Hallucinations and hallucinations are perceptual disorders. A person affected feels or sees impressions, although no real triggers can be found. The contents of hallucinations and their manifestations are different – therapies usually treat the causative factors.
What are hallucinations?
In medicine, hallucinations or hallucinations are assigned to the group of perceptual disorders. Hallucinations can also be described as delusions. Among other things, things are perceived that are not objectively real.
There are different forms of hallucinations. For example, a distinction is made between acoustic hallucinations (e.g. hearing voices), optical hallucinations (perceiving images), gustatory hallucinations (sensory illusions affecting taste) or tactile hallucinations (including hallucinations of touch or touch).
In medicine and psychology, hallucinations continue to be considered under aspects such as their clarity (i.e. the clarity or distinctness in which hallucinations appear to those affected) or their intensity. The fact that the person affected knows that the contents of their hallucinations do not correspond to reality also plays a role.
Hallucinations can be caused by a variety of factors. The possible causes differ depending on the form of the hallucinations. Acoustic hallucinations can be triggered by psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia or various forms of depression.
Psychiatric disorders can also be the cause of optical illusions; for example, optical hallucinations are observed in delirium as a result of alcohol dependence. Likewise, optical illusions can also be caused by organic diseases or the use of mind-expanding drugs (such as cocaine) or medication.
Olfactory and taste hallucinations can be triggered, among other things, by tumorous changes in the brain or by an impending epileptic seizure – as well as by various psychiatric syndromes.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
The difficult thing about hallucinations is that the sufferer perceives them as real. He can no longer tell the difference between the illusion and what is really there. These sensory hallucinations can be acoustic, visual or olfactory and cause problems in the area concerned.
An initial symptom of hallucinations is that the sufferer suddenly perceives things in familiar places that would otherwise never have been there. This is particularly common in the optical field. For example, one sees colored areas on the wall, perceives the colors of the traffic lights differently, or something similar. Strong hallucinations can cause the experience of entire situations.
In the case of acoustic hallucinations, the person affected usually hears voices, even when they are alone. These clearly talk about him or give advice. Listening to music is also typical. In olfactory hallucinations, sufferers smell or taste certain substances that are not present. Here it is particularly difficult to distinguish between fallacy and reality.
There are also hallucinations related to the perception of one’s own body. Affected people feel, for example, how a certain organ moves or grows. The feeling can also arise that a body part is not part of the body, which is then perceived as annoying or painful.
Diagnosis & History
Diagnosis of hallucinations is usually based on what the person has told them. Based on the descriptions given by the patient, the diagnostician (a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist) is able to determine various characteristics of the existing hallucinations.
When questioning a patient, the diagnostician usually has various catalogs of questions at his disposal, which can help to carry out a detailed assessment of existing hallucinations.
The course of hallucinations depends, among other things, on the causes underlying the hallucinations. If the causes are to be treated or cured, there is usually a favorable prognosis for fighting the associated hallucinations.
With hallucinations, it is not possible to universally predict the symptoms or complications. In most cases, these always depend on why the hallucinations occur or what drug caused them. In most cases, the hallucinations disappear after a certain period of time, so that the symptoms do not last permanently.
It is not uncommon for patients to lose consciousness and faint. A fall can result in injury. Furthermore, those affected are usually no longer able to correctly assess their thoughts and actions, so that there is an increased risk of accidents. Coordination and cognitive abilities are also extremely limited by the hallucinations. Those affected can also be delirious and develop severe psychological symptoms or depression.
The hallucinations can also lead to sweating or panic attacks. There is no direct treatment for hallucinations. However, the affected person must refrain from the respective substances that are responsible for the hallucinations. Withdrawal may be necessary if the patient is addicted to drugs. In many cases, psychological treatment of the patient is also necessary.
When should you go to the doctor?
Whether a doctor should be consulted for hallucinations usually depends very much on the cause of the hallucinations. If the person has consumed alcohol or other drugs, hallucinations are a common symptom that does not require treatment. The symptoms then disappear on their own within a short time.
However, if the hallucinations last longer, you should see a doctor. If the symptoms occur due to medication, a doctor should also be consulted. The patient should not stop or change their medication without first consulting a doctor.
