What Happens When You Stare At a Mirror For Too Long?

What would happen if you stare at a mirror for too long is a common topic in both science and myth. Our team has done due diligence to find definite answers about what really happens. And we have written this post to explain all you need to know about staring at a mirror for a long time.

What happens when you stare at a mirror for too long? When you stare at the mirror for a long time, there would be image distortions. You may start to see altered or distorted images of yourself in the mirror. Some people even claim that they see the faces of other people or animals. This is called the strange face in the mirror illusion. However, some people experience no illusions or alterations.

What is responsible for the image distortions when people stare in a mirror for long? Are there spiritual causes of the strange face in the mirror illusion? Is it just a figment of the mind? Should you avoid staring in a mirror for long? Read on to find the answers to these questions, among other things

What Are “Strange-face In The Mirror” Illusions?

Strange-face illusions refer to experiences where strange faces appear when a person stares into a mirror for a long time. If you gaze at your face in a mirror for a long time, you will start noticing distortions. The distortions can be so much that you see a monster-like image. This illusion is more likely to occur when there is low illumination.

Seeing strange faces is normal when you stare in a mirror for long. It only takes a few minutes for your visual perception to shift, especially under low light. As you focus on a part of your face, other areas begin to fade out. This is what creates the illusion.

Why Do People Have Mirror Hallucinations?

Mirror illusions may progress to a point where a person has mirror hallucinations. As we have explained, mirror illusions make you see distorted images of your face. But when there’s mirror hallucination, you may start seeing monsters, faces of dead people, archetypical faces, and animals.

Science explains that this phenomenon is a complex effect in the brain that tries to compensate for illusions. In compensating, the brain brings up images from those previously stored in it. These images may include monster images from movies, memories of dead loved ones, and so on.

Myth, on the other hand, has it that there is an extra-terrestrial world behind mirrors. So, according to these myths, both mirror illusions and mirror hallucinations have spiritual causes.

Are There Spiritual Causes For Mirror Illusions And Hallucinations?

Scientists have conducted mirror-gazing tests (MGT) to determine the causes of mirror illusions and hallucinations. They realized that it’s caused by changes in visual perception. But the same people still perform mirror-gazing as a spiritual practice.

What’s The Science View?

When you fix your gaze on anything, the surrounding areas begin to gradually fade away. In other words, your brain tunes out the surrounding areas that you are not looking at. Conversely, it amplifies the perception of the point where you have fixed your gaze.

As a result of this, there are distortions in your view. Scientists call this phenomenon the “Troxler Effect”. Amazingly, the Troxler Effect has been discovered since 1804. The effect was named after the man who discovered it – the philosopher and physician Ignaz Troxler.

What Is The Troxler Effect in Mirror-Gazing?

In mirror-gazing, while you look at your eyes, other areas start to fade away. This gradual fading away of surrounding areas is what scientists call “The Troxler Effect”. The Troxler effect refers to how peripheral images fade away when you fix your gaze on any particular point. Some people refer to this effect as “the blindness of focus”. 

It usually takes time for the Troxler effect to kick in. So you may not experience the Troxler Effect in mirror-gazing except you stare into the mirror for long. But if you stare long enough, areas in the peripheral view of your eyes will begin to fade off.

When this happens, it may seem like your face is blending into the mirror. For instance, if you focus your gaze on your lips, they may appear larger. At the same time, your forehead may begin to fade off. These, along with other distortions that occur, may create a terrifying image. You can check out this article titled, how is the Troxler Effect applicable to mirrors for more information.

Video – Why You See Monsters In The Mirror

In this video, Hank Green explains mirror illusions from a scientific and psychological point of view. What does mirror illusions tell us about self-awareness? Why do we sometimes have these illusions? Watch this video now to find out.

Should You Stare At A Mirror For Long?

You may stand in front of a mirror and look at yourself for as long as you want to. But mirror-gazing, where you fix your eyes on a specific spot is not advisable. mirror-gazing can cause illusions and hallucinations. And these can, in turn, put or bring back scary images in your head. Memories from this experience can also cause nightmares, especially for people who are naturally fearful.

As much as mirror-gazing is discouraged, some people still do it as a form of spiritual exercise. So if you find mirror-gazing to be helpful, and it doesn’t give you bad memories, you can practice it. We have also shared this article that discusses what a room of only mirrors look like. You can check out the article for more information.

What is Mirror-Gazing?

mirror-gazing is an intimate form of mindful exercise. Most mirror gazers spend quiet moments in front of a mirror meditating with their reflection. Some people say this activity helps them stay calm and in tune with their consciousness. 

mirror-gazing is not harmful, but it could cause psychological disturbances if not done with care. So feel free to do it if you find a sense in it. But stay away from it if you get a strange feeling when you gaze at your mirror image for long.

What’s more, staring at any object for a long time can lead to temporary blurry vision. If you do so regularly, it might put a strain on your eye muscles. And this might affect your vision in the long run. Putting stress on the eye muscles can also lead to pain and headaches. 

Related Questions

Why Do I Feel A Strange Feeling When I Look In The Mirror?

If you get a strange feeling each time you look in the mirror, you may need therapy. It is okay to feel strange when there are image distortions from staring in a mirror for long. But if merely looking in a mirror gives you a strange feeling, you may be experiencing the psychological phenomenon, jamais vu.

This phenomenon makes something you have already seen before look unfamiliar and new. This means when you look in the mirror, the image of yourself that you see gives you a strange feeling. If this is happening to you, you should go for therapy. We have also written this article about what happens when two mirrors face each other. Read the article to find out what happens.

What Happens When You Stare At A Mirror On Halloween?

Superstition has it that if you stare at a mirror for a while at midnight on Halloween, you would see your future spouse. So if you’re curious about who your husband or wife would be, you might want to try this. But there is no scientific proof behind this claim. It appears to be one of the many fables out there about Halloween night. You can also check out this complete guide about babies and superstition to find out why babies are not supposed to look at mirrors.

Is It Bad To Look In The Mirror?

No, it is not bad to look in the mirror, so long as the mirror images are not giving you psychological disturbances. Looking at yourself in the mirror to appreciate your beauty can improve your sense of self-awareness and consciousness. It can also increase your self-esteem. 

But if you are not happy with your body, you should not spend too much time looking at the mirror. That may further fuel your poor body image and put you down. You should always look in the mirror to appreciate your beauty. Don’t look in the mirror to pick out faults in how you look.


In this article, we have described what happens when you stare at a mirror for too long. We have also explained why it happens. Science has a different explanation from myths. But as you know, science is backed by evidence while myths are often not.

Contrary to many superstitious beliefs, the strange face or illusion in the mirror is not a result of otherworldly activities or exercises. The illusion is caused by the Troxler effect, an optical illusion that affects the way we perceive the things we see.

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