a name being put on this condition. I can go to the same place 50 times, and 50 times I will have to use a map or Map Quest or now my blessed Garmin (I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I got it). One blogger wondered if there were other traits that went with this condition. Mine is having a real problem raising my right hand and left leg - or vice versa. When I started jazzercize about 30 years ago, it took me 6 months to be able to keep all my limbs going in the right direction. I think this condition is connected to the directional dylexia. And, like all the other bloggers, I'm happy to know this is a real live condition and not just me.


I'm glad to see that I'm not alone. I cannot remember which way to get out of a store in a mall unless I've made the effort to memorize items on display along the way ('clothes breadcrumbs' so to speak). No connection to other cognitive abilities (got my doctorate in chemistry). I have to put a line in the middle of the letter z to see it differently from s. Casual friends think it a quaint homage to old-style writing.


Add another person to our list. I'm 18 and a freshman at an Ivy League school--but all my life, I've been completely unable to "instinctively" tell left from right or cardinal directions. My friends found it amusing, attributed it to my "lack of common sense", though at times it would really get embarassing. After I started driving I got a little better with just "knowing" where to go within my own area, but receiving directions never went well and I'm now just as lost on my college campus. Asking for landmarks as directions (turn at the Burger King, etc.) generally works, though. It was just really nice to realize this wasn't just me!


Wow, it's so nice to find this article. I always thought that I must be stupid because in order to figure out left and right I have to stick my hands in front of me & figure out which one I write with (I'm completely lost when it comes to North-South-East-West >.<). Whenever people ask me for directions I have to figure it out all over again. It's nice to know I'm not the only one with this problem...
Thank you so much!


Thank you. I regularly find myself subject to ridicule because I cannot tell east from west and have difficulty with left and right on the fly. If I can take a second to concentrate I can get left and right but that took embarrasingly long (I was almost 20 years old before I stopped having to think 'I write with my left hand...if I were to pick up a pencil which hand would I hold it in.' It's nice to know I am not the only one.

Funny thing is according to my mother I have no other signs of dyslexia and I was COMPLETELY ambedexterous until I got into school (I taught myself to read and write before I started going to school). Needless to say this combined with the fact that I had so much difficulty with left and right frequently got me harrassed, especially in ROTC where I was expected to move on a moments notice, there I learned to watch the shoulders of the soldier ahead of me invariably they moved shoulders first by just a fraction of a second, I could then use that to react.


I'm so glad I have finally found a name for this! My family/friends always make fun of me because I never know where anything is or how to get anywhere. They'll tell me a street name that is a few streets away from my neighborhood and I'll never know which one they're talking about. I can only get to places that are within a .5 or 1 mile radius of where I live or else I'll get completely lost even if I have gone that way numerous times. I just got my license a few months ago and it's like worthless because I don't know how to get anywhere and if people try to give me directions I get even more confused. I'm pretty intelligent so this has never made sense to me. I even try to memorize street names but I still get confused because it all looks the same to me. At my school [I'm in high school] I still forget which stairwell leads to which side of the building even though I have been there for 2.5 years. I also still dont know my left from my right (I have to put my hands out and see which one makes an 'L' haha) and can't even begin to figure out which way is north/south/east/west. I have to like visually turn myself around [if that makes sense] and i just get so confused! Anyway..just glad to put a name to my 'symptoms'. :]


I sort of get N,S,W & E. Several places I've lived had a mountain or mountain range that gave me a landmark which really helped. I was hopeless when I lived in the midwest where it was totally flat. I always joked that if I ever left my husband and ran back to my parents on the west coast I'd probably end up in Canada because I could never figure out which way was west in that town.

When someone starts giving me directions it's almost like I don't even hear what they are saying... blah,right, blah,blah,left,blah straight, blah, blah blah. I always write everything down.

My mom threatened to write the words left and right on the back of my hands before I had to take the test for my driver's license.

judith a steinmetz

I've been trying to find an Ann Lander's column from many years ago, because she identified this problem, and I couldn't remember . I have had this affliction all of my life, and always felt stupid and dumb. I'm 67 years old and don't drive a car. I can never learn where to turn into a driveway off of the highway. I think my father had the same thing,but it never occurred to me until a few months ago. Ann Landers also said it was inherited. I also read Accidental Tourist and loved the book because I could identify with the characters. And yes, I'm glad I'm not alone.


