Schizoaffective Disorder: What are Hallucinations?

Hallucinations are a psychotic symptom of schizoaffective disorder. People experiencing hallucinations may hear, see, smell, taste or feel things that aren’t really there, and which other people can’t hear, see, smell, taste or feel.

Auditory hallucinations are the most common type of hallucination. They are mostly experienced as voices. To a person with schizoaffective disorder, these voices sound just like people speaking to them, and people with the illness cannot differentiate between what is real – for example a friend speaking to them – and what is a hallucination.

Voices might be heard in the second person – for example someone saying “you stink”, “you’re ugly”, “they hate you”. Sometimes voices might command a person to do something – by saying, for example, “jump off the bridge”, “take an overdose”. People with schizoaffective disorder may also have third person hallucinations, which commonly take the form of two or more voices talking among themselves or commenting on the person’s behaviour. Third person hallucinations are common in both schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia, but are seen less frequently in bipolar disorder.

In most cases the experience of auditory hallucinations in the form of voices is unpleasant. Voices are frequently accusatory, reminding the person of past misdeeds, some imaginary, and some real. However, in a minority of cases, voices can be pleasant or even helpful.

In addition to voices, auditory hallucinations can involve noises, such as buzzing, screeching and ringing. Additionally, people with schizoaffective disorder may think that their own thoughts are being broadcast, or can be heard by other people. They may also think that other people’s thoughts are being forced into their own minds, or that their thoughts have been stolen from their heads.

Hallucinations of all five senses may be experienced. In addition to auditory hallucinations, people may have tactile hallucinations – such as feeling as though you are being pushed, touched or held down – visual hallucinations – such as seeing things that aren’t there or feeling that colours are brighter than they should be – hallucinations of smell and hallucinations of taste.

Visual hallucinations occur much less frequently than auditory hallucinations, and are more common in conjunction with auditory hallucinations – for example seeing and hearing someone who no one else can see. Hallucinations of smell and taste are more unusual and tend to focus on things tasting or smelling different than usual. This can lead to people with schizoaffective disorder thinking that their family and friends are trying to poison them.

Sources: Schizoaffective Disorder Simplified

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