A very common first question when talking about psychosis is, “What do you hallucinate?” It’s not an incredibly simple question; it’s kind of like asking someone, “What do you see, in general?” Of course, it varies person to person, but here are my most frequent hallucinations, in no particular order.
Voices, Chatter, Noise
Voices saying specific things, or general chatter around me. The latter version is more common for me, and when I say I hear voices, the next question is always what do they say. But it’s kind of like if you’re sitting in a crowded restaurant, and someone asks you, “What are people talking about?” I’m not necessarily paying attention. There are some words I can’t make out at all. Often there are random noises in the mix. Some voices I might recognize repeatedly, whether or not I can make out what they’re saying. Some things I can barely understand. Random phrases I catch, meaningless, completely out of context. I might be able to tune in to one voice or exchange at a time. (I also sometimes, less frequently, get the random noise without any chatter/voice element.)
Other times, I do hear only one or two voices saying more specific things. People talking about me, at times like when I’m in an empty public bathroom (usually not nicely). An echo of something random I heard or read, or a conversation I had earlier, often repeatedly. Brief back and forths with imaginary versions of people I know, often unpleasant. Someone calling my name (a rather common experience for many people). My characters talking, more to each other than me, isolated from the rest of their world. (My characters more frequently appear to me in other ways that resemble hallucinations, which I discussed more in the types of dissociation post and elsewhere). Or, my thoughts kind of splitting off into a second voice, until I realize I’m not controlling the second voice anymore. So on.
Flickering lights, fireworks, flames, flashes of lightning, cloudlike blobs, often indoors, all colors. Sometimes pretty and easily blocked out, sometimes distracting and encroaching on the center of my vision, especially the ominous dark blobs that sometimes come before the flashback hallucinations.
Music, in general. Especially when I’ve recently listened to the same song on repeat or to a lot of music that sounds similar—my brain will play it, often gradually louder and louder, in a much more real way than having a song stuck in my head, until I next fall asleep and wake up with it faded or gone. (I can also, at other times, kind of do this at will, like it’s a real radio in the background while I do other things.) Certain artists seem to trip it more than others, which sometimes informs my listening choices, and it’s often not ones you’d think of as catchy. (My brain really likes Evanescence, for starters.) I’ve also had a phase for playlists of, say, piano music, lead to days of hallucinations of piano music, no song in particular, just… piano. I’ve had the same happen with ASMR files, though those usually mimic one file in particular. Same for movie soundtracks; my brain just kind of invents music that sounds like it could’ve been from that movie, but wasn’t. I threw a Harry Potter themed party earlier this year and had all the scores playing for several hours… and remixes for several hours more only in my head (louder and louder until I fell asleep). Same for the Star Wars party.
Any sound that functions as a notification. Our doorbell, my alarm clock sound, my wife’s alarm clock sound, any familiar ringtone, so on. I’ll hear it once at random (this is also fairly common), or every few minutes for a few hours or so, or I’ll hear it on constant repeat, sometimes for days at a time. Usually starts sometime shortly after I actually heard the sound. Definitely reduces the effectiveness of my actual alarms, so I mix up the sound now and then.
Hallucinations related to my PTSD, that go beyond the typical flashbacks. Typically the corpse—sometimes this is a distortion of a living person I am actually seeing—sometimes the death smell, and frequently the feeling of maggots, even though I didn’t experience it myself. Easily triggered by seeing anything similar (including in television, certain Halloween decorations, etc.), people staying very still/sleeping (especially unexpectedly), beds (especially white linens, which I mostly don’t use), darkness/shadows/certain black things, and anniversaries related to deaths in the family/those people when they were alive.
Farrah, Farrah’s Void
I’ve talked about Farrah a lot here, but: a golden retriever puppy who appears to me regularly via assorted visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations that sometimes match up more than others, who seems to represent the part of my brain that wants to be psychotic and creative. She kind of glows and hovers and makes faces that real dogs don’t make, teleports at times, and I’m kind of telepathic with her; it’s like she can think things at me that manifest as kind of auditory hallucinations, and kind of the way you suddenly understand information in dreams. She started appearing around the one year anniversary of my father’s death and has been in and out since. She came with a collar and a name tag; I didn’t choose the name. She’s very reactive to the real environment, but sometimes is in her Void: an endless white abyss in my brain I sometimes visit by varying levels of accident if I dissociate hard enough. I call her my schizophrenia tamagotchi. Sometimes I wish she’d come out and play even more.
Distortions of real objects. Flickering, changing colors, sizes, orientation, details, and being off of where they actually are. Think Alice in Wonderland, or the types of hallucinations associated with certain drugs. I gave one specific example under flashbacks. Very, very bad to have while driving, and I already have spatial reasoning issues. Sometimes just makes me look even more clumsy, closing my fingers around the empty space next to something. Especially hard to explain or catch as a hallucination sometimes, since we’ll both see the object itself in some way.