I have such horrible directional sense! I'm almost 17 and afraid to start driving, partly because I know that I'll have to start learning the roads and finding my way and this seems impossible. I can't navigate someone to my house from two streets away.

I'm so happy to have found this. I'm pretty sure I have dysgeographica, although no one else in my family does. It's so nice to think that never being able to find my way isn't my fault.

ellen jacobson

I have been laughed at and teased for 65 years about what I call navigational dyslexia. People think I'm stupid(far from it) or am not paying attention because I get "turned around". There are certain places in Denver where I know I will always turn the wrong way when leaving a building. I am smart enough to have memorized most of the street names, write directions down, and get ANYWHERE I need to with a map. Had lots of trouble as a child learning right and left and I to read a map, I must always have the top of the map pointing to the north even if it's upsidedown.


I guess I will join the many expressing relief to find so many others and to have a name for this. I also am curious whether people with the direction problem also found themselves having problems learning to tell time as children. I also wish someone could help my friends and family understand that it is not because I am not "trying hard enough."


I'm 85 years old and have finally discovered there's a name for the fact I'm always lost. When I enter a building from the right I automatically exit the same way. Same for driving unless I concentrate on a clue (building,etc.) - even if I know the route. When driving to an unknown location, I print (large) the route from a map. On the other side I reverse the directions. I keep it on the seat beside me. This helps. My grown children still talk about some of our adventures when living in DC area. Part of my history.


When I read the term "directional dyslexia," I thought that was what I had, until I started reading everyone's descriptions. I have no problem with directions or maps, and I don't usually get lost, but I cannot verbally tell someone or be told by someone to go right or left without invariably turning toward or saying the opposite direction. To a much smaller degree, it also happens when writing directions, but I don't think it happens as much because I have more time to think about it. I didn't realize I had this until I was in college. My friends and I have learned to point when giving directions, because I have no problem with that. I also have figured out that I have the same problem with east and west and other similar (and sometimes dissimilar, except in my head) pairs of words. I realize I had the same problem when I was a kid with a pair of new step-cousin's names -- two boys, close in age, one blond, one dark hair -- I could never remember which boy went with which name. I have also had similar "reversing" experiences with clock faces -- I was late to pick up my brother once because I thought it was quarter to instead of quarter after. But primarily it is a right-left problem for me.

K. Gordon

Wow, what a relief to put a name to something I've dealt with for the last 60 years! But does anyone else have trouble distinguishing left from right? I do - big time! I finally found a solution after I got married. I only wear one piece of jewelry, my wedding ring, and so if I'm supposed to turn left or right, I have to run my thumb over my ring and that is the only way I can tell which way I'm supposed to be going. I also have an almost complete lack of long term memory! My husband can remember his 2nd grade teacher, his classmates, etc., I'm lucky if I remember what happened yesterday! Ah well, at least I'm not alone! I'll be checking back here on a regular basis.

R. Laughman

My one sister says I am the only person she knows with a map of her own small home town in the glove box! I've sometimes driven around in circles 'cause there isn't just one way from one place to another, and I think I'm going the wrong way and change my mind and go another.

I worked in the same building for over 15 years and if asked, could not tell in which direction the road ran outside the building without several minutes of thought.

Years ago I subbed in the library of a high school that was nicely organized into hallways around 2 square courtyards. Easy to navigate you'd think, however TWICE in one day I had to ask for directions back to the library. And as fate would have it the same tall young man was my rescuer in both cases. How embarrassing!

It's nice to know I'm not alone with this "disablility!"


I read the same Reader's Digest article mentioned by annamanila above. It was such a comfort knowing I wasn't the only one dealing with this! I'm 51 years old and the first time I remember really getting lost was when I was 12 and on vacation in Maryland. (I live in Oklahoma.) My cousins and I were riding bikes and I got separated from them. I went into such a panic that I hyperventilated. I don't know how long I was lost but it was an awful feeling I have repeated many times since. My ability to get lost is legendary in my family. My daughter has a touch of this stuff, but not nearly to my degree. I don't know of anyone else in the family who has it. My husband and son are navigation whizzes. That's a good thing or I'd never get to go on vacation! Thankfully, I CAN remember my way around the school where I teach. I use many of the same coping skills others have mentioned. I avoid driving on expressways because I can't figure out where to turn at slow speeds so high speed decisions are out of the question.
I do know a couple of men with this disability, but most of the other perpetually lost folks I know are women.

