What Are Tactile Hallucinations?

Tactile hallucinations may include the feeling of insects crawling on a person's skin when none are present.
Tactile hallucinations may occur as part of hypnopompic or hypnogogic experiences, which are hallucinations that can occur just before waking or falling asleep.
Cocaine use can cause tactile hallucinations.
A phantom limb is one of the most common types of tactile hallucinations.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2014
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When a person hallucinates, he or she is essentially sensing something that isn’t really there. People can hear voices or sounds, smell things that aren’t present, or have a variety of experiences that are real to the person but not real outside of the person. One type of hallucination that often isn’t discussed in depth is the tactile hallucination; this occurs when someone feels a sensation on the body that is, in fact, not present. Like many forms of hallucinations, tactile hallucinations are not limited to those suffering from mental illness and could have many causes.

Tactile hallucinations can present in a number of different ways. One of the most common of these is phantom limb. When people lose a limb, they may still experience its presence on the body. It could very much feel like the limb is still there, and sometimes this condition can even be extremely painful. The sensations in the “not there” limb are very real to the person experiencing them, and a variety of treatments might be used to control this pain that is both there and not there.

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For most people experience of phantom limb is not suggestive of conditions like schizophrenia, though the mind has definitely been tricked to be aware of something that doesn’t exist. A number of treatments might be attempted to get rid of pain, including giving antidepressants or using therapies that involve a box with mirrors. Sometimes “seeing” and working with the missing limb, through mirror work, has an appropriate effect on relieving discomfort.

Another of the form of tactile hallucinations is when people feel they have things moving over their skin. Often people identify this as having insects or bugs under or on top of their skin. This is not an uncommon reaction to certain types of drugs, particularly methamphetamine or cocaine. The sensation often leaves when a drug has left body’s system too, and hopefully discouraged the person from use of illegal drugs in the future. This hallucination can cause great mental distress as it occurs, provoking irrational behavior.

Sometimes tactile hallucinations are transient and might occur as part of hypnopompic or hypnogogic experiences. These are any hallucinations that happen just before waking or falling asleep, respectively. A person might feel that someone or thing has touched or exerted pressure on him. Alternately, the sensation of falling and hitting the ground may be tactile, and it really can feel as though a physical experience occurred. These hallucinations are fairly common, and many people will experience at least one in a lifetime.

Occasionally, people have a real reason for feeling what might be initially dismissed as tactile hallucinations. Some medical conditions unrelated to mental illness can make the body feel things that seem not be there. Certain skin conditions, for instance could create pain, burning, or pressure on certain parts of the body. These are not actually hallucinations because there is a reason why such feelings are present, even if that reason is below the skin surface or not automatically apparent.

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anon958439
Post 14

In addition to "brain zaps" and annoying visions of tarantulas before falling asleep, I sometimes get pressure in the head, and random sensations of being slapped and punched in the face. It is painful and always an unpleasant surprise. Usually I can mentally transcend it, but last night it was very powerful and eventually I quit trying to fall asleep. I am drug- and alcohol-free and have been so for about 10 years.

I think that the brain zaps might be repercussions of withdrawal from antipsychotic medications I discontinued several years ago. I also suffered a TBI (diffuse axonal injury) in 2001, but I am fully recovered. I assume the slapping and punching feelings must be some form of hypnagogic tactile hallucination.

I can't seem to find much information about these specific symptoms online. Has anyone else ever experienced something similar? Thanks.

anon339158
Post 13

It was preceded by about four weeks of a devastating and continuous headache. Then just last week, I suddenly felt a painful slap on one side of my face as I walked down the road. I quickly turned around and slapped a guy nearby, thinking he was the one who slapped me. It turned out no one touched me. Since then, I have experienced many more such feelings.

anon338233
Post 12

If you suffer from tactile hallucinations, ask your doctor to try you on an SSRI antidepressant. This will help increase the amount of serotonin in your brain which will help you feel better with less anxiety, hence, help you tolerate the tactile hallucinations because they are related to emotions.

It must be an SSRI and not an SNRI. SNRIs increase norepinephrine which can increase anxiety. When you have a mental illness, the brain chemistry and electrical activity is altered and your emotions are altered accordingly. You cannot just control this on your own, hence the need for medication.

Anti-anxiety medication may help to decrease or stop the tactiles, but this type of medication is addictive and doctors hesitate to subscribe it.

Ask your doctor for a trial and if it helps, use it sparingly so that you will have it when you really need it.

anon323075
Post 11

I hear lots of sighs and whispering coming from different areas around the house to where I am. I sometimes find myself answering a question they've asked me out loud and my friends ask me what I'm going on about. I usually pass out a lot from it.

I see shadows and outlines of bodies in reflections like mirrors or windows, mainly at night time when I'm tired and I feel things crawling up my legs really really fast, then they both go dead and I am unable to move at all, that also happens on my arms on occasions. I feel like something is pushing down on my body when I'm lying in bed, like on my chest. And sometimes I forget how to breathe and it feels like something it grasping my throat really tight.

I experience a lot of twinges in my body and tend to zone out a lot when I hear things and don't quite seem to remember what it was I heard afterwards.

anon255136
Post 10

I have a broad range of tactile hallucinations and the only thing that I have found to lessen them is diaphragmatic breathing. Research it if you aren't sure how to do it properly. Try it out.

anon243041
Post 9

I have had the pressure (being pushed downward by my shoulders) and the "shoves", which are very bothersome when they occur. It feels exactly as though someone walked up behind me, while I was just standing there totally unaware of anyone or anything other than a mental or philosophical thought. It can also bring the realization on.

anon238092
Post 8

My mother has tactile hallucinations. She is 95 years old with some dementia. Life is miserable. What to do?

anon178443
Post 7

I have the same problem! I feel like there are leeches and ants, and freak out pretty much. It helps if I acknowledge it's happening, but then choose to focus on something else.

It helps if I don't eat too many simple sugars in a row too. Like one day I had it, I had eaten basically bread all day. And I sometimes get them after I start new medications too, or drink caffeine.

anon134003
Post 6

@anon106342: why do you think so? life is beautiful and we all have your problems, dear. look at me. i blank out every 10 minutes of the day. i could have let it stop me from having fun, but that's not how we go on in life.

You must believe in something very sincerely. These hallucinations begin from our brain, and that's where we've got to stop it from. Think positive, look at the good things in life. And when you know you're hallucinating? try your best to ignore it. if you believe in god, chant His name when you have hallucinations, especially auditory hallucinations. And you see, hallucinations and schizophrenia can occur due to biological reasons.

It's been proved that yoga helps, just as do breathing exercises. Go to a doctor. ask him and i hope you'll be fine. If you believe it, it'll happen and life is beautiful. look around.

anon126058
Post 4

I have tactile hallucinations in my hands and feet. I feel vibrations, usually in my feet, depending on what I am doing or thinking at the time.

anon106342
Post 3

I have paranoid schizophrenia. I have auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations and tactile hallucinations. Life is difficult. Life has nothing for me.

anon97764
Post 2

i have tactile hallucinations also but i feel hundreds of bugs under my skin. it's horrible and freaking me out. i don't know how to make it stop but i am trying to find out more.

anon94133
Post 1

I have tactile hallucinations where swarms of flies drive at me and I feel them all over my body. This happens during the day and also at night. Even when I hide under my duvet I feel the pressure of them on top of me. I know they're hallucinations but it's still terrifying and they are there for hours. Does this happen to anyone else? If so, how do you make this stop? Thanks!

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