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Are You Seeing Things That Others Don't See? This Could Be Why...

By Devika

Visions are something that many of us relate to. Things that are related to our past or present or at times something unusual that does not seem to relate at all, can appear to have happened in front of us - well, usually we attribute this to dreams.

However, for few people, such visions appear more than imaginary. Although a person facing such happenings might be glanced upon as a mentally ill person, medically such visions would be referred to as hallucinations. Read on to know more about it and its causes.

What Are Hallucinations?

It is not just seeing things that are not real or present; there is much more depth in when and what a person hallucinates. People who hallucinate, could even touch and smell things that do not exist in reality. Mental illness such as schizophrenia or a nerve issue such as Parkinson's disease is primarily the cause behind the occurrence of hallucinations.

When hallucinations are in the form of visions, they are called "visual hallucinations". A person might begin to see things like insects crawling everywhere in the house. Occipital is a unique kind of seizure where a person begins to see flashes of light - usually in the form of brightly coloured shapes or spots. Auditory hallucinations happen when a person begins to hear sounds. Inner voices might be heard asking you to do some particular task.

Tactile hallucinations occur when you begin to feel things that aren't actually happening, such as someone tickling you. Gustatory hallucinations make you find an odd taste with everything that you eat or drink. Olfactory hallucinations make you smell stuff that in reality do not have that particular odour.

Causes Of Hallucinations

Following are the causes of hallucinations:



Alcohol-induced psychotic disorder is quite common these days. One of the effects of this is hallucinations. Alcohol, which is considered an intoxicating substance is associated with a mental condition known as psychosis. This is characterized by perceptions that lead to hallucinations and delusions. A person has extreme difficulty in identifying the difference between reality and hallucination.



Certain medicines are said to have side effects such as the occurrence of hallucinations. Especially psychiatric medications such as haloperidol, olanzapine and quetiapine tend to cause hallucination. Few seizure-controlling medications might also make a person experience things that are not real. Not just recreational drugs, hallucinations can also be caused by medications prescribed for treating depression.



One of the common forms of chronic headaches, migraines have been associated with the occurrence of hallucinations as well. People usually tend to have visual hallucinations when under the effect of a migraine attack. This visual hallucination is referred to as "aura". Here the person begins to visualize a crescent of light, which is multi-coloured. Seeking treatment for migraines is the best way to get rid of such hallucinations.



Use of illegal drugs such as LSD, cocaine, and amphetamines can make people experience hallucinations. Hallucinations can also occur during withdrawal from such drugs. Most of the times, the hallucinations caused due to drugs are visual - seeing things that are not real. At times, they do affect the other senses as well, such as hearing, tasting, or smelling.



Hallucinations are common in some specific forms of dementia. Parkinson's disease dementia and Lewy body dementia do cause hallucinations. The false perceptions are due to the changes in the brain caused by the occurrence of the disorder. Weird things such as seeing insects crawl all over or seeing a deceased person's face are among the things that a person may experience when hallucinating.


Alzheimer’s disease

This disease can create changes in the brain that lead to the person having hallucinations. Alzheimer's cause mental deterioration that is progressive in nature. It mostly occurs during old age but can also happen during middle age. The occurrence of this disease is attributed to the general degeneration of the human brain. The hallucinations tend to occur when this illness is in its advanced stage.



Many people who possess schizophrenia also show signs of having hallucinations. Studies have shown that more than 70 per cent schizophrenics tend to have visual hallucinations. About 60 to 90 per cent of these patients also tend to have hallucinations wherein they begin to hear voices and sounds of various kinds, which in general might not exist at all. A few schizophrenics also begin to face hallucinations linked to smelling and tasting stuff that is unreal.



This ailment is associated with frequent seizures. It is a neurological disorder wherein sensory disturbances in the patient keep occurring at frequent times. There is an abnormal electrical activity in the brain. A person with epilepsy is also likely to begin hallucinating along with such seizures. The type of hallucination is technically related to the area of the brain where the seizure has actually made an effect.



One of the symptoms and effects of meningitis is the occurrence of hallucinations in addition to high fever, headache, seizures, etc. Meningitis can show signs of behavioral and personality changes. Meningitis causes the protective nervous system membranes to swell up. Inflammation of the brain due to meningitis can cause hallucinations. One of the early signs of this ailment is a constant headache.


Brain tumours

Depending on the location, size, and type of a brain tumour, a person can begin to hallucinate. There could be various kinds of hallucinations occurring. If it is in a part that controls the vision, then the person might begin to see things that do not exist. Shapes and spots of light can be seen. Tumours of the brain can also cause hallucinations of taste and smell.


Liver/kidney failure

People who face a liver or kidney failure can begin to hallucinate at times. If the illness is accompanied by a high fever, then the chances of having hallucinations increases to a great extent. Excessive accumulation of Gabapentin (found in the blood of patients with renal failure) can lead to neurologic toxicities that are the prime reason behind the occurrence of hallucinations.


Sleep issues

There have been several cases of sleep-related hallucinations. It usually occurs due to insomnia and can also be linked to the presence of stress and anxiety. When combined with daytime sleepiness, such hallucinations could signal the presence of narcolepsy. Hallucination is a common cause when one is sleep deprived. If the sleep deprivation is of a long duration, then the severity of the hallucinations also increases.

A medical diagnosis followed by treatment is essential for the condition causing hallucinations to be brought under control.

Read more about: imagination
Story first published: Tuesday, September 11, 2018, 12:30 [IST]
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