No products in the cart.

Hallucinations After Head Injury: Causes, Types, and Treatments

woman looking out on the world with relief from hallucinations after head injury

Psychiatric issues, such as delusions and hallucinations, are common after head injury, especially in the early stages of recovery.

In this article, we will discuss the most frequent causes of hallucinations after a traumatic brain injury and what you can do to treat them.

Use the following links to skip to a relevant section:

Causes of Hallucinations after Head Injury

Hallucinations cause a person to see, hear, smell, or feel things that are not present. 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.

The following are a few of the most common causes of hallucinations after head injury:

1. Post-Traumatic Amnesia and Delirium

The most common cause of hallucination after TBI is delirium, which is an impairment of mental abilities that results in confusion and decreased awareness of the environment. This can occur during a period of post-traumatic amnesia, however post-traumatic amnesia may last longer than true delirium does. Amnesia is the inability to form new memories or recall old ones. It is characterized by a state of confusion regarding place, time, and person.

In other words, the person has no memory of where they are or how they got there, and they cannot retain new memories. When amnesia arises after a concussion or brain injury, it is known as post-traumatic amnesia.

Post-traumatic amnesia occurs because the brain is in a vulnerable, confused state after a head injury. While in this state, the patient can experience hallucinations and delusions.

2. Psychosis

Another cause of hallucination after brain injury is psychosis.

Psychosis refers to a complete break from reality. It usually occurs as a result of damage to the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe, or the basal ganglia. Seizures can also lead to psychosis.

When hallucinations are caused by psychosis, they will usually accompany other symptoms, such as:

It’s very rare for a person with psychosis to experience hallucinations without displaying these symptoms as well.

3. Medications

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 will not experience other delusions like those suffering from psychosis. If medications are thought to be the cause of hallucinations, be sure to inform your doctor.

Types of Hallucinations

Hallucination can affect all five of your senses, which means there are several different ways you can hallucinate, including:

  • Visual hallucinations. These types of hallucinations cause a person to see strange or distorted visions.
  • 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.
  • Olfactory hallucinations. Finally, some hallucinations cause you to smell odors that don’t actually exist, usually an unpleasant odor. Again this type is most common in epilepsy patients.

When someone experiences a hallucination, it is critical for loved ones to offer the right support. This can help keep the person from becoming agitated and exacerbating their symptoms.

How to Help Someone Experiencing a Hallucination After Head Injury

Hallucinations after head injury can be intense and frightening. Here are some ways loved ones can help a patient experiencing a hallucination:

  • Stay calm, and don’t react negatively. Sometimes what the person says they see or hear might sound strange, 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 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 of the part of the room where the patient is seeing visual hallucinations, 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 benefit from psychotherapy. Support groups can also help you learn how to cope effectively with your hallucinations.

There are also some antipsychotic drugs that can help reduce hallucinations, but you should only use these in severe cases. Antipsychotic drugs can cause serious side effects such as drowsiness, tremors, and other disorders. Therefore, doctors typically prefer to only use them as a last resort.

The vast majority of hallucinations after a head injury, however, should fade over time. You just need to give your brain a chance to recover.

Hallucinations after Head Injury: Conclusion

Hallucinations after head injury can be terrifying when they happen. However, it’s important to remember that these experiences are not real, they are simply a result of neurons firing incorrectly.

This also means you should not feel ashamed if you do experience a hallucination. Parts of your brain are damaged or inflamed, but that doesn’t change anything about who you are.

With the right treatment and enough time, you can regain control of your senses again, and your hallucinations should fade to a distant memory.

Keep it going: Do you know these 15 essential TBI recovery tips?

If you like our content, you’ll love our ebook and newsletters! Get instant access to our TBI recovery tips ebook with 20 pages of helpful advice by signing up below.

You’ll also receive our emails that share survivor stories and more useful TBI recovery tips, which you can opt out of at any time. (We know you’ll love them, too.)

We will never sell your email address, and we never spam. That we promise.

More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

Download Free TBI Recovery Tips!

15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know

Discover Award-Winning Neurorehab Tools

You're on a Roll: Read More Popular Articles on TBI Recovery

Do you want to sharpen your cognitive skills after a TBI?

Time with a speech therapist is extremely valuable during recovery, especially if you struggle with communication, critical thinking, or memory after brain injury. Insurance typically covers speech therapy for a fixed amount of time. But once it’s over, recovery is in your hands.

That’s why two speech therapists came together to create the CT Speech & Cognitive therapy app. It contains over 100,000 cognitive exercises that are all available right from your phone or tablet. 

This app is the perfect fit if you want to improve your speaking, memory, or general mental sharpness. Best of all, it’s affordable at just $29.99/month.

Click here to learn more about the CT app »

See what Miriam said about the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy app:

“For the past 6 months, my son has used the app about three times a week. The app is like a virtual therapist, it’s very easy to use, and it gives him immediate feedback.

He now understands things faster, can make decisions with less hesitation, has improved recognition of words, and his confidence is higher. I also find it easy to get in touch with customer service; they pleasantly help out. The whole experience has been great.”

— Miriam

It’s like having a virtual speech therapist available anytime you want

With the CT App, you can get the guidance you need right from your phone or tablet. You can use it on your own or in between sessions with your speech therapist.

Whether you struggle with aphasia, memory loss, or critical thinking, the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App can help.

“The CT app has helped me gather my confidence by building on and reinforcing old forgotten skills. It helps to see my percentages increase, and work harder when they decrease. It’s very self-motivating.” -Kathryn

We are confident that this app will help improve your speech and cognitive function after brain injury. Like our recovery tools, the CT App is also covered by our 30-day money-back guarantee.

15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know

Do you know these 15 TBI recovery tips?

Get a free copy of our ebook 15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know. Click here to get instant access.