Solve the Medical Riddle: Her Daughter Feels as Though the Room is Shrinking, First Week

Editor’s note: Welcome to our ThirdAge feature that gives you a chance to play medical sleuth as we share the details of what happened when a patient presented with a problem that stumped the physician at first.

We’ll start this week by letting you know what the patient told the doctor and how the doctor proceeded with the examination. Next week, the doctor will continue to look for clues to the medical riddle. The third week, we’ll let you know what some people have suggested as possible diagnoses. The fourth week, the doctor will reveal the actual diagnosis. Then we’ll move on to a new riddle for the following month!

The Patient’s Reports Her Daughter’s Symptoms

Marlene, age 50, called to say that her 18-year-old daughter Chloe was complaining of an unsettling sensation that the room was shrinking as she was trying to fall asleep at night.
The doctor used the classic S-O-A-P notes as follows:
S=Symptoms or Chief Complaint
O=Objective Findings
A=Assessment or Analysis
P=Treatment Plan or Recommendations

This week, we’ll cover S, Symptoms or Chief Complaint. Here’s what Marlene told the doctor when she called to make the appointment:
“Chloe moved into the dorm for her freshman year at college right after Labor Day. She was really excited and I was happy for her even though it was bittersweet to have our only child leave the nest. Everything was great for more than a month. We texted a lot and Skyped as well, which reassured me she was enjoying her classes and making friends.

“Then I got a text from her saying she wasn’t feeling well. I called her and she sounded scared, but she didn’t say what was bothering her. Rather than have her go to the campus physician, my husband and I drove to the college and brought Chloe home. Once she was back in her own bedroom, she confided in me that she had started having the bizarre sensation that the room was shrinking every night when she was trying to go to sleep. She said she was afraid she was going crazy. She also says she’s tired all the time. She’s talking about dropping out of school! I don’t want that to happen. I hope you can figure out what’s wrong with her.”

The doctor wanted to get a complete history of Chloe’s problem so he asked Marlene to bring Chloe in for an office visit. During the questioning, the doctor learned that Chloe had noticed that when her roommate adjusted the mini blinds at night before going to bed, an episode would begin.

Chloe gave a detailed description of what she experienced. The entire room and the objects in it would seem to be shrinking although Chloe remained her true size. She had no distortion of body size although she couldn’t be sure because the shrinking room was so unsettling.

Also the colors of her bedspread and the curtains would start to change slightly.