Hallucinations are normal

Images and voices in your head

Anyone who sees or hears something for which there is no external stimulus is quickly mistaken for "crazy". Professor Dr. Peter Falkai, specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy at the University Hospital in Munich and board member of the German Society for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology (DGPPN) in Berlin, reassures us in an interview with the Pharmazeutische Zeitung: »A psychotic experience, such as the idea that someone is going next to me, 10 to 15 percent of people have now and then. That is not necessarily an indication of schizophrenia. "

Often organic causes

Different hallucinations can be distinguished depending on the sensory modality. In the case of optical deceptions, the patient sees non-existent, unformed phenomena such as flashes of light or objects or people in reality. He can rarely even experience entire scenes. With acoustic hallucinations, hearing noises, music, or voices - one or more - is typical. The voices can speak to one another or a single one with an imperative character can give orders. There are also commenting and praising voices. Mostly in the context of a schizophrenic psychosis, hallucinations affecting the sense of smell or taste, i.e. olfactory or gustatory, occur. A typical phenomenon is the perception of the smell of putrefaction. The sense of touch and depth in the skin and muscles can also be affected. People then feel touches or sensations on the skin or inside the body, such as an internal burning sensation or the movement of organs.

"Hallucinations are a neuronal disinhibition in the brain," explains the expert. "Information that should actually be in the memory memory gets into consciousness unfiltered." In contrast to perceptions with existing stimuli from the environment, the brain shapes the sensory perception from within during hallucinations. The causes for this can be quite harmless. “Many people are familiar with so-called hypnagogic hallucinations. They arise during the transition from wakefulness to sleep or when waking up. ”They can also occur during meditation. In intense grief phases, it can happen that you see or hear the deceased person.

If the body suffers a deficiency, for example in fluids, important minerals or vitamins, nerve activities also get mixed up. Even a few days without REM sleep can trigger hallucinations. The same goes for hypoglycemia. A high fever is also known to cause delusions. Other organic causes are hormonal disorders, certain immune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus or other genetic diseases such as the copper storage disease Wilson's disease.

In addition to these secondary diseases that affect the brain, there are also triggering disorders that directly affect the brain, such as epilepsies - here hallucinations can precede an attack - dementia, Huntington's disease or Parkinson's-like Lewy body disease. Inflammation of the brain, tumors or injuries to the brain, as well as infectious diseases that spread to the brain such as syphilis or AIDS, can also cause false perceptions. Some patients with a history of stroke may hallucinate from time to time afterwards. Optical hallucinations can occur as a result of damage to the optic nerves or the visual pathway in the brain, but are also known as a phenomenon in people who go blind late. Deaf people, however, can have auditory hallucinations.

Legal and illegal hallucinogens

Scientists have shown in experiments that through isolation in a darkened and soundproof environment, hallucinations can be generated within a short time even in completely healthy people. By taking certain drugs, but also some medicines, misdirected nerve impulses can also lead to content from memory entering consciousness and hallucinations of the senses. The corresponding substances influence the concentration and release of important transmitters for the transmission of nerve stimuli such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

The triggering drugs include Parkinson's medication, anticholinergics, various antidepressants, certain neuroleptics, long-term cortisone preparations and cardiac glycosides. The hallucinogens also include cannabis, cocaine, LSD, mushroom poisons, designer drugs from the group of amphetamines (speed or crystal meth), as well as the so-called legal highs, known as bath salts or herbal mixtures. They may experience hallucinations not only after ingestion but also during withdrawal.

Hallucinations can also be the symptom of mental illnesses, such as psychoses of the schizophrenic type. In these patients the relation to reality is disturbed and they suffer from different types of delusions. Their experience of reality differs from that of other people during a psychotic episode, although they consider their reality to be real.

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