Why are some people prone to hallucinations? According to new research from the University of Cambridge and Cardiff University, hallucinations may come from our attempts to make sense of the ambiguous and complex world around us.
Each person experiences the world in a different way. Even if two people are present at the same event, their own personal experiences, ways of knowing the world, and point of view can greatly impact the experience for them and how they recount it to others later.
This is such a striking phenomenon that several major motion pictures have been made about how things look different to different people. Many studies have been done on how people interpret ink blots on paper, how people experience master works of art, and how people recount the scene of an accident to a first responder when help arrives.
Some people experience hallucinations their entire lives
Hallucinations, often associated with psychotic disorders, may result from a natural process used by the brain to make sense of the world, say scientists.
Professor Paul Fletcher, from the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge University, said: “Having a predictive brain makes us efficient and adept at creating a coherent picture of an ambiguous and complex world. But it also means we are not very far away from perceiving things that aren’t actually there, which is the definition of a hallucination.”
However, in some cases, people experience hallucinations as a result of mental illnesses that cause psychosis. Psychosis is defined as disconnection between what people think and see and what is actually happening to them: a kind of different reality.
This can cause great difficulties for people who are trying to make sense of the world around them, particular events, or even their own existence.
Because psychosis can be accompanied by changes in perception that are long lasting, people can experience hallucinations beyond the visual and also experience sensations related to feeling, seeing, touching, tasting and hearing.
This can make it even more difficult to convince someone that what they think is real, is not.
There are a number of factors that come into play when a person is suffering from hallucinations or psychosis which causes hallucination.
These include medication, past medical history, injury or trauma, post-traumatic stress disorders, abuse, family history, and an unstable mental history. Sometimes though, psychosis and hallucinations can come out of nowhere and it is can be difficult to treat patients who don’t seem to have any explanation associated with this type of condition.
The ability to interact with the environment depends heavily on our perception
Our ability to interact with the environment depends heavily on our ability to accept what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and experience as real.
If we question what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and experience, we might begin to construct new meanings for those experiences, which can also lead to hallucinations.
Of course, drug addicts or people who use stimulants or other drugs that can cause hallucinations, may continue to use those drugs to get the sensations that are associated with their use.
This “high” is also difficult to manage because people become used to living in a world that is altered. It can make coming back down and coming back into the real world very difficult.
It can be difficult to trust our own eyes sometimes, even for people who do not suffer from hallucinations or psychosis causing hallucinations.
Have you ever had to look at a picture twice to make sure what you were seeing was actually there? What about those trick photos that look like a vase but it’s really two people’s profiles facing each other?
Those kinds of things can play tricks on our brains to make us think we are seeing one thing, but really it’s something completely different.
This also explains why some witnesses in criminal trials, after some probing, determine that the accused was not the person they saw commit the crime after all.
When you place a person in front of someone in similar clothing or with a similar build, skin tone and hair color, you can expect the witness to find other similarities too. It’s just the way our brains are wired.
So while hallucinations can be scary for some, they can be treated with care and consideration for what the person believes they are seeing.
Some people may experiences hallucinations due to lack of hydration, heat, extreme circumstances, daydreaming, sleep walking, and many other reasons.
Once someone has identified that they are hallucinating, they can begin the road to recovery through mental health, medication and therapy.
Some people may go their entire lives without ever realizing that they are seeing the world in a skewed way, and some people may never experience such hallucinations. Those who are prone to them should seek help to determine a proper treatment plan and to begin working toward identifying solutions for the hallucinations in everyday life.