vVivian Hussein de St. Vrain

Although we agree among ourselves that "directional dyslexia" is a useful term, the perception among the non-afflicted is that we are not disabled or afflicted, just stupid. I'm yet to see that "directional dyslexia" or "dysgeographica" has had an impact on society. But the comments here testify that there are many of us. Interesting to me that most if not all of the commenters here are female. Is the gene sex-linked? Or are men unwilling to 'fess up?

Sue Branham

Hi! I've known all my life that I had directional disability as far as knowing which direction I'm facing, finding my way out of a building, or driving a car. Otherwise, I have no other learning disabilities and in fact, have made excellent grades in school. It's really odd because my dad always said you could put him in a potato sack and drop him anywhere in SE Oklahoma and he could find his way home...and that's a very undeveloped area. He couldn't understand why our mother and my sister and myself had problems getting lost. I know it's genetic and we didn't get his genes in this respect. My son is also the same way but my daughter isn't. One of the most frustrating things I have done is to go down a familiar through street and think I'm going the wrong way, turn around just before I see my destination and then realize after a couple miles that I was going the right way after all. I don't do this in my own neighborhood, but in the larger Oklahoma City area that I don't travel every day but know well. I have been late a few times from this happening. I have to try to allow extra time. I'm glad to know the official name of this disorder. I think at least a third of the population are afflicted but probably won't admit it.

Sue Branham
age 65


I have this problem. I always have. I decided to name it and call it "directional dyslexia" a few years ago. It's been difficult for me, especially since I became a photojournalist and had to follow directions throughout the day and get places faster than others. I have learned some ways to cope, but for many years it was extremely frustrating. No one in my family has it besides me. Lucky them!
Sometimes it makes me feel sick to my stomache and dizzy because I cannot figure out how to get back to where I was. I have to force myself to remember certain visual landmarks and/or write everything down.
When I'm not concentrating I find myself looking in exactly 180 degrees different spot than the actual spot where something is located. For instance, I'll take a guess that something is to the right, but invariably it's to my left. Or, I'll look to find a knife in the exact opposite location it's kept in in the kitchen. This 100% reversal of direction in my mind led me to call the problem directional dyslexia.
Does anyone else ever find they get dizzy and even sick to their stomach when experiencing the confusion that goes with this?
I have, as I said, learned ways of coping and forgive myself easily now for my disability. I'm good at photography and dance and geometry, but I cannot tell north from south unless I'm picturing where the ocean is relative to where I am at. There's nothing about knowing directions that comes intrinsically for me.
Thank you so much for describing what I had for all the world to see. We're not dumb, we're challenged to perceive differently.


GPS navigator systems are very helpful, but sometimes they're a bit off. Always a good idea to check the directions with someone at your destination to make sure they are accurate. When they're off, I get even more confused because trying to find my way while hearing the voice of the navigation system really throws me off. I've named mine Chris (after St. Christoper). Yeah, I know he's no longer a saint, but I like the idea.

Anyone know of any way to put your own directions into the navigation system? I find the voice prompts incredibly helpful, but sometimes I get better directions from someone who really knows the area.

My cousin & I both have such a hard time, we joke we're lucky to live/work on islands (Long Island/Staten Island & Manhattan) because we'll eventually hit water instead of ending up in say the Rockies! :)

I've been at my current job for nearly 2 years & I'm just now starting to get the hang of all of the floors we're located on. But we're moving, which means it'll take me another 2 years to get used to it.


My friend and I both have this condition. It's embarrassing and frustrating, but there is an upside; we often take a wrong road and discover new and wonderful places completely by accident!

It's weird how giving something a name makes it seem more legitimate. Now I can tell people I have "dysgeographica" and they'll be sympathetic and concerned instead of treating me like an idiot!

