What Are the Different Causes of Hallucinations?

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  • Written By: K. K. Lowen
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2016
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There are many causes of hallucinations. Some hallucinations occur naturally, such as those related to medical conditions. Prolonged exposure to the sun without ingesting adequate amounts water may cause dehydration, which is another natural cause of hallucinations. Some of the chemical causes include the use of medications, illegal drugs, or other substances that have hallucinatory properties. Sleeping too little or staying awake for extended periods of time is also a common trigger of hallucinations as well.

Many medical conditions may bring about hallucinations. Brain tumors may cause the false perceptions associated with a hallucination, and other severe illnesses such as liver or kidney failure could be the culprit as well. Mental health problems may also cause hallucinations. Schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder can both cause misinterpretations and unusual reactions to sensory input.

Taking certain types of medications may also cause hallucinations. Sleeping pills, for example, affect brain chemistry and may cause hallucinations. Inhaling significant amounts of nitrous oxide, an anesthetic frequently used by dentists, may also result in hallucinations. Other types of anesthetic gases, such as those used before surgery, may cause brief hallucinations before the individual loses consciousness.


In addition to legal medications, illegal drugs used for recreational purposes can be the cause of a hallucination. At times, a drug’s hallucinatory properties are what makes the substance attractive to recreational users. LSD, also known as acid, is one drug that people use recreationally because it causes hallucinations. People also may ingest natural substances, such as psilocybin-containing mushrooms and peyote cactus, for their hallucinatory properties. Some legal drugs that are not used for medical purposes can cause similar effects as well, including salvia divinorum.

Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause dehydration, which may cause hallucinations. Electrolytes are electrically charged ions found in water that are essential for nerve conduction, and a lack of water causes decreased electrolytes in the body. If the body has low levels of electrolytes, nerve impulses cannot travel properly to and from the brain, causing the brain to misinterpret sensory information.

An extended period featuring little or no sleep is also one of the common causes of hallucinations. The brain requires sleep to function properly, and when deprived of the amount of rest it requires, the brain’s performance significantly diminishes. Hallucinations and delusions are not uncommon for those suffering with sleep deprivation because the brain simply cannot function at its normal performance level.


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Post 4

I have a friend who had bipolar disorder. At least that’s what the doctors told him. He would be hallucinating and hearing voices and slipping into another world, seemingly when you least expected it.

I think he was somewhat paranoid schizophrenic too. He lived in a world of conspiracy theories and could never hold down a job. Finally they put him on some medication and it seemed to help.

Of course now he is in a bit of a stupor, too. I wonder if that “medication” took something away from him in the process. It was supposed to correct a chemical imbalance but I think it just knocked him out a little.

Post 3

My grandfather has Parkinson's disease and sometimes experiences hallucinations due to it. He often thinks he's seeing my grandmother who passed away ten years ago and actually has conversations with her. We assumed that it was due to Parkinson's right away but his doctor also confirmed it.

He also said that there are many causes of hallucination in the elderly. Sometimes it's due to disease like Parkinson's or the Bonnet syndrome. Sometimes it's due infection and sometimes due to age-related delirium.

Post 2

Ever since I was young, I always assumed that hallucinations are only caused by mental illness. That's how it's usually seen in the media. In thriller films, the person hallucinating is usually someone who is dealing with a serious psychotic illness.

Thanks to this article and some other articles I've read, I realized that this is not true. A psychotic disorder could definitely be a reason, but it doesn't have to be. There was an article in the newspaper just last week about this. A woman was infected with Lyme disease virus years ago when she was bit by a tick outdoors. She didn't get any treatment soon enough and started seeing hallucinations among some other symptoms. So even

viruses, bacteria and disease in general can cause hallucination.

I also think that everyone is under risk of seeing hallucinations. We could all be under a stressful or difficult situation where we start getting confused and misinterpret what we see. I don't think it's a disease, visual and auditory hallucinations are a sign that something is wrong.

Post 1

I had a friend in high school who's mom was dealing with alcoholism. I remember being at my friend's house one day and seeing her mom act really strangely. She was talking to herself and walking around the house. My friend said that her mom was trying to quit alcohol and was having a lot of hallucinations because of it.

Apparently alcohol is one of hallucination causes and alcoholics can have hallucinations after consuming a lot of alcohol and also as part of the withdrawal symptoms when they're trying to quit. At the time I heard of this, it sounded really scary but now I think it's a fairly normal symptom. Especially if someone has been an alcoholic for many years and their organs have been really damaged.

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