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The 15 types of hallucinations (and their possible causes)

The 15 types of hallucinations (and their possible causes)

July 18, 2024

One of the phenomena that is most associated with "madness" are hallucinations , that is, perceptions that do not correspond to reality and in which there is no present stimulus that triggers them (unlike illusions).

Hallucinations can appear as a symptom of some mental disorder, for example schizophrenia, or by the consumption of psychoactive substances such as fungi or LSD. The most popular hallucinations are visual and auditory ; however, there are others that we explain in this article.

  • Related article: "Hallucinations: definition, causes, and symptoms"

What are hallucinations?

Basically, hallucinations they are perceptive experiences non-existent for the rest of the world ; they only seem real to the person who lives them. This phenomenon is much more common than most people think, it can occur in any perceptual modality and usually have characteristics similar to a normal perception.

The exact nature of the different types of hallucinations is not entirely clear. However, it is known that people often experience hallucinations because some chemicals found in drugs influence the synapses (the spaces through which the neurons communicate with each other) and cause the activation of some brain regions, for example, the parietal lobe in the case of hallucinations of touch.

Other times what triggers the hallucinations are dysfunctional neurons that activate certain parts of the brain and they have an effect on normal function. The latter phenomenon occurs, for example, by an excess of dopamine in the case of schizophrenia.

Now, experts say that lack of sleep can also cause the occurrence of this phenomenon , since it has been proven that after 24 hours without sleep a person is more susceptible to experiencing hallucinations. In the same way, spending a lot of time in situations of sensory deprivation can generate visions of elements that are not really there.

  • Related article: "Hallucinations to keep your eyes covered for several hours"


As you see, hallucinations can occur for different reasons, not only for serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Some of the most common causative factors are:

  • Consumption of drugs and drugs : The consumption of some psychoactive substances such as marijuana, LSD and even alcohol are factors that cause this type of experience.
  • Diseases and mental disorders : Schizophrenia is the psychopathology that is most associated with this phenomenon; however, other disorders and diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia, bipolar disorder, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), brain tumors and even Parkinson's also cause hallucinations.
  • Brain injuries : Brain lesions can also cause hallucinations, mainly those that occur in the frontal lobe (negative hallucinations, double phenomenon or olfactory, gustatory and visual hallucinations) or the hippocampus (see smaller objects and changes in body image).

Types of hallucinations

Types of hallucinations can be classified in two ways : according to the sensory modality and according to the mode of appearance.

According to the sensory modality

Depending on the sensory modality, hallucinations can be:

1. Visual hallucinations

Some of the best known. They happen when the person sees things that are not really there; for example, when seeing an individual that does not exist. In cases like schizophrenia the sick person can even have a relationship with the imaginary entity . Visual hallucinations can also be flashes of light or autoscopy, that is, seeing oneself from the outside.

2. Auditory

They are also the best known. There is a belief that these hallucinations are voices issued by a third person and that they have a meaning, for example, to hurt someone, but they can also be single words or sounds . It is more often experienced by people with schizophrenia.

3. Gustatory

These hallucinations are less frequent than the previous ones. They usually appear in some disorders, for example, depression. The person perceives flavors of elements that are not really there .

4. Olfactory

They are also rare, and include hallucinations of the odorous type. They usually occur due to drug use and are generally unpleasant odors. Sometimes they also appear at times when it is expressed along with certain types of migraine, as well as taste and hearing .

5. Somatic

These hallucinations include the sensations of the body of the individual who suffers them, who feel them as real.Some people have reported feeling that they had metal organs, they claimed to feel they did not have organs or that they did not perceive body parts.

6. Tactiles

They are also known as haptic hallucinations and include those that have to do with the sense of touch. It is possible to differentiate between thermals (sensations of cold or heat) or hydric (for example, they perceive that they have water in the lungs)

7. Paresthesias

They belong to the previous group but are frequent in some disorders such as Wernicke-Korsakov. The person experiences a tingling sensation , as if he had ants crawling on his skin. They are also frequent with the consumption of other drugs such as cocaine.

8. Kinesthetic

Kinesthetic or kinesthetic hallucinations are those related to the movement of one's body . They are frequent in patients with Parkinson's and those individuals who consume psychoactive substances.

According to the mode of appearance

Depending on the mode of appearance hallucinations can be:

9. Functional hallucinations

They are presented when one stimulus triggers another in the same sensory modality . For example, when someone hears the noise of real traffic and perceives the sound of the news as hallucination.

10. Reflections

It is similar earlier because the person has a hallucination in the presence of another stimulus. But nevertheless, this stimulus does not belong to the same sensory modality .

11. Negatives

Person he perceives that something that actually exists is not present . That is, something does not appear or see something that is not really in that moment or place, but something that is disappearing.

12. Negative autoscopies

It is the opposite of autoscopy. If in the autocopy the person is seen from the outside as if it were a mirror, in the negative autopsy the person, when you go to look in the mirror, you can not see .

13. Extracampinas

It's those hallucinations that are outside our visual field . For example, when perceiving someone who is in front as if he were behind, or when listening to a voice that is another city.

14. Pseudoalucinations

Pseudohallucinations are those in which the person he is aware that the hallucinations he experiences are not true . For example, when an individual perceives the voice of a deceased relative but knows that it can not be true because he has died years ago.

15. Hypnagogical

It is a type of hallucination that occurs also in people without any type of neurological alteration in the transition between wakefulness and sleep. They can be auditory, visual or tactile.

What causes hallucinations? - Elizabeth Cox (July 2024).

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