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Causes of Hallucinations

Having hallucinations or witnessing someone who has them is not a normal thing. It can be quite scary. Here are some causes.
Rujuta Borkar Nov 20, 2018
We react, behave and act according to the stimuli that our environment provides for us. When someone says 'Hi', we greet them back, when we see someone, our mind registers it. Similarly, we feel, touch, smell according to the stimuli that is provided. Now imagine that there is no stimuli present and we begin to react. That is hallucination.
Hallucinations happen when we perceive something without a stimuli being present. The brain has its own mechanism of running and it perceives several things based on its memory. That would explain the dreams we have, where things which may not be possible in the real world, might happen in a dream.
But this happens when we are unconscious, so that when we wake up, we are back in the 'real' world. Hallucinations happen when the brain cannot distinguish between reality and unconsciousness, so that it begins to perceive things even when there are no stimuli present. This manifests itself in the form of smell, taste, vision, sounds, or tactile feelings.
There are several types of hallucinations that can occur, these include―auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, olfactory hallucinations, somatic hallucinations, tactile hallucinations, or gustatory hallucinations. Here are some of the causes of these hallucinations.

Causes of Auditory Hallucinations

Auditory hallucinations include hearing voices, noises, music, and sounds that are not present in reality. A typical example of a person suffering from auditory hallucinations is that he will hear his name being called out, but when he looks about, no one is. He will hear voices that speak about him, or give a running commentary. Some of these causes are:


Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that is suffered by many and is a gradual decaying process of the mind. People suffering from this have common symptoms of hallucinations, delusions and the like.
A very common symptom of this disorder is to hear voices that are not really present. They could be of a man or woman and of someone from the past or present. It could be a single voice or many together, usually as conversations and comments that are negative in nature.
For example, it could simply be a comment like 'You're sleeping' (in the third person) or 2-3 voices talking about the schizophrenic 'She's a horrible person' 'She stinks and is ugly' and several other negative connotations to that effect.


Depression is the feeling of extreme sadness and despair. These are different from the normal feelings of sadness that people experience, in the way that they do not pass.
A depressed person does not want to carry out any of the normal activities of one's daily life and that results in his slipping into more and more of a cocoon, thus intensifying the feelings further. Depression is so intense that it interferes with the normal functioning of the human mind and renders itself to cause hallucinations.


When a person is isolated and has no social connections, there is no outlet, there are no channels to make usage of the normal needs. The isolation and loneliness, often accompanied by fear, can have a devastating effect on the person's mind and cause him to suffer from hallucinations.
Depression, schizophrenia, isolation, and other mental disorders are some of the main causes of hallucinations in the elderly.

Causes of Visual Hallucinations

Visual hallucinations occur when a person begins to see things that are not there. It is a gradual process and might start with a patient seeing things in different shapes like shadows and patterns, flashes of light or objects. Though the common perception is that of a human or animal, when they are not really present. Let's see some of the causes.


This is a psychotic illness that leads to extreme disturbance of one's conscious mind and an acute diminishing of the person's ability to sustain attention. The mind 'plays tricks' on the person's consciousness and causes constant hallucinations.


People suffering from dementia often see objects moving when they are still. They also visualize situations and conditions where people are present and are carrying forth complex activities. Therefore, hallucinations are common and are usually taken as a definitive sign of dementia.
Other hallucination causes of the visual kind include―seizures, migraines, Anton's syndrome, Charles Bonnet Syndrome, and tumors.

Other Hallucination Causes

Drugs and Alcohol

There are certain substance abuse drugs that blur the lines between consciousness and subconsciousness, thereby causing hallucinations. So also, consuming a high content of alcohol will also lead to the same effect.
These drugs include marijuana, Ecstasy, and LSD. The occurrence of hallucinations after taking these is common. One of the withdrawal symptoms of these drugs might also include hallucinations.

Exhaustion and Fatigue

When a person is extremely exhausted and fatigued, there remains a very slight connection between wakefulness and sleep. The brain is tired and cannot work to the best of its abilities, therefore it blurs the lines between what is real and what is imagined―the result being hallucinations. These are more common cause than you would like to believe.
It is important to know the hallucinations causes, because it needs to be given immediate medical and psychological attention. Hallucinations can disrupt a person's life and prevent any normal activities from taking place. Therefore, there have to be certain steps to tackle the same brought into the picture.
Disclaimer - This content is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for the advice of a mental health expert.