Perhaps, along with delusions, schizophrenia hallucinations may be the most acutely disturbing of the positive symptoms associated with the illness of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia hallucinations can disturb every mode of perception and drastically interfere with normal, every day functioning. First, let’s discuss what hallucinations are in more depth, and then explore the types before considering ways to relieve the associated troubles and difficulties.
What are Hallucinations?
Hallucinations are aberrations of perception. They can be completely unreal, abstract projections or inaccurate alterations of what we perceive in the external environment. There is no pattern to the experience of hallucinations. They can be coherent and solid, irritating and nonsensical, or even entertaining. More often than not, those experiencing them consider them disturbing and unsettling. They can occur as perturbations in any of the five senses, or as a completely mental phenomenon.
Of the many types of hallucinations, we will begin with the visual hallucination as this is the considered the most interesting by the uninitiated. Visual hallucinations, like others, can be distortions of real objects or can be psychological projections onto the outward world.
For instance, an individual may have a slight snow effect, or visual static, in their field of vision. They may witness an ebbing and flowing of landscapes, cartoon cut-outs and other depth perception issues, or even people or creatures that are not there. These types of distortions can alter the writing a person is attempting to read into something sinister and other distracting effects. They can even cause macroscopia or microscopia, altering the person’s self-perception of their own size in orientation of other objects. For instance, the person may feel as a giant sitting at their desk, and the desktop itself seems like the landscape that normal sized people would walk on, like gnomes or ‘smurfs,’ for lack of a better description.
Theses auditory, or aural, hallucinations are the most common type of schizophrenia hallucination. They are a disruption of the normal hearing process, involving hearing annoyances such as clicks, hums, or screeches, and can be as complex as hearing complete voices. These voices may offer a running commentary of the activities of the person dealing with schizophrenia. They may also whisper or scream religious vulgarities, threats, or dares, attempting to incite some negative behavior from the person. They can sound human, demonic, angelic, beastly, etc.
Please watch below for a video of the Mindstorm schizophrenia hallucination simulator. The video concentrates particularly on the auditory hallucinations, but also has versions that show visual hallucinations as well.
Auditory Hallucination Simulation
It is interesting to note the male newscaster at the end, exposing his obvious stigmas and negative beliefs regarding schizophrenia as well.
Olfactory hallucinations have to do with the sense of smell. These hallucinations are not remotely as alarming as the other types of hallucinations. It’s as simple as smelling odors and scents that aren’t there, whether that be a burning, rotting, or pleasant smell. But when accompanied by other types of hallucinations and delusions, they can really enhance the vividness of an experience and create a very confusing situation for the individual.
These hallucinations involve tasting items that you haven’t placed in your mouth. For instance, a person may see an item that they consider revulsive and begin having the sensation of tasting it. Gustatory hallucinations often occur in combination with other hallucinations, such as during episodes of synesthesia, a crossing of the sense. A person may see the color blue and begin tasting grapefruits. A person could “taste” the music they are listening too with these types of hallucinations.
These kinesthetic hallucinations involve the perception of the skin. One may feel that someone is poking them on the side, pulling them backwards, or just applying pressure on their limbs, for instance. More intense tactile hallucinations, called formication, are the sensation of insects crawling through their body or under their skin. There are also somatic hallucinations involving the innards and muscles of the person, feeling like something is scrambling and twisting their bowels. These can lead to bizarre delusions regarding the infestation of the body, acting as a host to an alien fetus or having a snake living in one’s stomach, etc.
To be honest, I’m not sure how these hallucinations are actually classified, but they involve a purely internal phenomenon. A person may close their eyes and witness entire worlds, landscapes, or super-dimensional geometric figures warping and churning. A person with this form of hallucination may come into contact with what appears to be an external entity and enjoy a psychic conversation with it, travel to distant planets, etc. This is an intense type of hallucination which generally results in loss of contact with consensual reality. Some people are capable of taking these visions, such as Louis Wain, and applying them to a creative art or solution to a problem.
The Impact of Schizophrenic Hallucinations
Unfortunately the experience of hallucinations are rarely isolated against other symptoms of schizophrenia. They can inspire or become involved in delusions. To explain where these voices are coming from, a paranoid individual may believe the government is projecting thoughts into his or her mind or has implanted some device in their brain. A more mystically inclined person may think they’ve made contact with an alien civilization, are in contact with angels or demons, or are being spoken to by a god.
These hallucinations can contribute to a complex combination of symptoms that make it very confusing for the person living with schizophrenia to have a distanced enough perspective to realize what is truly happening. This can make for difficult treatment. There are ways to attempt to cope with these problems, such as drowning them out with music and stronger stimuli, or becoming passive and disinterested in them. Recognizing hallucinations for what they are can rob them of their fear inducing powers, which makes them far more manageable. Anti-psychotic medications can also help curb the strength or appearance of these symptoms altogether.
There are as many types of hallucinations as there are sensory perceptions available to the human mind. Visual and auditory hallucinations are the most common and can be very disturbing and disrupting to the every-day life. Recognizing them for what they are will deter delusions from developing and also cause them to be less terrifying. Medication may help with the severity of hallucinations.