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8 causes of hallucinations you need to know of

Are you worried you or a loved one might be suffering from hallucinations? These are the 8 common causes you should know of.

Written by Anuradha Varanasi |Published : October 6, 2016 3:49 PM IST

Hallucinations take place when someone sees, hears, feels, tastes or even smells things that do not actually exist. This distorted sense of perception can be a very disorienting and scary experience for the patient and also his loved ones. Due to lack of awareness, people who suffer from hallucinations are called crazy and deranged .

If you know someone who has hallucinations, it is important to realise that it is a symptom of an underlying health condition that needs to be diagnosed immediately. These are the eight possible causes of hallucinations everyone should be aware of.

1. Schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia is a chronic and serious mental disease where the patient has difficulty in distinguishing between reality and what is imaginary. Unlike popular belief, schizophrenia has nothing to do with split personality. One of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia is visual hallucinations.

Schizophrenics suffer from hallucinations that tend to involve very vivid scenes that could include their family members and even animals.The patient might react to these hallucinations with amusement, fear or in some cases, even indifference. Doctors have observed that a schizophrenic patient s hallucinations are quite colourful and in some cases, the patient might also see giants. While there is no cure for schizophrenia, the symptoms can be controlled with medicines.

2. Delirium

Delirium is when an individual suffers from sudden and serious mental disturbances that results in confusion. It leaves the patient feeling lost and disoriented. The symptoms of delirium also include restlessness, difficulty in speaking, inability to understand speech and other such behavioural changes.

This is a temporary and reversible condition that is also known to cause hallucinations [1]. The causes of delirium are consuming excessive alcohol or drugs or electrolyte disturbances.

3. Dementia

Dementia is a decline in memory with cognitive impairment that affects the patient s movements, language and also causes gait and balance problems. Dementia in itself is not a disease, but actually a term used to describe a group of symptoms caused by Alzheimer s disease and three other types of dementia. Here s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer s disease. Studies have found that visual hallucinations are a symptom that 20% of patients with lewy body dementia experience at one point or the other [1].

4. Seizures

Doctors have observed that visual hallucinations caused by seizures take place in brief spurts and mainly consist of small, brightly coloured spots or shapes that flash [1]. Patients with epilepsy suffer from seizures where they experience a brief episode of uncontrolled jerk movements. Other causes of seizures are brain tumour, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and snake bites.

5. Migraines

Patients who suffer from frequent migraine attacks will also experience hallucinations. Researchers have found that hallucinations are a fairly common symptom for migraine patients. They usually see a flickering, white zig-zag line. Patients can see variations of this vision and in some cases, it could also be colourful [1].

6. Sleep disturbances

Researchers have found that sleep disturbances like insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness and mental disorders like depression and anxiety are more likely to suffer from hallucinations [1]. Nearly 37% of patients experience hallucinations just before they are about to wake up from deep sleep. These hallucinations will seem more like a dream.

7. Parkinson s disease

Around 50% of patients living with Parkinson s disease also complain of hallucinations. These consist of seeing a person, animal or even certain objects that exist only in their minds [1].

8. Tumours

Patients suffering from tumours that affect the optic nerve also have visual hallucinations. In fact, a study found that 13 out of 59 patients with temporal lobe tumors experienced visual hallucinations [1]. Another study observed that nearly 15% of patients with brain tumours also suffered from vivid hallucinations.


[1] Teeple RC, Caplan JP, Stern TA. Visual Hallucinations: Differential Diagnosis and Treatment. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2009;11(1):26-32.

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