Hallucinations are sensations that people perceive as real, but in reality, are only created by their mind. A person's five senses are often affected. Examples are hearing voices without anyone around or seeing images that are not real. Such symptoms are may due to mental illnesses, drug side effects, and physical health problems, such as alcoholism and epilepsy.
Depending on the cause of hallucinations, people who experience it may need to see a general practitioner, a neurologist, or a psychiatrist.
Types of Hallucinations
1. Visual Hallucination
Visual hallucinations involve seeing things that are not really there. It may include seeing objects, people, visual patterns, or lights. An example would be seeing someone who is actually not in the room and crawling insects on the skin, which nobody else can see.
2. Olfactory Hallucination
Olfactory hallucinations usually involve a person's sense of smell. Detected odors are not really present in the environment and may vary from one person to another. Odors may either be fragrant or foul and may occur in one or both nostrils. An example would be waking up in the middle of the night smelling an unpleasant odor in the room when there isn't. Olfactory hallucinations also include certain scents that you like, such as the smell of fragrant flowers.
3. Auditory Hallucination
One of the most common types of hallucination is auditory hallucinations. In this type of hallucination, people might hear voices that speak to them and telling them to do certain things. These voices may be warm, angry, or neutral. Some examples of auditory hallucinations are constantly hearing sounds, such as tapping noises, dripping water, or noises in the attic.
4. Gustatory Hallucination
Gustatory hallucinations involve the sensing tastes that are not really there. The taste often involves an unpleasant flavor. However, it can also be pleasant, depending on a person's like or dislike of a certain taste. This type of hallucination is relatively uncommon when compared to other types of hallucinations.
Gustatory hallucinations may also be induced by hallucinogenic compounds, such as deliriants, dissociatives, and psychedelics in moderate dosages. These hallucinations can also be a symptom of schizophrenia and certain types of epilepsy. An example would be complaining about sensing a rotten taste in the food, even though there isn't.
5. Temporary Hallucination
This type of hallucination only lasts for a short time. An example would be hearing the voice of a loved one, who recently passed away. People may also see images of their deceased loved ones for a brief moment. As the pain of loss heals, this type of hallucination also gradually fades away.
6. Tactile Hallucination
This type of hallucination involves the feeling of touch or movements in the body that are not there, such as bugs crawling on your skin and burning or itching sensations in the body.
Hallucinations occur due to a variety of reasons. They include:
1. Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is a common cause of hallucinations in people. After taking drugs like cocaine or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause people to see or hear things that are not there. Examples of hallucinogenic drugs that can cause hallucinations are LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and PCP (phencyclidine), which is also commonly known as angel dust.
Certain prescribed medications for both physical and mental conditions may also trigger symptoms of hallucinations. These medications include drugs for the treatment of psychosis, epilepsy, depression, and Parkinson's disease.
3. Medical Conditions
Apart from certain medications, there are also medical conditions that can cause hallucinations. They include:
- High fever in children and the elderly
- Epilepsy (epileptic seizures may cause people to see bright spots or flashing shapes)
- AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)
- Kidney and liver failure
- Brain cancer
- Social isolation and loneliness, especially in older adults
- Blindness or vision problems
4. Mental Health Issues
Mental health conditions are one of the most common triggers of hallucinations. They include dementia, delirium, or schizophrenia. Aside from mental illnesses, other psychological issues may also cause hallucinations.
5. Lack of Sleep or Insomnia
Hallucinations can also occur in people who do not get enough sleep, especially when they are sleep-deprived for several days or when they have chronic insomnia.
Treatment for Hallucination
Once the doctor has carried out a proper diagnosis and identified the root cause of the hallucination, he or she will be able to prescribe the best form of treatment for you.
As mentioned earlier, treatment for hallucinations totally depends on the underlying cause. If a person's hallucinations are caused by severe alcohol withdrawal, medications that can slow down the central nervous system might be prescribed by healthcare providers.
However, if a person's hallucinations are due to Parkinson's disease with dementia, such medications may not help at all. For this reason, it is quite important to have an accurate diagnosis to effectively treat the condition. Treatment options may include:
- Anticonvulsants or antiseizure medications to treat epilepsy
- Treatment for cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration
- Radiation or surgery for tumors
- Migraine medications such as anticonvulsants, triptans, and beta-blockers
Another option that may be included in the treatment plan for hallucinations is counseling. Psychological counseling is particularly beneficial if a person's hallucinations are caused by a mental health issue. Therapy sessions with a counseling psychologist can help people understand their situation and mental health condition better by building coping strategies and skills, especially when fear and paranoia take over.
Counseling psychologists can also help people resolve crises, improve their overall well-being, and ease feelings of distress. They also provide assessments or tests, diagnosis, as well as treatment of severe psychological symptoms.
A person's recovery from hallucinations mostly depends on its underlying cause. If hallucinations are due to excessive alcohol consumption or a lack of sleep, these behaviors can be modified. If a person's hallucination is due to mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, prescription medications can significantly help improve the symptoms. A positive outcome is more likely achieved if people seek immediate medical help along with diligently following their prescribed treatment plan.
Hallucinations can be a quite terrifying experience for a number of people with mental health issues and other health problems. However, hallucinations can be treated and improved by taking prescription medications and participating in psychological counseling.