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The word "hallucination" might bring to mind a person jumping out of a window to "fly" while high on LSD or an overmedicated person hearing voices that aren't heard by others. While these events are possible due to hallucinations brought on by drugs, hallucinations can also be a sign of a psychiatric illness, such as schizophrenia. Read on to find out more about hallucinations, what causes them and how to treat them.

Definition of Hallucinations

Hallucinations are when a person senses (sees, hears, feels, smells, tastes) things while awake that do not exist, but have been created by the mind.[1,2]

Types of Hallucinations and Signs & Symptoms

The types of hallucinations are based on which sense they affect.

Auditory hallucinations

Also called command hallucinations, are the most frequent hallucination which involve hearing voices that tell the person to do something. Approximately 75% of people with schizophrenia experience auditory hallucinations; 20% to 50% of people with bipolar disorder experience them; 10% of those with major depression with psychotic features experience them; and 40% of those with post-traumatic stress disorder experience them.[1,3]

A person experiencing this hallucination might have the following symptoms:[1]

Visual, tactile, smell, and taste hallucinations

Visual, tactile, smell, and taste hallucinations are usually identifiable by the person's interaction with the hallucination such as the following:[1]

Causes of Hallucinations

Hallucinations can be caused by a variety of things, including the following:[2,4]

Treatments for Hallucinations

Visual hallucinations

While effective treatment of visual hallucinations is dependent on the cause of the hallucinations, some people may benefit from formal psychotherapeutic interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. The following are other treatments for each cause.[4]

Psychotic illness and delirium. Neuroleptic medications are the mainstay of treatment for visual hallucinations due to psychotic illness. These medications are also beneficial for the management of delirium.

Auditory hallucinations

Since auditory hallucinations occur mostly due to psychiatric disorders, antipsychotic medications are usually treated. Other methods include the following:


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  4. National Institutes of Health. Ryan C. Teeple, B.S., Jason P. Caplan, M.D., and Theodore A. Stern, M.D. Visual Hallucinations: Differential Diagnosis and Treatment. Retrieved June 9, 2013, from
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