A person floating floating in water surrounded by hallucinations.

Artwork by Taniya Pramanik

A person floating floating in water surrounded by hallucinations.

Types of Hallucination: Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Medically reviewed by

Written by Aditi Sahu

Schizophrenia is the most common type of ‘psychotic disorder’ in which a person starts losing a sense of reality. Schizophrenia was first identified way back in 1887, yet its exact causes haven’t been determined.

Though only 1% of the world population develops this disorder, it remains to be one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized illnesses today. And perhaps it is the most dangerous and serious mental disorder in Psychiatry. In this article, we will take you through the symptoms of schizophrenia, types of schizophrenia followed by a detailed discussion on ‘hallucinations’ and their types. 

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is considered a ‘syndrome’, which means that it may encompass a number of disorders that have similar symptoms but varying causes. Every person will display slightly differing schizophrenia symptoms, and the first signs such as subtle personality changes, irritability, and the gradual encroachment of unusual thought; can be easy to miss. Cases are generally diagnosed after the genesis of psychosis. The first psychotic episode usually features what psychiatrists call ‘positive symptoms.

What are the Positive and Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia? 

Things like delusions, hallucinations, and impaired speech or behavior- are called positive symptoms. Meaning they occur in people with schizophrenia but not in general people. Negative symptoms in schizophrenia refer to a drastic reduction in qualities- such as no motivation, not expressing emotions, not speaking, etc. There are cognitive symptoms as well like difficulty concentrating, remembering obvious information like one’s date of birth, and making simple/ decisions like which soap to buy. 

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What is Important to know about Positive v/s Negative Symptoms?

The antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia have helped researchers to trace the signatures of the disorder in the brain. And they found that the ‘positive symptoms’ occur as a result of excess dopamine in particular brain pathways. Traditional antipsychotics block the dopamine receptors in the patient’s brain, as a result reducing the positive symptoms. However, the same medication can worsen the situation in case of a patient shows negative symptoms. And it’s a possibility that the negative symptoms of schizophrenia may occur because of low dopamine levels in other brain areas. 

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, starting with ‘hallucinations’.

What is the Meaning of Hallucination?

Hallucination is one type of positive psychotic symptom. A person is said to be hallucinating when he/she starts perceiving senses that are not based on reality, such as feeling something crawling on their skin, hearing voices, or seeing something that no other person in the room is able to see. 

What Types of Hallucination are Most Common?

Auditory hallucinations: Hearing voices 

Auditory hallucinations are the most common type of hallucinations in schizophrenia patients. There are different types of auditory hallucinations that can be observed in someone suffering from the disorder:

Commanding Voice

When someone is experiencing auditory hallucinations, it's very important to not only acknowledge that they are hearing voices and take them seriously but also ask them what kind of voices they are hearing. Because it's possible they are hearing a voice that’s commanding them to do something, or take an action that may not be in good favor of themselves. 

Running Commentary

Imagine hearing a non-stop commentary that is recounting everything you do, think or feel. A person can even hear more than one voice talking at one time. This is important to address as it can be very disturbing for patients and it might look like they are going nuts.

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Visual Hallucinations: Seeing things

This is basically when a person starts visualizing or seeing things that do not exist in reality. It can be objects, colors, patterns, light, a loved one they lost, or a random group of people. 

Note: Visual hallucinations can be often misinterpreted as ‘illusion’. An illusion is merely a misinterpretation of an ‘existing’ sensory stimulus. For example, seeing a human figure in the branches of a tree. It's basically our mind getting tricked because of the light and shadow and hence it perceives it as something else- that’s an illusion. 

Olfactory Hallucinations: Smelling or Tasting Things

Yes smelling or feeling a particular taste something unusual that no other person in the room is sensing is also a type of hallucination people with schizophrenia experience. They would often say that they smell something funny or they can smell something burning. This can be a distressing hallucination especially if the patient feels he/she is being poisoned. 

Tactile Hallucinations: Feeling Things

When a person is feeling a touch, sensation, or movement on their body when there’s absolutely nothing happening in reality, it’s called tactile hallucination. It could be the feeling of something burning their skin, or like an insect crawling on their skin. This kind of hallucination is usually secondary to drug abuse or alcohol withdrawal. 

This is just a summary of the different types of hallucinations a patient may present. But it's very important to dig deeper and ask what exactly are they feeling or seeing- to get the complete story behind what the patient is actually experiencing. Another key point to remember is that hallucinations do not necessarily mean that the person is suffering from schizophrenia. It could be a mood disorder, a different mental disorder, or even a drug reaction. Thus a thorough diagnosis is a must before reaching a conclusion.  

Mental disorders need a medical intervention just like any other disease or health problem. The Cadabam’s Group is a psychiatric rehabilitation and recovery centre that has been treating patients with mental disorders for the past 27 years. Our highly trained multidisciplinary psychiatric team ensures timely diagnosis and speedy recovery of the patient. Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that cannot be cured, but with the right treatment and therapies, the patient can be helped with leading a better and more productive life. Rehabilitation for schizophrenic patients involves a complex At Cadabam’s we also offer rehabilitation for schizophrenia for such patients that are equipped to treat a patient within a safe environment. 


Why do hallucinations occur?

There are several reasons for this. It might be schizophrenia, a neurological system condition such as Parkinson's disease or epilepsy, or any number of other problems.

What are the 5 types of hallucinations?

The 5 hallucination types include auditory hallucination, visual hallucination, olfactory, tactile, and gustatory hallucinations.

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