According To A New Study, Hallucinations Are Not Just Associated With Mental Health Disorders

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Feb 16, 2017
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It is generally believed that hallucinations have something to do with psychosis like schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder. However, according to a new research hallucinations are much more common than people actually realize. Well, this is a shocker. I always thought that hallucinations were the side effects of medicinal drugs.

Hallucinations are normal

A study in the UK that involved 7,400 participants found that 4.3% of the people had experienced this in the past year. Surprisingly, hallucinations weren’t just limited to people with health issues. According to what lead researcher Ian Kelleher from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland told Léa Surugue at the International Business Times, “There is a general idea in psychiatry that hallucinations are a feature of psychosis. But when we looked at a whole range of mental health diseases we found that hallucinations are symptoms that occur in a wide range of mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety”.

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Mental health issues are often divided into psychotic disorders like schizophrenia and non-psychotic disorders like depression and anxiety. For the purpose of the research borderline personality disorder was used as an example of psychotic disorders. People who have psychosis generally experience things different from the rest of us. They see and hear things in a unique manner. According to the new study the divide between the non-psychotic and psychotic diseases may not actually exist.

The team evaluated data from the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity survey which had data on 7,403 people over the age of 16. According to the data 1 in every 16 people experienced mental health issues in any given week. The team wanted to check the likeliness of hallucinations in people with non-psychotic and psychotic disorders. It was then checked that how many people reported seeing or hearing things based on the two divides.

According to the results 13.7% with psychosis complained about seeing or hearing things and 12.6% of people with non-psychotic disorders complained about similar things. Even those who had never been diagnosed with any mental health issue complained about hallucinations. Well this is surprising as people who experience such conditions are often looked down upon. The team suggests that they aren’t just symptoms of psychosis and should not be stigmatized on any account.

Kelleher told Surugue, “Hallucinations are more common than people realise. They can be frightening experiences, and few people openly talk about it. Our research is valuable because it can show them they are not alone and that having these symptoms is not necessarily associated with having a mental health disorder. It breaks the taboo.”

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Limitations and advice

Well, like any research it comes with its own limitations. The research was based on people reporting symptoms and well let’s admits it; people can fake the symptoms too. The research was based on people in England only and hence wasn’t diverse enough to draw any significant conclusion. The good thing about this research is though that it is very similar to a study done on a much larger sample of 31,000 people from 19 countries in 2015. Lead researcher of this larger study, John McGrath from Queensland Brain Institute in Australia said, “We used to think that only people with psychosis heard voices or had delusions, but now we know that otherwise healthy, high-functioning people also report these experiences.”

It seems that hallucinations are not something to be ashamed off like previously believed. They aren’t just associated with serious disorders only. A study that came out last week showed that people who do not experience disorders like anxiety, depression etc. are more unusual than people who have such disorders. So if you have something similar, don’t give yourself a hard time about it; you are pretty normal. Just get yourself treated on time and you are good to go.

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