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Hallucinations - Types, Causes, And Treatment

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Hallucinations are the sensory experiences created by the brain that feel real; for more information, read the article below.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ramchandra Lamba

Published At October 11, 2022
Reviewed AtJanuary 17, 2023

What Are Hallucinations?

Hallucinations are the sensory experience created by the brain that feels real. Hallucinations can affect all five senses, leading to hearing different sounds, visualizing an image, or a person that nobody else in the room hears or sees.

What Are the Types of Hallucinations?

Based on the same hallucinations can be classified as follows:

  • Visual hallucinations: Visual hallucinations include seeing things that are not present and nobody other than you can see; it includes visualizing images, objects, lights, or people, like seeing a person or cat who is not even present at a particular place.
  • Olfactory Hallucinations: These types of hallucinations include sensing a fragrance or an odor that is not even there; in such situations, a person might even feel that his body stinks or might experience a scent that he loves.
  • Gustatory Hallucinations: Hallucinations are similar to olfactory hallucinations but include false feelings concerning taste; in such circumstances, a person generally feels the taste of anything that he eats is unpleasant. Gustatory hallucinations are commonly seen in patients with epilepsy, where they experience a metallic taste.
  • Auditory Hallucinations: These are hallucinations where a person experiences certain voices being called or might feel a person taking or instructing them. A person might even hear voices like someone walking behind or the noise of repeated tapping or clicking.
  • Tactile Hallucination: These types of hallucinations include a feeling of being touched or insects crawling on the body; in such instances, a person might even experience internal organs moving.

What Are the Causes of Hallucinations?

  • Hallucinations result from many medical conditions or habits and the long term use of certain medications.

  • Some of these factors causing hallucinations include:

  • Medical conditions like schizophrenia, epilepsy, dementia, and delirium, migraine.

  • Substance abuse like cocaine can also cause visual and auditory hallucinations.

  • Medications are used to treat certain disorders like parkinsonism; epilepsy also triggers hallucination-like symptoms that develop over the long-term use of these prescriptions.

  • Lack of sleep.

  • Trigger hallucinations last for a short duration, like for a day or until complete sleep and rest are not taken.

  • Short duration, like for a day or till the time complete sleep and rest is not taken.

When to Visit a Medical Professional?

Hallucinations are often a cause of underlying severe medical conditions which require attention and help; therefore, any person who is suspected of hallucinating should be taken to the doctor immediately.

What Are the Diagnostic Methods Used?

Diagnosis of hallucinations is based on a detailed medical history that a person reports during the office visit. Physical and laboratory findings help in confirming the diagnosis.

What Are the Stages of Hallucinations?

Hallucinations can be divided into 3 stages which are as follows:

Stage 1: This stage is also called the comforting stage; it is the beginning of hallucinations where a person starts experiencing anxiety, fear, and guilt about the thoughts one is having; in this stage, a person is aware that the thoughts are their own and can be replaced thus he tries to focus on reverting the thought process.

Stage 2: This stage is referred to as the condemning stage. In this stage, the severity of the disorder progresses, and a person does not accept that the sounds he hears or the people he sees are his imagination; in this stage, a person tries to magnify or tries to focus more on the hallucinating objects.

Stage 3: This is referred to as the controlling phase; this stage can be considered severe as the person experiences that the hallucinations are overpowering the thoughts of an individual and are directing or instructing them, if the command is not followed, they can be threatening. This is the stage where a person may attempt suicide or can harm people around them. Thus in such stages, any individual should not be left alone as he can be a danger to society and put his life in danger; in this stage, hallucinations can last for days.

How Is Hallucination Treated?

It is very important to treat hallucinations as the underlying root cause. The treatment plan completely depends on and is framed according to the cause of the hallucination. For example, if a person has hallucinations due to alcohol withdrawal or schizophrenia, then doctor would first prescribe medications to cure or control the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, or schizophrenia, then the measures would be recommended to overcome hallucinations. The treatment for hallucinations is a long-term therapy with multidisciplinary approaches; the results of the treatment in such cases are unpredictable.

Treatment Modalities for Hallucination Include:

  • Psychotherapy: Counseling is a very important part of therapy, as the counselor acts as a guide; and can help you regulate the thought process and develop strategies to avoid hallucinations.
  • Medicinal Treatment: Patients who hallucinate are usually treated with antipsychotic drugs that help control or eliminate the frequency of hallucinations.
  • Other treatment options include the use of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, which has proved to reduce the frequency of hallucinations in people with schizophrenia; in this method, the magnet is placed directly over the skull and is thought to reduce auditory hallucinations. Patients with a history of hallucinations are advised to stay calm and avoid situations that make them anxious; they are also asked to preferably avoid dark spaces or places with loud noise as, such areas can trigger hallucinations. Friends and family must be strong support; whenever a person is hallucinating, a loved one can tap on the back or shout his name, which can act as a distraction and bring a person back to his consciousness.

Whenever a person is hallucinating, it is very important to assure him that you understand what he is going through and make him believe he will get well soon. A record can be maintained stating the time, place, or situations that aggravate or cause hallucinations; this can help prevent the frequency by avoiding similar situations.

