Hallucinations: Types & when to see your Doctor

Most people assume that hallucinations means that you are seeing things that are not there, but in actual fact, it can encompass a lot more than that. It could go so far as to touching or even smelling something that does not exist.

Essentially, hallucinations are sensations that appear real but are created by your mind and can affect all five of your senses (sight, smell, hear, touch, and taste). These symptoms may be caused by various illnesses like schizophrenia, epilepsy or alcoholism.

There are numerous types of hallucinations which include:

  1. Auditory Hallucination – This is the most common form of hallucination involving the sense of hearing. It involves hearing a voice inside your mind or from outside. It is also called paracusia and paracusis.
  2. Visual Hallucination – This type of hallucinations involves seeing things. For example, insects moving on your hands or on someone else’s face.
  3. Olfactory Hallucination – This involves the sense of smell. In this type of hallucination, the person can smell things or perceive odours that are not there.
  4. Tactile Hallucination – This has to do with the sense of touch. The person can feel like someone is tickling him or feels sensation of something moving under the skin.
  5. Gustatory Hallucination – This type involves the sense of taste, whereby the person tastes things in his mouth.
  6. Hypnagogic Hallucination – This is usually a vivid dreamlike hallucination at the onset of sleep.
  7. Hypnopompic Hallucination – This refers to a vivid dreamlike hallucination when you wake up from sleep.
  8. Lilliputian Hallucination – This is a hallucination in which things, people or animals seem much smaller than they would be in reality.

 

 

 

Causes and Risk Factors

While hallucinations can be frightening, they are usually due to an identifiable cause. Hallucinations can occur as a result of the following:

  • Mental Illness – this is amongst the most common causes of hallucinations. Some examples include schizophrenia, dementia and delirium.
  • Medications – certain medications taken for mental and physical conditions can also be a cause of hallucinations. Medications taken for Parkinson’s disease, depression, psychosis, and epilepsy have been known to trigger hallucination symptoms.
  • Lack of Sleep – Individuals who have not slept in multiple days or have been sleep deprived for long periods of time are more prone to hallucinations.
  • Substance Abuse – Another relatively common cause of hallucinations. Some people tend to see or hear things that aren’t there after they have been drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs such as cocaine. Drugs like PCP and LSD (hallucinogenic drugs) can also cause you to hallucinate.

 

A few other conditions that can cause hallucinations include:

  • Migraines.
  • High fevers, especially in children.
  • Social isolation.
  • Deafness, blindness or vision problems.
  • Seizures.
  • Terminal illness such as AIDS, brain cancer etc.

 

 

 

When to See Your Doctor

It is important to call your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect that what you are perceiving is not real. Your general practitioner will ask you about your symptoms and perform a physical exam as well as any additional tests that he/she may find necessary. This may include a blood or urine test and maybe a brain scan.

You should make sure to aid an individual who is experiencing a hallucination as the fear and paranoia triggered can lead to dangerous actions and behavior. It could also be useful to accompany them on hospital visits for both emotional support and to help relay information about your symptoms to the doctor.

 

 

 

Treatment of Hallucinations

Your doctor will be able to recommend the best form of treatment once he/she has determined the root cause of your hallucinations. Treatment can be by medication and/or counselling.

Your doctor may prescribe medication that will help treat the underlying condition that may be causing your hallucinations. For example if the hallucinations are caused by severe alcohol withdrawal, your GP may prescribe medication that slows down your nervous system. Whereas if the cause was due to dementia, the same medication would not be effective treatment.

Counselling might serve as an essential part of your treatment plan usually when the underlying cause is a mental health condition. Speaking to a counselor can also help you develop coping strategies, especially when you are feeling emotionally vulnerable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

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