Hallucinations are when someone sees, hears, smells, tastes or feels things that don’t exist outside of their mind – for example outsiders won’t be able to see/hear them etc. They are common in people with schizophrenia, and are usually experienced as hearing voices.
Hallucinations can be frightening as they may be unexpected or unwanted, but there’s usually a cause. They can occur as a result of:
• Taking idrugs or alcohol
• Mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression or dementia
• Conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease
• Loss of vision
Hallucinations can make you feel nervous, paranoid and frightened, so it’s important to be with someone you can trust. Hallucinations can also occur as a result of extreme tiredness or recent bereavement.
Hearing voices is a well recognised symptom of depression and schizophrenia but it can also be unrelated to mental health. The experience of hearing voices is usually distressing but it’s not always negative. Some people who hear voices are able to live with them and get used to them or may consider them a part of their life. It is common for recently bereaved people to hear the voices of their loved one. Sometimes these voices can be your own negative thoughts and words.
People have many different experiences of hearing voices. Here are some examples:
• It’s quite common to hear your name called when there is no-one with you.
• You may look round to see where the voice came from, and wonder why you heard it, but if nothing else happens you will probably just shrug it off as ‘just one of those things’.
• You may hear or see things as you are falling asleep.
• You may experience the voices as being in your head, or you may feel that they are coming from outside and heard through your ears like other sounds.
• You may believe that you are hearing other people’s thoughts.
• The voices may be louder or more frequent if you are feeling stressed.
• You may experience unkind and threatening voices that tell you to do dangerous or unacceptable things or try to control you.
• You may hear a kind supportive voice.
• Sometimes there may be more than one voice and they may talk or argue with each other.
Why may you hear voices?
Hunger – you may hear voices if you are very hungry, or if you have anorexia nervosa and/or are starving yourself.
Physical illness – if you have a high temperature, and have become delirious, you may hear voices, and see or say strange things.
Abuse or bullying – if you have experienced abuse, you may hear the voice of the person who abused you, undermining you and ordering you to harm yourself or to do things you know to be wrong. This is especially so if you experienced the abuse in childhood, at an age when you had not learned the coping skills you needed to protect yourself, or you were never given any chance to learn such skills.
Voices become a problem not so much because you hear them, but because of your relationship with them. If you are hearing voices or experience any other types of hallucination it is important to tell someone who can help and can provide medication if possible. It is completely normal to hear & see such things – you’re not alone! Stay strong ☀️