Hallucinations are sensitive experiences that seem real but are created by your mind. They can affect your five senses. For example, you may hear a voice that is an image that no one else in the room can hear or see that is not real.

These symptoms may be due to a physical illness such as mental illness, drug side effects, or epilepsy or alcoholism.

Depending on the cause of your hallucinations you may need to see a psychiatrist, a neurologist or a general practitioner.

Treatment may include taking medication for a health treatment. Your doctor may recommend that you drink less alcohol to improve your hallucinations and take different behaviors, such as getting more sleep.


Types of hallucinations

Hallucinations can affect your vision, smell, taste, hearing or physical sensations.

Visual hallucinations – Visual hallucinations involve something that is not there. Hallucinations can be objects, visual patterns, people or light. For example, you see a person who is not in the house or sees a light that no one else can see.

Olfactory hallucinations – Olfactory hallucinations involve your feel of smell. When you wake up in the middle of the night you may get an unpleasant odor or you may feel that your body is smelling bad if it is not. This type of hallucination may include your pleasant aroma, such as the scent of flowers.

Gustatory hallucinations – Gustatory hallucinations are similar to olfactory hallucinations, but they involve your sense of taste rather than smell. These flavors are often strange or unpleasant. Gustatory hallucinations (often with metallic taste) are a relatively common symptom for people with epilepsy.

Auditory hallucinations – Auditory hallucinations are the most common form of hallucinations. You may hear someone talking to you or asking you to do something. The voice can be neutral, angry or warm. Other examples of this type of hallucination include hearing sounds, such as someone walking in the attic or the sound of repeated clicks or taps.

Tactile hallucinations – Tactile hallucinations involve the emotion of touch or movement in your body. For example, you may feel bugs crawling on your skin or your internal organs moving around. You can feel the imaginary touch of someone’s hand on your body.

Symptoms of Hallucination

Depending on the type of hallucination, there may be different symptoms, including:

  • Sensation of the body (such as the feeling of crawling on the skin or movement)
  • Hearing sounds (such as footsteps, music, or knocking on doors)
  • Hearing voices (may include positive or negative voices, such as a voice that tells you to harm yourself or others)
  • Seeing objects, animals, or patterns or lights
  • Odor (can be nice or bad and in one or both nostrils)
  • Taste something (often a metallic taste)

Causes of Hallucinations

Hallucinations are often associated with schizophreniaschizophrenia, a mental illness characterized by disordered thinking and behavior. However, they are also a potential feature of bipolar disorder.

With bipolar I disorder, hallucinations are possible with both mania and depression. In bipolar II, hallucinations may occur only in the depression stage. Bipolar disorder that presents with hallucinations and / or confusion can lead to the diagnosis of bipolar disorder with emotional traits.

 Not only does hallucinations occur with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but they can also occur with the following physical and mental conditions:

  • Alcohol or drug use and/or withdrawal
  • Auditory nerve disease
  • Dissociative identity disorder (DID)
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Hallucinogen use
  • Metabolic conditions
  • Middle or inner ear diseases
  • Migraine
  • Narcolepsy
  • Neurologic disorders
  • Ophthalmic diseases
  • Post-traumatic stress disorderPost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Stroke


How are hallucinations diagnosed?

After asking about your symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle, your healthcare provider will probably perform a physical exam and order a few tests to rule out medical or neurological causes of your hallucinations. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Blood tests to conform for metabolic or toxic causes
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) to conform for abnormal electrical activity in your brain and to check for seizures
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to look for structural brain problems such as brain tumors or strokes

 Unfortunately, studies show that people are less likely to report hallucinations It is important to be honest with your doctor about the time, duration and frequency, as well as the specific symptoms associated with your hallucinations.

Treatment of Hallucinations

The treatment of hallucinations will depend on the type of hallucination, the underpinning cause and your common health. In general, however, your doctor will probably recommend a multidisciplinary approach that includes medication, therapy, and social support.


 Psychotherapy for hallucinations involves engaging the patient in curiosity about the details of symptoms, providing psycho-education, exploring “proven causes” for hallucinations, and normalizing the experience.


The following self-help techniques may help patients cope with auditory hallucinations:

  • Exercise
  • Singing a song several times (e.g. “Happy Birthday”)
  • Ignores the voice
  • Listening to music
  • Read (front and back)
  • Talking to others


Antipsychotic drugs are often effective in treating hallucinations, either by eliminating or reducing the frequency at which they occur or by having a calming effect that makes them less painful.

Nuplazid (Pimavansarin) is the first drug approved for the treatment of hallucinations associated with psychosis experienced with Parkinson’s disease.

Other Treatments

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (RTMS), a relatively non-invasive method of placing a small magnetic device directly into the skull, has some initial evidence that it may be able to reduce the frequency and intensity of auditory hallucinations in some people with schizophrenia.