Although hallucinations often cause high anxiety, some sufferers learn to distinguish them from reality and lead almost normal lives.
What are hallucinations?
Hallucinations occur when a person perceives some-thing that is not actually there.
Hallucinations may be visual, (seeing some-thing that is not in reality there); auditory, (hearing nonexistent noises); or tactile, (a false sensation of being touched).
What causes hallucinations?
Hallucinations are symptoms of a psychotic disorder (severe mental disorder) in which a person is unable to separate real from unreal experiences.[the_ad id=”222″]
Schizophrenia, the most disabling of the major mental illnesses, is often associated with hallucinations.
Patients may hear voices describing their activities, carry on conversations, receive warnings; or be given orders about what they should do.
Abuse of drugs and alcohol can also cause an organic brain disorder that may result in hallucinations.
Alcoholics often suffer severely during alcohol withdrawal; for example, seeing strange animals or experiencing crawling sensations as if covered by snakes or spiders.
Some illicit drugs, such as LSD, may have similar effects. Sometimes medications, (such as corticosteroids used to treat other medical conditions) may lead to psychotic disorders, including hallucinations, as an adverse effect.
Some people may also hallucinate as a reaction to a toxic substance or to a poison. Visual hallucinations are common in sufferers from narcolepsy.
On which causes uncontrollable sleepiness at inappropriate times. Other possible causes of hallucinations include brain tumour, heat stroke, severe dehydration, extreme fatigue, and fever.
How are hallucinations investigated and treated?
It is normally obvious when a person is hearing, feeling, or seeing something that does not exist.
However, investigating and treating the cause is more complex. If drug or alcohol abuse is responsible, detoxification will usually remove the problem.
The same is true when a poisonous substance or medication is found to be the cause.
A brain tumour may require surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy (drug treatment), or a combination of this treatment for schizophrenia usually involves medication with antipsychotic drugs as well as psychotherapy.
The aim is to help the per-son learn to distinguish reality from what is unreal or distorted so that they can establish and maintain a normal pattern of life.
What can I do myself?
Avoid drugs and substances that can produce hallucinations. This includes inhaled substances, such as lighter fuel or glue fumes.
Use alcohol sparingly or avoid it altogether if you have a history of dependency or abuse. If alcohol or drug abuse has reached the stage of dependency, stopping is almost always extremely difficult.
In this case, you should seek professional help or join a group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
When should I see my doctor?
If you experience more than one episode of hallucinations, medical assistance is needed. If a medication seems to greatly alter your mental state, call your doctor at once.
Similarly, if you or someone close to you is becoming increasingly dependent on alcohol or other substances, seek professional help.
What will the doctor do?
After listening to your description of symptoms, the doctor will perform various tests to pinpoint the cause.
If a brain tumour is suspected, a CT (computed tomography) scan and other brain imaging studies may be done. Drug and alcohol abusers may be referred to treatment programmes.
Medications whose side-effects could be causing the problem will be adjusted. If a mental disorder is the root cause, you may be given medication or referred for individual, family or group therapy.
Other programmes that emphasise social and vocational training may also be suggested.
Are hallucinations dangerous?
Hallucinations are not dangerous in themselves, although they may cause dangerous behaviour.
For example, a person in the grip of a hallucination may sometimes attempt to inflict harm upon themselves or others.
Some sufferers may experience only one psychotic episode involving hallucinations in an entire lifetime.
Others may have many episodes but lead relatively normal lives during the periods be-tween them.
Still, others may be so plagued by hallucinations that their awareness consists of little else and they become unable to function normally.
Hallucinations related to drug or alcohol abuse generally disappear once the substance is no longer being taken, or in the case of an addict, once the body has recovered from the effects of withdrawal.
Hallucinations are a sign that something is seriously wrong and should not be ignored.
What can I do to avoid hallucinations?
Only drink alcohol in moderation and stay away from illegal drugs. Before taking prescribed medicine, let your doctor know about any other drugs that you may be taking.
If you experience unusual side effects, including mental changes, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Poisonous mushrooms and certain other toxic substances can produce hallucinations.
Seek immediate medical help if you experience hallucinations after eating or drinking substances which are possibly poisonous.
Claiming that voices are giving instructions to do certain things.
Feeling invisible fingers touching one’s body. Talking or listening to someone who is not there.