Schizophrenia – Hallucinations

Today, I wanted to talk about schizophrenia and the hallucinations that can sometimes occur with it.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition where the sufferer may hear or see things that are not real; these are referred to as hallucinations.

Hallucinations, which are classed as a false perspective, can seem extremely real and vivid to the individual. There are many different types of hallucinations, which can affect all or some of the five senses at a time.

Due to the vivid nature of these experiences, the sufferer often struggles to differentiate between reality and the hallucinations.

I wanted to write about this topic in particular as it’s very personal to me. My dad actually volunteered to share his own experiences in detail to hopefully answer any questions people may have about the disorder and to help start a discussion about our own mental health issues.

His own diagnosis is ‘Treatment Resistant Paranoid Schizophrenia with Complex PTSD and OCD’, therefore, his experience of hallucinations may differ from others. Some people who suffer from schizophrenia may only experience high volumes of hallucinations during psychosis, whereas they are a daily occurrence for him, his own hallucinations only vary in severity.

There are five different types of hallucinations. We will be discussing all of them (except for auditory, as I would like to go into this in further detail) to give you a deeper insight into how they all affect a person differently. The five main types of hallucinations are;

AuditorySound
VisualSight
OlfactorySmell
TactileTouch
GustatoryTaste

Below is an interview I carried out with my dad, who gives a glimpse into what it’s like to have to struggle with Schizophrenia on a daily basis and the types of hallucinations he personally experiences.

What type of hallucinations are most frequent for you?

Auditory and visual are the most common hallucinations I seem to have but tactile ones often appear during stressful situations such as people arguing around me. I will occasionally feel someone tap my shoulder during stressful situations despite no one being there. Gustatory hallucinations are a weird one as they can come and go. My longest episode of this was two years. Everything I ate tasted like ash causing me to struggle massively with eating. Olfactory is the least common, only happening once or twice a year but I find those experiences to definitely be linked to my past trauma, more so than others.

How do hallucinations affect your everyday life?

Hallucinations limit what you can do, particularly when it comes to focus. Focusing on simple things such as watching TV is near impossible for me as I see things jumping around the TV. It used to be a massive stress for me, but over time I adapted and got used to seeing them and ignoring them when I can. It does take a lot of practice to tune them out and it isn’t always possible. That’s why I don’t really do things like watch TV anymore as I just can’t focus.

Do you have particular triggers that can cause your hallucinations to worsen? If so, are you willing to discuss?

Yes, stress is my biggest trigger for hallucinations. As well as this, colours can be a trigger such as red. Red is one of the worst colours for me and I cannot be around it for too long but I’ve also found that pastel colours, blues and greens are quite calming for me. I also struggle with particular smells that bring back familiar past trauma.

Would you like to share an experience of hallucinations?

Hallucinations are all different and difficult to pin-point for the person who is suffering, sometimes they can seem so real you don’t even really notice it. Like one time I was the garden and a bird flew down, it was so difficult to know if it was real or not and I often have to rely on my family to tell me if it is. Most often though I see people following me, sometimes in close quarters but sometimes some are far off in the distance and I have to ask my wife if there is someone following us or if I’m hallucinating.

Finally, what advice would you give others dealing with hallucinations?

During stressful situations the best thing for me is to take myself out of the situation and to go somewhere quiet. Sometimes I will try to meditate using scenery sounds but if my visual hallucinations are heavy then that isn’t always the most helpful. I also find fidgeting with something such as those fidget cubes are quite distracting and helpful for me anyway.

Whilst dealing with any form of mental issues it’s always best to seek help. My best advice would be to speak to loved ones like I did as they are the people who know you best and are most likely to be sympathetic to what you are going through. They can help you as best as they can while you go for medical help. At the end of the day, most people with mental health issues are more of a danger to themselves than they are to others, so it is extremely important to seek help, your mental well-being is just as important as the next person’s.

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