A number of recent news stories have reported on the use of psychiatric drugs by patients to induce hallucinations, such as using the hallucinogenic ketamine to get lost in a fog and hallucinating a man being strangled.
But it has never been clear whether these reports are accurate.
And new research published in the journal Psychiatry Research & Practice suggests that patients can actually be experiencing a wide range of other hallucinations, including those caused by antidepressants.
It is the first time that researchers have examined whether patients are experiencing other hallucinatory experiences such as the hallucination of having someone else’s body in their house, said lead author Dr David S. Green, from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne.
The study involved 36 adults who had undergone psychiatric treatment in the past year and were asked to report the frequency of hallucinations.
These included seeing people wearing clown masks and seeing clowns, and seeing the person or objects of their dreams, or seeing their friends or family members.
Dr Green said patients often reported seeing clown masks on a person, even though the person didn’t appear to be wearing a clown mask, and people often reported being seen wearing clown outfits.
He said some patients reported seeing their own body parts or other people’s bodies while others were seeing their colleagues or loved ones.
Dr Greens said there were other things patients could be experiencing.
For example, patients could see someone wearing clown pants, and the person was not wearing a mask.
And patients could experience what they believed was someone who was laughing or making fun of them.
People who reported being the target of someone else ‘laughing’ or making a joke could also report being ‘seen laughing’ or ‘making fun of’ themselves.
“These are all kinds of things that we call hallucinatory hallucinations,” Dr Green said.
“So these hallucinations are not really hallucinations.
They are actually the result of our own minds not being able to process the information that we are getting from the environment.”‘
People think we have no mental health problems’In one experiment, Dr Green and colleagues were able to ask the participants to imagine having someone who looked like them, but had a body made of metal or rubber.
They then used a scanner to look at their brainwaves, which showed that the brainwave patterns were different from what the person actually felt.
“The more they think they have somebody that looks like them or has the same facial features as them, the more their brains are going to be going through that brainwave pattern,” Dr Greens said.
The results showed that people who thought they had someone that looked like themselves actually reported having hallucinations of the body being made of steel or rubber and of someone laughing.
“We found that they actually think they are seeing something like a rubber puppet that they are having hallucinations about,” Dr Greene said.
However, Dr Greens cautioned that people’s experiences with hallucinations were just a part of their experiences.
“People tend to think that they have no problem with them, so they may have a very negative reaction to them,” he said.
For some people, however, these hallucinations might be just part of the normal daily experience.
“Some people may report that they don’t really believe in them, that they just think that’s normal,” Dr Greenberg said.
While there is no evidence that hallucinations cause depression, Dr Greene says the hallucinations patients experience could help with mental health.
“If you see somebody with a bad mood or with some kind of anxiety disorder, you can see the symptoms and then take the symptoms to get the diagnosis of a mental disorder,” he explained.
“You can treat the symptoms, but the fact is that it’s very rare that you actually see the symptom.”
Dr Green says patients with mental illness may be more likely to have more hallucinations than the general population.
“For some reason, people think that mental health issues are all in the head,” he says.
“But they are not.”