New research prompts call to reconsider mental health of those who hallucinate

An international study led by The University of Queensland and Harvard Medical School found that hearing voices and seeing things others cannot impacts about 5 percent of the general population at some point in their lives.

Source: Hallucinations and delusions more common than thought | EurekAlert! Science News

“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,” Professor McGrath said.

“Of those who have these experiences, a third only have them once and another third only have two-to-five episodes across their life. These people seem to function reasonably well.

“So it’s incredibly interesting that not only is hearing voices more common than previously thought, but it’s not always linked to serious mental illness.”

5% actually seems low, but the researchers note that misperceptions, such as thinking you hear your name called, is common but different than the more detailed hallucinations that are the focus of this study. Not all people who experience such detailed events on occasion have mental health issues.

An important consideration when examining extraordinary claims is to realize that there is a range of perception for people. We often misperceive things or, this study shows, we could be hallucinating in some cases. It does not mean the person is “crazy” but that our brains sometimes trip up a bit. It’s important to get this message across as a reasonable option to take into account when thinking about supernatural events.

Tip: Ron Pine

  8 comments for “New research prompts call to reconsider mental health of those who hallucinate

  1. May 31, 2015 at 3:59 PM

    ” It’s important to get this message across as a reasonable option to take into account when thinking about supernatural events.”

    I agree. Basically it means sane people can be mistaken about what they have experienced. A person isn’t crazy if they’ve seen something strange nor does it mean they are being dishonest.

    I have often wondered how many paranormal events can be traced back to a “mental hiccup” that resulted in a hallucination.

  2. Rook
    May 31, 2015 at 7:10 PM

    It is not usual for people who are suffering from sleep deprevation due to a long period of severe insomnia to hear sounds and see things that are not really there or are in some way perceived in a distorted manner.

  3. One Eyed Jack
    May 31, 2015 at 8:09 PM

    I have often wondered how many paranormal events can be traced back to a “mental hiccup” that resulted in a hallucination.

    Not just paranormal, but what about religious? We will never know as the personal investment for the religious is too deep for most to consider hallucination.

  4. Ronald H. Pine
    May 31, 2015 at 10:55 PM

    Rook: I assume that you meant to write “It is not unusual for people….” Am I correct?

  5. Russian Skeptic
    June 4, 2015 at 1:16 AM

    I am actually surprised that the percentage is so low. I expected it to be about 30 per cent (however, I got the point when I saw the explanation that only complex hallucinations counted).
    I personally have heard telephone and door rings which were not here (for many times).
    And it is absurd to believe that only insane people hallucinate. Brain is material, it responds to material stimuli, and it can make mistakes. Sometimes just a wrong painkiller prescribed by your doctor is enough.

  6. Simeon Roos
    July 11, 2015 at 1:08 AM

    I recently had an experience that involved the visual and aural perception of complex, articulated and aperently solid forms that were clearly not a part of consensus reality. It was remarkable for how discreet the experience was – I didn’t experience any subjective disruption to other areas of cognition or my ability to communicate prior to, during or after the event. It also really didn’t seem like a product of my person psyche, absent anything I could plausably interpret as biographical, and had a decidedly different feel than the randomness and absuredity of a typical dream state. In fact, the sense of profound meaning and veracity were extraordinary, something that I suspect is characteristic of such states in general, which perhaps suggests why they tend to resist critical analysis in those who experience them and appear to be key in the generation and perpetuation of religious belife. It was pretty sweet. I hope this study proves a step toward de-pathologizing these states, which do not to me seem to be necessarily indicative of physical disorder or paridolia, but are a normal part of the human experience.

  7. RandyRandy
    July 25, 2015 at 1:59 AM

    It’s not unusual to be tricked by your own eyes
    It’s not unusual to see things in the skies
    But when these visions seem as real as they can be
    It’s not unusual

    It happens every day
    No matter what they say
    You’ll find it happens all the time
    Minds don’t always do
    What we want them to
    Why can’t we control our own minds?
    Whoa oh oh…

    (with sincere apologies to Tom Jones, Les Reed and Gordon Mills)

  8. RandyRandy
    July 25, 2015 at 2:44 AM

    I’m pretty sure the researchers ruled out altered states, drug-induced visions, sleep deprivation or high-stress scenarios in evaluating ‘normal’ baseline mental state (frequent) hallucinations vs the occasional mental hiccup we all might experience. Joan of Arc apparently saw visions and heard voices many times in her life, not just an anomalous one-time break with reality or while near running water/white noise. Plus, the detail in her ‘instructional’ hallucinations was astounding. A mere sleep-deprived glitch won’t do that. Then there’s St. John and his ‘Revelations’…

    This research provokes a lot of good questions regarding the prophets of old and their ‘divine visions’, let alone who it was who might have been speaking to them. Absent clinical schizophrenia, ‘immersive paraedolia’ might be a good term for these rare hallucinatory states, whether constant or singular. That might help to reduce the ‘lunacy’ stigma and allow people to talk more openly about these experiences.

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