Avatar is a box office phenomenon, reaching a total of $600 million in the U.S. this week to become the highest-grossing movie of all time. And while movie executives are swooning over those numbers, moviegoers are swooning for a very different reason. Mnsbc.com reports that groups of people around the world have reported nausea, dizziness and all sorts of problems while watching the movie in 3-D.

We’ve already heard that Avatar inspires thoughts of depression or suicide in its viewers, largely because of frustration that the beautiful, majestic planet Pandora is merely fictional. Dr. Stephan Quentzel, a psychiatrist and medical director for the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center, told CNN, "Virtual life is not real life and it never will be, but this is the pinnacle of what we can build in a virtual presentation so far.”

But it is precisely this close reality that is making some moviegoers ill. People are becoming nauseous and dizzy while viewing the 3-D extravaganza, and experts feel this is due to a variety of visual and neurological conditions. A lot of this has to do with the body’s vestibular system, which is that network of nerves, fluid and ear canals that keep us balanced. Because our eyes are central to helping our vestibular system keep things even, 3-D glasses can create what is called extrasensory conflict. 

“I am certain that it is not good to be in a business in which the result of what you do is to make people hurl,” Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, told the New York Times.

Frank Bonato is editor-in-chief of the journal Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine. As he tells Msnbc.com, a result of this extrasensory conflict is that “the brain can be tricked into thinking the body has been poisoned.” Of course, we are not being poisoned by 3-D glasses. But if the body thinks it is, it is going to elicit a reaction, like vomiting. The experience is similar to feeling car sick.

Ear infections, trauma, toxins and diseases like multiple sclerosis are the cause of a lot of vestibular dysfunction. There are therapies and rehabilitation facilities for people who suffer from the disorder, but most experts feel you should just avoid 3-D movies if you experience a milder form of the ailment. At the very least, as Msnbc.com points out, “you won’t have to wear the goofy glasses.”

For further reading:

'Avatar' makes some people sick to their stomachs
Viewers suffering from motion sickness are often unable to sit through the film.