What Are Hallucinations?
Hallucinations are PERCEPTIONS that people experience but which are NOT caused by external stimuli/ input. However, to the person experiencing hallucinations, these perceptions feel AS IF THEY ARE REAL and that they are being generated by stimuli/ input outside of themselves (in fact, of course, the perceptions are being INTERNALLY GENERATED by the brain of the person who is experiencing the hallucination).
Different Types Of Hallucination :
There are several different types of hallucination and I summarize these below :
- VISUAL HALLUCINATIONS – these involve ‘seeing’ something that in reality does not exist or ‘seeing’ something that does exist in a DISTORTED / ALTERED form.
- AUDITORY HALLUCINATIONS – these, most often, involve ‘hearing’ voices that have no external reality (though other ‘sounds’ may be hallucinated, too).
- TACTILE HALLUCINATIONS – these occur when an individual feels as if s/he is being touched when, in fact, s/he isn’t (for example, feeling the sensation of insects crawling over one’s skin).
- GUSTATORY HALLUCINATIONS – these occur when a person perceives a ‘taste’ in his/her mouth in the absence of any external to the person causing the taste.
- OLFACTORY HALLUCINATION – this type of hallucination is sometimes also referred to as phantosmia and involves perceiving a smell which isn’t actually present.
BPD And Hallucinations :
Mild hallucinations are actually not uncommon even amongst people with no mental illness (e.g. believing one has heard the doorbell ring when it hasn’t).
At the other end of the scale, however, are fully-blown hallucinations that involve the person who is experiencing them being psychotically detached from reality; for example, someone experiencing a psychotic episode might hear, very clearly and distinctly, voices that s/he fully believes are coming from an external source (such as ‘the devil’ or a dead relative). A person suffering from such hallucinations cannot in any way be convinced that the ‘voices’ are being generated within his/her own head/brain.
It is uncommon for people suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) to suffer from the most serious types of hallucinations (as described above); however, under acute stress (and those with BPD are, of course, far more likely to experience acute stress than the average person), the BPD sufferer may experience hallucinations that fall somewhere between the mild and severe types.
For example, if s/he (the BPD sufferer) was constantly belittled and humiliated by a parent when growing up, s/he may, when experiencing severe stress, ‘hear’ the ‘parent in their head’ saying such things as ‘you’re useless’ or ‘you’re worthless.’
However, unlike the person suffering unambiguously from psychosis, when this occurs s/he is not completely detached from reality but is aware the ‘voices’ are being generated within his/her own mind and are imaginary as opposed to real.
Severe hallucinations may be indicative of schizophrenia but can also have other causes which include : delirium tremens (linked to alcohol abuse), narcotics (e.g. LSD) and sensory deprivation.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).