Youth Services System

What are the Causes of Hallucinations?

Only 1% of the American population has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. But did you know that between 10% and 27% of our nation’s population has experienced a hallucination at some point in their lives?

Hallucinations can be difficult to understand. The reality of a hallucination is usually much different than what we see depicted in the media. Hallucinations are called “false perceptions.” They cause a person to believe they are seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting, or touching something when they are not actually experiencing these sensations in reality.
man seeing figure in the forest
Hallucinations are not the same as dreams or nightmares. They happen when someone is awake. Usually, people who are experiencing hallucinations can’t understand the difference between what they think they are seeing or hearing and what is real.
While hallucinations are one of the side effects of schizophrenia and other mental health disorders, they may also be caused by other factors such as:
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Dementia
  • Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Narcolepsy, a sleep disorder, can be another cause for hallucinations, particularly when they happen as one is falling asleep (hypnagogic hallucinations) or waking up (hypnopompic hallucinations).
Half of people who suffer from regular migraines report having mild hallucinations, and these are known as migrainous hallucinations. Migrainous hallucinations usually come in the form of visualizations of geometric patterns, but can sometimes cause a person to experience objects as much smaller or larger than they are in reality.

Without proper treatment, hallucinations cannot be controlled. You or your loved one cannot wish them away or will them to stop. While keeping busy can help, medication regimens and therapy sessions are the best form of treatments and cannot be substituted.

Admitting you need help handling your hallucinations is a sign of strength, not of weakness. Seek the proper medical and mental health care as soon as possible.
Even if you are unbothered by your hallucinations, you should still report them to your physician as they can be a sign of a serious mental or physical health issue. Don’t wait. The earlier treatment can begin, the better chance you have at recovery.

Topics: Psychosis, Schizophrenia, Anxiety, Depression, Hallucinations