NEW: An interview with Jane Houghton, MdDS sufferer since 2001 and founder of UK support group mdds.org.uk
Whereas many people will briefly experience reverse sea sickness (or drunken sailor syndrome) when they disembark, for a small minority these symptoms can be severe and prolonged. This is known as mal de debarquement syndrome (MdDS, disembarkment syndrome).
MdDS is relatively rare, but is extremely distressing and debilitating for those who suffer from it. It occurs because the brain, having adjusted to the movement of the ship as normal, now finds the sensations of being on firm land unfamiliar and abnormal. Everything feels too stable, leading to dizziness and uncontrollable lurching feelings. Sufferers tell me that they feel like they are constantly walking on a trampoline, and they have to struggle to keep their balance. In some cases there are also nausea and a continuous rocking sensation. The only way to get relief from these symptoms is to go back on a boat, or travel by car or bus.
Mal de Debarquement Syndrome often lasts several weeks, but can last months or even years. Medically MdDS is considered to be a 'self-limiting' - in other words temporary - condition, however the symptoms are likely to become more severe and longer lasting with each subsequent trip on a boat (or sometimes plane). A friend who suffered the symptoms of MdDS for around a week after a two-week cruise several years ago, recently had MdDS for well over a month after another similar cruise.
A video to encourage awareness and learn about what it's like to live with MdDS.
It is impossible to predict whether you will suffer from disembarkment syndrome after a cruise or voyage, although those who have little problem adjusting to the motion of the sea seem to be more susceptible. To try to prevent MdDS it is a good idea to start your sea sickness precautions a couple of days before you board, and then continue them for a few days after returning to land - for example if you are taking ginger, start to take it before you board and continue the same dose throughout your trip and for a few days after disembarking. The same can apply to any medications that you may be taking, although do speak to your doctor first.
If you do suffer MdDS symptoms then it is worth trying the remedies, treatments and medications used for sea sickness and other forms of motion sickness (see this overview of the options available). Many people, however, report that they don't do much to help. To make matters worse, many doctors know very little about MdDS.
There are a number of websites and support groups online: