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Alternative NamesSensory hallucinations
Definition Return to top
Hallucinations involve sensing things that aren't there while a person is awake and conscious.
Considerations Return to top
Common hallucinations include:
Hallucinations related to smell or taste are rare.
Many recreational drugs, including drugs such as LSD and certain strong types of marijuana, may cause hallucinations. Hallucinations related to these drugs tend to involve seeing things, and may include patterns or haloes around lights. People who have such visual hallucinations after taking drugs usually know that their perception is distorted.
Hearing things (auditory hallucinations) is more common in psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia, although it may sometimes occur with high doses of cocaine, amphetamines, or other stimulants. High doses of stimulant drugs can make you feel as though there are bugs crawling on or just under the skin.
In some cases, hallucinations may be normal. For example, hearing the voice of, or briefly seeing, a loved one who has recently died can be a part of the grieving process.
Causes Return to top
There are many causes of hallucinations, including:
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
A person who begins to hallucinate and is detached from reality should get checked by a health care professional right away, because many medical conditions that can cause hallucinations may quickly become emergencies. A person who is hallucinating may become nervous, paranoid, and frightened, and should not be left alone.
Call your health care provider, go to the emergency room, or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if someone appears to be hallucinating and is unable to tell hallucinations from reality.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
The health care provider will do a physical examination and take a medical history. Blood may be drawn for testing.
Medical history questions may include the following:
References Return to top
Addington D, Bouchard RH, Goldberg J, Honer B, Malla A, Norman R, Tempier R. Clinical practice guidelines: treatment of schizophrenia. Can J Psychiatry. 2005;50:7S-57S.
International Early Psychosis Association Writing Group. International clinical practice guidelines for early psychosis. Br J Psychiatry. 2005;48:s120-s124.Update Date: 2/6/2008 Updated by: Christos Ballas, M.D., Attending Psychiatrist, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.