Conclusion:

Hallucinations are the sensory experiences that a person feels even when it is not present; hallucinations can be classified as auditory, visual, sensory, etc. hallucinations resulting due to underlying medical conditions like schizophrenia, epilepsy, and alcohol withdrawal. Treatment for hallucinations is mainly based on treating the cause of the disease. However, family and friends play equally important roles during the treatment by guiding a person to cope with the situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

How Does the First Stage of Hallucinations Manifest?

In the first stage of hallucinations, individuals experience certain changes in mood, perception, thoughts, or emotions that serve as warning signs, and early symptoms vary depending on the underlying cause.

2.

How Do Hallucinations Occur?

Hallucination can occur due to:
- Mental illness.
- Substance abuse.
- Neurological deprivation.
- Certain medications.
- Neurological conditions.

3.

Is Hallucination a Normal Condition?

Hallucinations are not considered normal in the everyday human experience. They can occur due to various reasons, such as psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, sleep disorders, or medical conditions. While occasional and minor hallucinations can happen in certain situations, frequent or distressing hallucinations are of concern that need to be addressed.

4.

Is There a Treatment for Hallucinations?

Yes, there are various treatments available for hallucinations, depending on the underlying cause. These include:
- Medications to manage conditions like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
- Psychotherapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).
- Supportive therapy like family or support groups.
- Creating a safe and calm environment to reduce the intensity and frequency of hallucinations.
- Treating the other underlying condition to relieve or eliminate hallucinations.

5.

What Is the Most Common Symptom of Hallucination?

The most common symptoms of hallucinations may include hearing voices or seeing things that are actually not present. These can be perceived as coming from inside or outside a person’s head, which can be experienced as positive, negative, or neutral.

6.

What Is the Duration of a Hallucination?

The duration of hallucinations can vary depending on the cause and individual circumstances. They can be temporary and last for a short period, such as drug-induced hallucinations that subside once the effect wears off. However, if associated with schizophrenia, they can persist for months or years. 

7.

Are Hallucinations Dangerous?

Hallucinations themselves are not dangerous, but their underlying cause and associated symptoms can have varying degrees of risk.  Some conditions associated with hallucinations can have significant consequences for individual well-being and require medical attention. Hallucinations associated with delusions or psychotic symptoms can lead to potentially risky behaviors or impaired judgment, posing a danger to self or others.

8.

Is Hallucination a Mental Disorder?

Hallucinations are not mental disorders on their own, but they can be symptoms of various mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, and certain personality disorders. 

9.

How to Prevent Hallucinating at Night?

Preventing hallucinations at night can be done by:
- Establishing a sleep routine.
- Managing stress.
- Avoiding triggers such as alcohol, drugs, or medications.
- Consulting a professional.

10.

At What Age Does Hallucination Begin?

Hallucinations can occur at any age, but they are common with the onset of psychiatric disorders during late adolescence or early adulthood. It can occur in early childhood due to medical conditions or substance use. 

11.

Which Is the Best Medication for Hallucination Treatment?

The best medication for treating hallucinations depends on the underlying cause and specific condition. Antipsychotics are commonly used for hallucinations associated with psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. It is recommended to seek medical advice for personalized treatment.

12.

Does Overthinking Cause Hallucinations?

Overthinking does not directly cause hallucinations. Hallucinations are mainly associated with underlying physical or mental illnesses, and while excessive overthinking can contribute to stress and potentially worsen symptoms, it is not the sole cause of hallucinations.

13.

What Are the Ways to Prevent Hallucinations?

Ways to prevent hallucinations include:
- Addressing the underlying cause.
- Management of physical and mental conditions.
- Medications.
- Psychotherapy.
- Lifestyle modification.
- Stress management.

14.

Can Brain Damage Cause Hallucinations?

Yes, brain damage can cause hallucinations by disrupting the normal processing of sensory information. The presence and characteristics of hallucinations can vary depending on the site and severity of the brain damage. Hallucinations can also be caused by other factors unrelated to brain damage.

15.

Can Hallucination Resolve by Itself?

Hallucinations may stop on their own in some cases if they are related to temporary factors such as substance use or withdrawal, sleep deprivation, or acute stress. If they are due to an underlying medical or psychiatric condition, they may persist until the underlying condition is managed effectively. It is recommended to seek medical attention to identify and address any underlying causes or potential risks associated with hallucinations. 

16.

Is Hallucination Real?

Hallucinations are experiences that are perceived as real by the person experiencing them but are not based on external stimuli. They can be vivid, intense, and indistinguishable from reality for the individual. It can affect the senses, such as seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling anything that is not actually there. 

17.

Does Inadequate Sleep Cause Hallucinations?

Inadequate sleep can contribute to the development of hallucinations. When a person consistently does not get enough sleep or experiences disruptions in their sleep patterns, it can result in sleep deprivation. This affects the brain and cognitive functioning, including an increased risk of hallucinations. Sleep deprivation also impacts bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, which are highly linked with the risk of hallucinations. 
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Dr. Ramchandra Lamba
Dr. Ramchandra Lamba

Psychiatry

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