What is a Pseudohallucination?

A pseudohallucination is a perceptual experience which differs from a hallucination Opens in new window in that it appears to arise in the subjective inner space of the mind, not through one of the external sensory organs.

Patients tend to describe these sensations as being perceived with the ‘inner eye’ or ‘mind’s eye’ (or ear).

Although experienced in internal space they are not under conscious control.

Pseudohallucination examples include: distressing flashbacks in post-traumatic stress disorder Opens in new window or someone hearing a voice inside their own head telling them to harm themselves. These are not viewed as true psychotic experiences.

Pseudohallucinations differ from hallucinations Opens in new window by lacking the reality of a true perception and by being experienced in inner subjective space. In this respect, they are like images. They share some characteristics of a true hallucination in that they are vivid; and as mentioned earlier, they are not under voluntary or conscious control.

In a true hallucination Opens in new window, the patient has sensations of smell, taste, touch, movement, sound or sight which s/he take to be valid. However, in a pseudohallucination, the patient is aware that these perceptions are not true signals of external reality, but s/he nonetheless reacts emotionally as if it were.

These false perceptions often include felt presences, as of others in the room, even though they are dead. This is one source of various “paranormal phenomena” such as seeing or hearing “ghosts” of the deceased.

Note that pseudohallucinations are not indicative of mental illness and are known to occur in healthy individuals during times of bereavement and other significant emotional crises.

    Research data for this literature has been adapted from these following manuals:
  1. Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry By David Semple, Roger Smyth
  2. Crash Course Psychiatry - E-Book By Katie FM Marwick, Steven Birrell
  3. Essentials of Psychiatry By Dr Sandeep K Goyal