Ann T. Dewey

Thanks so much for your article. I am not ashamed of my affliction, and I would be delighted to unite with "my kind." It is very hard to explain to folks, "how I get lost," "why I arrive late from a mile away," etc., etc., etc. I am from a family of perfectionists. Today I arrived 15 minutes late for my daughter's birthday celebration. East Memphis, TN has many "wandering streets." There are many streets that start out north and end up east, and so on. They twist and turn and end up nowhere. I have recently moved to East Memphis into a "high rise apartment in the sky." It accommodates to my age. I left Midtown Memphis with its straight and familiar streets. They tell me I am close to everything, but I can't find anything. If it weren't for my husband, who likes to eat out and go out in general, I would stay at home and order everything. (He has Macular Degeneration and can't drive anymore.) A trip to the beach is a tour through Mississippi and Alabama. We were accidental tourists once in Harrisburg, Mississippi, completely lost. We wandered into a Baptist Church, where they invited us for a wonderful potluck lunch. We had a great time, and I sent them a nice donation along with a card this Christmas.


Actually quite a lot of those visitors are me. I accidentally deleted my bookmark for your blog, so when I want to read it (several times a week I'm embarrassed to admit) I google 'scrolling metablog' and this page comes up top of the list. So I visit here as a stepping stone to the homepage. Just off there now. Merry Christmas (if you don't object to the C-word).

Vivian de St. Vrain

Dear friends: this essaylet on being lost is visited 2 or 3 times a day, sometimes more. Only one of a hundred visitors leaves a comment. Are the others ashamed to admit their problem? I think that we need a support group -- it's hopeless to complain to people who don't share our affliction. If you fellow-sufferers leave me your real address, or write to me at [email protected], I'll try to form a group. Dysgeographics of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your way. Vivian


wow! Yeah... it's a completely embarrassing condition! My mom told me that other people had it but I didn't believe her... I'm embarrassed even in front of my own family and now I have a job where I have to drive teenagers places sometimes and it's a good thing they know where they're going! Uhg... do you know where I might find more information on this (I'm 34 and I've been like this my entire life... I know I'm not stupid, I have 135 IQ and manage to effectively pull off every other life task so why can't I find my car in a parking lot or my way back out of a camping spot at the lake? :(


Thank you, thank you for the diagnosis! My mother and I both suffer from this. Lately I've been thinking about getting a GPS navigational device even though I've lived in the same city for 27 years because I still get lost sometimes. Now I think it's a necessity for me to get one, and not a luxury item.

Thanks so much for blogging about this!


darylle racimo

I'm 27 years old and until now I'm still afraid to drive because am afraid to get lost. My husband gets mad at me when teaching me to drive because I always forget where to go.In addition to that,I also get nervous and become confuse of the steering wheel,the pedals and buttons to push while driving because I'm too involve with which way I should go.My husband still drives me to work.Hopefully I can able to learn to drive with confidence this summer.Thank God for navigators.I'm also happy to read this column that I'm not alone,I can show my husband this so that he'll understand.By the way I read 'The accidental tourist' in high school that's where I learned that this condition is called geographical dyslexia.

Lana Smith

I am 61 years old and several years ago I read in Reader's Digest that there was something called Directional Dyslexia. For me, it was wonderful to hear that there was really something wrong with me and that it had a NAME!!!! I have been lost all of my life. I have a strong desire to always go the wrong way, I even got lost in a parking garage once. Driving somewhere unfamiliar is the most stressful thing I do. Mapquest has helped. Never tell me North or South - it makes no sense to me at all. I am glad I found this site and know that I am not alone.


I have had this all of my life, though no one except family and close friends, are the wiser.

It gives cold comfort to know it has a name -- directional dyslexia, dysgeographica. Warmer comfort is the knowledge maybe I am not really the most spatially disoriented person in the whole world.


I have lived lost for 41 years. What a great feeling to finally have a post about directional dyslexia and kinesthetic sense! I will definately read the Accidental Tourist


I'm glad I've read this as I have a friend with this disability, and until now, I'd always thought she was stupid.

I once gave her directions somewhere starting from her own flat. "Go North up the High Street." "Which way is North?" I was stupefied.

For me it is impossible not to know which way is North. On the rare occasions when I don't know which way I'm facing I feel confused and panicky (or disoriented) until I can get hold of a map or streetplan and work it out.

So I find living with directional disability very hard to imagine. The most remarkable thing about my directionally disabled friend is that she seems to get by absolutely fine. In fact now she has 'sat-nav' she has no problem at all.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Blogs I Read