Seeing and hearing things while being awake? You might be hallucinating

  • Jan 25 , 2017

A hallucination is different than an illusion. Illusions are common misinterpretations of a stimulation to the senses. Hallucinations are misinterpretations in the absence of a sensory stimulus.

Most people have experienced seeing, hearing, and feeling things in the state between wakefulness and sleep. The hallucinations that occur upon awakening are called hypnagogic hallucinations. Those seen while falling asleep are called hypnopompic hallucinations. Neither are preceded by stimulation to one of the senses, but both are completely normal.

Although we may immediately associate seeing things with hallucinations, visual hallucinations are not the most common type of hallucination. Auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices, are the most common. But hallucinations can occur with any of the senses or even a combination of senses.

Types of hallucination:

  • Visual hallucinations - Visual hallucinations involve seeing things that aren’t there. The hallucinations may be of objects, visual patterns, people, or lights. For example, you might see a person who is not in the room or flashing lights that no one else can see.
  • Olfactory hallucination - Olfactory hallucinations involve your sense of smell. You might smell an unpleasant odour when waking up in the middle of the night or feel that your body smells bad when it doesn’t. This type of hallucination can also include scents you find enjoyable, like the smell of flowers.
  • Gustatory hallucination - Gustatory hallucinations are similar to olfactory hallucinations, but they involve your sense of taste instead of smell. These tastes are often strange or unpleasant. Gustatory hallucinations (often with a metallic taste) are a relatively common symptom for people with epilepsy.
  • Tactile hallucinations - Tactile hallucinations involve the feeling of touch or movement in your body. For example, you might feel that bugs are crawling on your skin or that your internal organs are moving around. You might also feel the imagined touch of someone’s hands on your body.
  • Auditory hallucination - Auditory hallucinations are among the most common type of hallucination. You might hear someone speaking to you or telling you to do certain things. The voice may be angry, neutral, or warm. Other examples of this type of hallucination include hearing sounds, like someone walking in the attic or repeated clicking or tapping noises.
  • Temporary hallucination - As the name implies, temporary hallucinations are not chronic. For example, they may occur if a relationship has just ended or if someone dear to you has just passed away. You might hear the person’s voice for a moment or briefly see his or her image. This type of hallucination typically disappears as the pain of your loss fades.