By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Hallucination refers to when a person sees, smells, hears, feels or tastes something that does not exist.
Hallucination is a common feature of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and dementia but can also occur as a result of extreme fatigue or bereavement.
Fever is another cause of hallucination in children. People who abuse drugs or alcohol are also more likely to experience hallucinations, particularly if they try to withdraw too quickly from the substance they are addicted to.
Stages of hallucination
The most common type of hallucination is the auditory hallucination seen in schizophrenia, where patients experience invasive thoughts and start to hear voices. Hallucination can occur at different levels, ranging from mild to severe. The stages of hallucination are described below.
Also referred to as the comforting stage,a person may begin to experience a sense of anxiety, loneliness or guilt that can cause them to focus obsessively on thoughts that will relieve those feelings. However, the sufferer realizes the thoughts are their own and finds that they can control them.
Stage 2 hallucination is also called the condemning stage. Anxiety is felt to a greater degree than in stage 1 and the sufferer purposely prepares to listen to the hallucination. They may become unable to recognize that the hallucination is not real and start to experience extreme distress and terror. The person may also start to fear that other people can hear the voices and therefore avoid social situations. They may also start to find ways to avoid the hallucination. A decreased attention span and an increased blood pressure, heart rate and respiration rate are features of stage 2 hallucination.
Also called the controlling phase, here the sufferer starts to experience anxiety at the panic level. Voices they are hearing may start to make commands and become threatening if the commands are not followed. At this stage, the hallucinations can last for hours or days if the patient is left untreated and they may start to feel suicidal or violent.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jul 24, 2014