Medical Advice

Learn About Sensory Hallucinations

Hallucinations are defined as perceptions manifested in the conscious state, in the absence of external stimuli, which can be considered real, vivid, substantial, and located in the external objective space. They are different from the dreaming-related phenomena. They are different from illusions (which involve distortion or misinterpretation of perception), representations, and pseudohallucinations (which do not mimic the real perception, and which can be controlled voluntarily). Hallucinations differ from delusional perceptions as well; delusional perceptions are those in which a real perception is offered additional meanings. Hallucinations may occur in any way: sensory, visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, etc.

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About hallucinations

The most commonly found are the visual hallucinations. The individual who has visual hallucinations is seeing things that are not present or their visual perception is not consistent with reality. There are many different causes for hallucinations, which are classified as psychophysiological (a disturbance of brain structure), psyhobiochemical (a disturbance of neurotransmitters) and psychological (significant experiences manifested in the consciousness).

Sensory hallucinations refer to seeing things that do not exist and are not real or hear distorted sounds. Somehow, sensory hallucinations are credible lies of the brain for the eyes and ears. Hallucinations can affect tactile sensations and may include different feelings, such as feeling like bugs running down a person’s body. Hallucinations are credible and can be quite frightening to those who experience them.

Causes

The most common causes of sensory hallucinations as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress, a manic phase of bipolar disorder and the use of drugs that have hallucinogenic properties such as LSD.

Other drugs that may be prescribed, such as morphine, can cause temporary sensory hallucinations. Sensory hallucinations may occur when a person is drunk or when giving up alcoholism.

High fever, dementia or severe head trauma, and other serious illnesses such as end-stage renal failure can also cause sensory hallucinations. Another cause of sensory hallucinations could be long-term use of stimulants such as cocaine.

Most often, sensory hallucinations are transient. People who experience them realize after a while that what they have experienced or heard was not real. In many cases, people suffering from dementia or schizophrenia patients have difficulty in distinguishing what is real from unreal, as sensory hallucinations occur quite frequently.

Some sensory hallucinations involve hearing voices or seeing some people. This is typical especially for those diagnosed with schizophrenia and dementia. Most hallucinations assume distortion of what actually exists. In case of distorted hallucinations, a person might look at a light bulb and around could see butterflies and could hear a song, but much slower or faster than it happens in reality.

Often sensory hallucinations can reduce a person’s ability to function and cope with everyday tasks. This occurs especially when fictitious perceptions are difficult to distinguish from the real ones. People with mental illness have a good chance of recovery through medication and therapy.

Unfortunately, those who suffer from dementia do not have an optimistic prognosis. When addicts give up drugs, after the withdrawal period has passed and the sensory hallucinations stop, although they are worse at first.

Diagnosis

Doctors can diagnose sensory hallucinations specific by addressing questions to those experiencing these hallucinations. Not all people will respond honestly, especially as some hallucinations offer a different perspective on the world. This applies, for example, when a person suffering from hallucinations thinks they have a sacred mission in the world, but for those who suffer from paranoid schizophrenia and have auditory hallucinations as well, after which they conclude that their doctor could harm them.

The specialist asks the patient if they hear voices, feel they are touched by or see people that others cannot see. When the doctor gets affirmative answers, they will try to find out if the person has recently experienced a traumatic event, a head injury, if they used recreational drugs, or if they have recently quit alcohol or drugs.

Then the doctor will try to find out other medical causes besides mental illnesses to rule out serious health problems. In this case, they will carry on investigations which will include blood tests, physical examination and specific examination of all areas that could be affected.

Treatment varies significantly and depends on the cause. In some cases medication may be necessary, in some cases psychotherapy is sufficient, and in other cases the combination of the two may be the ideal solution.

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