However, if the hallucinations occur without taking medication or without using drugs, a doctor must be consulted, as this is usually a mental disorder that definitely needs to be treated. In the first place, a general practitioner can be consulted, who can usually refer the person concerned to a psychologist or psychiatrist. In the case of drug addiction, withdrawal can also be carried out to combat the hallucinations.
Treatment & Therapy
An effective therapy for hallucinations usually begins with combating the causes that cause the existing hallucinations. If, for example, hallucinations are caused by organic diseases or malfunctions, early treatment of these disorders can lead to a positive influence on the sensory illusions associated with them.
If hallucinations are due to certain medications, a therapeutic step can be to identify the corresponding drug(s) and arrange for a change in medication.
Often, however, various possible triggers of hallucinations cannot be defined immediately and clearly; it can make sense to combine different therapeutic approaches in order to develop an individually effective therapy:
For example, if there are psychiatric causes for hallucinations, medication can be combined with psychotherapeutic therapy steps. The same applies to organically conditioned hallucinations.
Within the framework of psychotherapy, a person affected can learn, among other things, to be able to deal better with existing hallucinations. In this way, the level of suffering that is associated with hallucinations for the individual can be reduced.
Outlook & Forecast
Since hallucinations are not an independent disease, there is no basic prognosis for these symptoms. The occurrence of hallucinations is determined by the underlying disease and must therefore be assessed individually. If the underlying disease can be cured, there will also be a reduction in the hallucinations. A complete cure is therefore possible in some patients.
In the case of a transient acute condition initiated by drugs or alcohol, the patient normally experiences spontaneous healing. As the toxins are broken down and removed from the organism, false perceptions gradually recede.
In most cases, they are completely gone within a few hours or a few days. If there is a mental illness, lifelong manifestations of sensory illusions can occur. In the case of schizophrenia or other personality disorders, for example, they are part of the clinical picture of the patient. These diseases are often not curable.
The administration of medication reduces the occurrence of hallucinations as far as possible or temporarily deactivates them. As soon as the patient discontinues his medication, however, hallucinations recur. In some cases, those affected lack insight into the illness. They therefore do not go into therapy and do not allow themselves to be treated accordingly. These people usually do not suffer from any serious illnesses and ultimately experience hallucinations for life.
Preventing the development of hallucinations can also consist above all in having psychiatric or organic problems treated at an early stage. If these possible causes of hallucinations are controlled by targeted treatments, the risk of developing hallucinations decreases.
Furthermore, responsible use of medicines and intoxicants can prevent various forms of hallucinations and hallucinations.
In the case of hallucinations, the possibilities or measures of aftercare usually depend very much on the cause and the severity of these symptoms. Therefore, no general prediction can be made about the possibilities of aftercare. The disease must first and foremost be treated properly by a doctor so that the symptoms can be relieved.
If the hallucinations occur as a result of taking certain medicines or drugs, these must be discontinued. Regular examinations by a doctor should always be carried out in order to carry out withdrawal properly. In the case of other mental upsets or depression, treatment by a professional psychologist is usually necessary.
However, talking to relatives or friends is also very useful and helpful and can alleviate the symptoms of the hallucinations. First and foremost, the trigger or underlying condition for the hallucinations must be identified and treated in order to permanently treat these delusions.
In serious cases, the person concerned is dependent on treatment in a closed clinic. Relatives should draw the patient’s attention to the symptoms of the hallucinations and persuade them to seek treatment. It is not uncommon for contact with other affected people to be very helpful.
You can do that yourself
Hallucinations are among the mental illnesses in which the person affected no longer has any influence. As a result, there are no opportunities for self-help for the patient in everyday life.
He himself is not aware that he is subject to a hallucination, so that it is impossible for him to react to it. Even with an existing diagnosis and information about the disease, he himself has no option to act. Therefore, in these cases, the relatives or people from the immediate social environment of the person concerned are required.
You are advised to educate yourself fully about the condition to avoid misunderstandings. You can find out more about your own options for providing help and find out how you can protect yourself or distance yourself. They often have to be informed about which behavioral patterns of the patient must be regarded as part of the disease. This helps to be able to react appropriately to difficult situations.
In many cases, the close relatives themselves should accept psychological help in order to be able to process the events well. When it comes to hallucinations, the sufferer is often seen as a danger to themselves and others. Therefore, the options for medical care should be explored in order to be able to make the best decisions for everyone involved.