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Why Does One Hallucinate? Theories Behind It

Hallucinations could occur as a cause of a mental illness - typically a psychotic breakdown, a side effect of a medication.

Why Does One Hallucinate? Theories Behind It

A Hallucination should not be confused with an illusion which is a sensory deception

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Hallucinations could occur as a cause of a mental illness
  2. A Hallucination is a false perception, which is not a sensory distortion
  3. They are seen more in non - psychiatric state like epilepsy

A Hallucination is a false perception, which is neither a sensory distortion nor a misinterpretation, but which occurs at the same time as real perceptions. To put it in simple words, it is a sensation without a physical stimulus. Hallucinations are well formed, constant, clearly delineated and independent of will and self - control. Hallucinations could occur as a cause of a mental illness - typically a psychotic breakdown, a side effect of medication or due to some neurological condition. Patients suffering from neurological conditions like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's also tend to experience hallucinations in advanced stages of the illness. Sometimes it could also occur as a result of consuming alcohol or certain drugs/chemicals.

A Hallucination should not be confused with an illusion which is a sensory deception arising from a result of lack of perceptual clarity and intense emotions, for example, a person walking on a dark, lonely lane, is mildly frightened and can't see clearly - sees shadows as threatening people.

Hallucinations may affect your vision, sense of smell, taste, hearing, or bodily sensations.



Visual Hallucinations are where people would see flashes of light, patterns, objects, animals or people that are not present in their physical environment. They are seen more in non - psychiatric state like epilepsy. Auditory hallucinations are the most common where people would hear voices. It can be one or more than one voice. Auditory hallucinations are usually seen in patients suffering from a mental illness. Other hallucinations include Olfactory hallucinations i.e. the sense of smell/odor, Gustatory hallucination i.e. the sense of taste and Tactile hallucination i.e. the sense of touch. In this, the patient might report a sensation of creatures or bugs crawling on or under their skin.

Research has shown that changes in the brain's neurochemistry could often cause hallucinations. Chemical imbalances in specific brain regions due to trauma, stress of injury lead to the occurrence of hallucination. Imbalance of neurotransmitters dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, glutamate, and GABA-A can cause you to hallucinate. Abnormal brain excitation, disconnects between different parts of the brain (primary sensory cortex and influencing areas) also have shown to be the cause of it. Freudian theories state that hallucinations are, like dreams, projections of the subconscious - unfulfilled wishes, suppressed emotions, on the conscious mind.

Timely intervention is the key to treatment since hallucinations can be extremely frightening and anxiety provoking. Medication is usually the first line of treatment followed by psychotherapy. 

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