The topic I rarely see talked about is hallucinations. I feel this is an important topic to open-up about.
What are hallucinations :
The word “hallucination” comes from Latin and means “to wander mentally.” Hallucinations have been defined as the “perception of a nonexistent object or event” and “sensory experiences that are not caused by stimulation of the relevant sensory organs.”
In layman’s terms, hallucinations involve hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling and even tasting things that are not real. However, auditory hallucinations (hearing voices or other sounds that have no physical source) are the most common type.
Hallucinations are most often associated with the mental illness schizophrenia. However, hallucinations may also occur for those with bipolar disorder when either depression or mania has psychotic features.
Hallucinations are one possible characteristic specifically of Bipolar I Disorder, both in mania and in depression; in (Bipolar II, they may occur only during depression; Cyclothymia by definition excludes the presence of hallucinations).
For most if my cognitive life, I have experienced hallucinations. My earliest memory was at the age of 9. I would see what I called “the dark man,” though my mother told me when I was about 6 years old I use to tell her about him.
The dark man is about 6-feet tall, is a silhouette or shadow, and doesn’t speak.Till this day I still see him from time-to-time.
I use to think I saw ghosts (including the dark man), I just thought I was haunted. That is until I was diagnosed with type 1 bipolar disorder four years ago. It took my psychiatrist and therapist to convince me all these years I had hallucinations and wasn’t haunted.
Realizing this was difficult as I thought I was just special, not psychotic.
Through my past four years of therapy I’ve discovered I have been undiagnosed (with bipolar disorder) since the age 15. Though my PTSD started around the age of 6, due to childhood trauma.
I understand those two diagnosis are the cause of my hallucinations. Many people with bipolar type 1 disorder have hallucinations. What’s scary about this is that sometimes you can’t tell the difference between a hallucination and reality.
Just recently I was doing dishes and noticed a person watching me. There was no one in my house at the time. This figure scared me. I closed my eyes and then looked in it’s direction, it had disappeared. What really scared me was that this was the first time I had seen what appeared to be a real flesh looking person. Most of my hallucinations are shadowy-figures.
Frankly, I don’t know what that means. Is my psychosis progressing or getting worse?
I also hear things that aren’t there. For example I hear music playing when I’m alone. I sometimes hear it when my family is home, but I’m the only one hearing it. I also smell things no one else does. These are all part of my diagnosis, per my psychiatrist.
I often feel alone when this happens. I can sometimes tell the difference between reality and hallucinations, but not always. I will pray for them to go away! Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t go right away. It’s when they talk to me that gets me really scared!
When I was younger these hallucinations would be more frequent. Now that I’m one medication it’s not as often. But still happens regardless if I’m maniac or depressed.
I’m currently taking: Abilify, Trileptal, Zyprexa, and Atavan. As I mentioned, the medications help but I still have breakthroughs. My psychiatrist is always concerned when this happens. Especially, due to the high milligram of medications I’m on.
A few tips I’ve used to cope (in no particular order):
- Listen to music
- Watch TV/movie
- Call a friend, family member, and/or crisis support
- Taking a walk or exercising
- Call your psychiatrist and/or therapist
- Trying to find reality with slow breathing and concentration
- Get on your social media sites and try talking it out
It is truly difficult to find your center, but trying a few helpful tips can help. If your feeling alone, definitely contact a friend, family member, or even call crisis support.
Keep in mind these hallucinations will pass. You are not alone!