Hallucinations after head injury are more common than you might think.
In today’s article, we’re discussing the causes of hallucinations after a traumatic brain injury, and what you can do to treat them.
Let’s dive in.
Causes of Hallucinations after Head Injury
Hallucinations cause a person to see, hear, and even smell things that aren’t really there. The experiences may seem real, but they are creations of the mind.
Hallucinations are most frequently experienced by schizophrenia and Parkinson’s patients, but they can also occur after a brain injury.
Here are the different causes of hallucinations after head injury:
The most common cause of hallucination after TBI is post-traumatic amnesia.
Post-traumatic amnesia occurs after the person emerges from a coma, when the brain is still adjusting to being awake.
During this period, the person may experience hallucinations and delusions.
Another cause of hallucination after brain injury is psychosis.
Psychosis refers to a complete break from reality. It can result from damage to the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe, and the basal ganglia. Seizures can also lead to psychosis.
When hallucinations are caused by psychosis, they will usually accompany other symptoms, such as:
- Personality changes
- Disorganized thinking
- Social difficulties
- Lack of awareness
It’s very rare for a person with psychosis to experience hallucinations without displaying these symptoms as well.
Finally, certain medications used to treat brain injury symptoms can have a hallucinogenic effect.
People who experience hallucinations from their medication will usually calm down once they understand what is happening. They might be afraid at first, but they won’t have other delusions like those suffering from psychosis.
Types of Hallucinations
Most people assume hallucinations mainly involve seeing things that aren’t there.
But in fact, hallucination affects all of your senses, which means there are lots of different ways to hallucinate, including:
- Auditory hallucinations. These are the most common hallucinations. Most of them involve hearing voices or strange sounds like someone walking in the attic.
- Gustatory hallucinations. These cause strange tastes, such as metal in your mouth. This is most common in people with epilepsy.
- Tactile hallucinations. With this type of hallucination, you might feel things crawling on your skin, or feel the touch of someone’s hand.
Finally, some hallucinations cause you to smell things, usually an unpleasant odor. Again this type is most common in epilepsy patients.
How to Help Someone Experiencing a Hallucination
Hallucinations are scary. Here are some ways you can help a person experiencing one.
- Stay calm, and don’t react. Sometimes what the person says they see or hear might sound funny to you, but it feels real to them. Don’t laugh at or embarrass them. Take them seriously.
- Normalize the hallucination. Helping the person understand the reason why they are hallucinating can sometimes calm them down. Don’t make them feel crazy, but explain that what they are experiencing is probably caused by a flare up in the part of their brain that controls vision or hearing.
- Suggest coping strategies. If that doesn’t work, you can suggest coping strategies. Reading out loud, listening to music, and humming are all tricks that cognitive therapists recommend patients to do to quiet voices in their heads.
Another tactic you can use is to take a picture with your smartphone of the part of the room where the patient is seeing something, then show them the picture.
Oddly enough, people hallucinating don’t tend to see their vision when looking at a picture or a video. This can also sometimes help to calm them down.
Of course, some will still believe what they see or hear is real. In those cases, it’s better not to argue, because that will only agitate the person more.
Treating Hallucinations after Head Injury
To treat hallucinations, a neuropsychiatrist will need to evaluate you to determine what the cause of your hallucinations are.
Sometimes treatment is as simple as going on a different type of medication. If the cause is more psychological, you may need to take part in psychotherapy. Support groups can also help you learn how to cope effectively with your hallucinations.
There are also some antipsychotic drugs you can use that will help reduce hallucinations, but you should only use these in severe cases.
The vast majority of hallucinations after a head injury, however, will fade over time. You just need to give your brain a chance to recover.
Hallucinations after Head Injury: Conclusion
Hallucinations after a brain injury can be terrifying when they happen. However, it’s important to remember that these experience are not real, they are just a result of neurons firing incorrectly.
This also means you should not feel ashamed or crazy if you have a hallucination. Think of it as if your brain is sick with a cold. Parts of your brain are inflamed, but that doesn’t reflect anything about your true self.
With the right treatment and enough time, you will regain control of your senses again, and your hallucinations should fade into a distant memory.