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Hallucinations: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment

Hallucinations: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment

What is Hallucination?

Hallucinations are the perceptions which seem real but they are imaginary and aren’t real. It is totally the imagination of someone’s mind. It can affect all five of your senses. For instance, you may hear a sound that no one else can hear or see something that is not real. These symptoms may be due to some mental ailments, side effects of medicines or drugs, epilepsy or excessive consumption of alcohol.

In this condition, you may require the advice of a mental health doctor such as psychiatrist or neurologist. Your doctor or health care provider may advise you to adopt healthy lifestyle and eating habits, such as drinking limited amount of alcohol and getting more sleep.

Many individuals believe that in this mental condition you only see what is unrealistic, but it may also make you feel or smell something that doesn’t really exist.

Types of Hallucinations?

Hallucinations can affect people’s eyesight, taste, hearing and smelling ability or physical sensations. It may be of following types —

Visual Hallucinations: In visual hallucinations people may see things that are not really there. It may have visual patterns, unrealistic objects, people or lights. For instance, people can see a person who isn’t present in the room or see a light that no one else can see.

Olfactory Hallucinations: In olfactory hallucinations, people’s smelling ability can be affected. In this hallucinations, when you wake up from sleep at midnight, you may get an unpleasant smell or feel that your body is smelling, while it doesn’t happen.

Gustatory Hallucinations: Gustatory hallucinations are similar to that of the olfactory hallucinations, but it affects your taste ability instead of smell. These tastes are often strange or unpleasant. Gustatory hallucinations often have a metallic taste and are a common symptom in the individuals with epilepsy.

Auditory Hallucinations: Auditory hallucinations are the most common type of hallucinations associated with hearing. People may feel like someone is talking to you or asking you to do something. This voice can be normal, angry or warm.

Tactile Hallucinations: In tactile hallucinations people may feel a sense of touch or activity in their bodies such as they feel like insects or bugs are crawling on their skin or their internal organs are moving or they even may feel the touch of someone’s hands on their body.

Temporary Hallucinations: Temporary hallucinations may occur for some time. For instance, people may have hallucinations if a relationship has ended or if a loved one has passed away. People may hear the voice of that person or see his/her image for a moment. This type of confusion usually resolves with time.

Stages of Hallucinations:

There are three stages of hallucinations; including —

First Stage: In the first stage, a person may begin to experience loneliness, anxiety, wickedness or a feeling of guilt. In this stage, the person may focus on thoughts that will overcome those feelings. However, the victim realizes that the thoughts are his/her own and that they can control them.

Second Stage: In the second stage, anxiety may feel more than in that of the first stage and the person is intentionally ready to listen to hallucinations. They don’t recognize that this illusion isn’t real and they face extreme fear and pain. The person also fears that the rest of the people can hear this voice, so they avoid social situations. They can also begin to find ways to avoid hallucinations. This stage may include symptoms such as loss of attention, high Blood Pressure, increased heart rate and increased respiratory functions.

Third Stage: In this stage, people may experience a greater level of anxiety. The voices they are listening to give orders and can threaten to disobey orders. At this stage, hallucinations can last for several hours or days, if the patient is left untreated, they may feel suicidal or violent.

Symptoms of Hallucinations:

Women with Hallucinations Symptoms

Hallucinations symptoms may vary depending on its type; including —

  • Feeling sensations in the body — a crawling feeling on the skin or movement
  • Hearing sounds — music, footsteps, or banging of doors
  • Tasting something (often a metallic taste)
  • Hearing voices —positive or negative voices, such as a voice commanding you to harm yourself or others
  • Seeing objects, beings, or patterns or lights
  • Smelling an odor (can be pleasant or foul and in one or both nostrils)

Causes of Hallucinations:

Causes of hallucinations includes —

Mental Illness: Mental illnesses are the most common cause of having hallucinations problem. Schizophrenia, dementia and mania are some examples.

Substance Abuse: Substance abuse can result in hallucinations. Some people see or hear unrealistic things after drinking or consuming substances like cocaine. Drugs such as LSD and PCP can also cause hallucinations.

Lack of Sleep: Hallucinations can occur even if you don’t take enough sleep. If you have not slept for several days or you haven’t been sleeping long enough, you are at greater risk of having hallucinations.

Medications: Some drugs and medications taken for mental and physical conditions can also cause hallucinations. Medicines to treat depression, Parkinson’s disease, psychosis and epilepsy can cause hallucinations.

Some other conditions can also cause also hallucinations; including —

  • Migraine
  • Auditory nerve disease
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Dissociative identity disorder (DID)
  • Epilepsy
  • Neurologic disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • Hallucinogen use
  • Stroke
  • Metabolic conditions
  • Middle or inner ear diseases
  • Narcolepsy
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Ophthalmic diseases
  • Schizoaffective disorder

Diagnosis of Hallucinations:

The best way to diagnose hallucinations is to immediately see your doctor if you have any doubt that your beliefs are not genuine or real.

Your doctor or health care provider will ask about the symptoms and he can also do a physical examination. Additionally, tests may include a blood test, urine test and a brain scan.

If you know someone who has hallucinations problem, don’t leave him/her alone. Fear and distraction from hallucinations may lead to dangerous behavior. It is advisable to spend time with that person and accompany him/her to the doctor for emotional support.

Prevention of Hallucinations:

Hallucinations can be defended in the following ways —

  • Do workout or physical activity regularly
  • Avoid stress
  • Eat healthy and nutritious food
  • The hallucinations caused by substance abuse can be easily avoided by reducing alcohol and noxious drugs
  • Get lots of sleep
  • Do recreational activities
  • Always maintain good mental and emotional health
  • Find different ways to deal with depression
  • Remember that the main cause of psychological problems is the environment around you
  • Be aware about the side effects of certain medications that you’re currently taking

Treatment of Hallucinations:

Treatments may include —


Treatment of hallucinations will depend on the underlying cause. For instance, if you have hallucinations due to quitting alcohol, your doctor or health care provider may give you medication that slows down your nervous system. However, if a person with dementia has hallucinations due to Parkinson’s disease, then these types of drugs and medications may not be beneficial. An accurate diagnosis is very important to treat the condition effectively.

Psychiatric Counseling:

Psychiatric counseling can also cure hallucinations problem. If the underlying cause of hallucinations is a mental health condition, talking to a counselor can help you to understand what is happening to you. A consultant can tell you the techniques to get out of it if you feel scared or paranoid.


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  2. Hallucinations: Etiology and clinical implications; Santosh Kumar, Subhash Soren and Suprakash Chaudhury; Ind Psychiatry J. 2009 Jul-Dec; 18 (2): 119–126. PMID: 21180490.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. [Internet]. US Department of Health and Human Services; Hallucinogens.
  4. Hallucinations: Clinical aspects and management; Suprakash Chaudhury; Ind Psychiatry J. 2010 Jan-Jun; 19 (1): 5–12. PMID: 21694785.
  5. Visual Hallucinations: Differential Diagnosis and Treatment; Ryan C. Teeple. et al; Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2009; 11 (1): 26–32. PMID: 19333408.

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