“Have you had any hallucinations?” A question most people with PD are asked at each appointment they have with their neurologist.
I always think about my answer, as it always feels like a trap to see if I’m losing it mentally. You see, if I say yes, they may think I’m finally going over the top. I’ve lost it. And if I say no when I really mean yes, do I have to admit that the floaters in my eyes sometimes make me feel like a hummingbird just whizzed by? What to say, what to say…
- Hallucination: something (such as an image, a sound, or a smell) that seems real but does not really exist and that is usually caused by mental illness or the effect of a drug
- Delusion: : a belief that is not true : a false idea; a false idea or belief that is caused by mental illness
- Illusion: a perception that is not true to reality, having been altered subjectively in some way in the mind of the perceiver.
Some people with Parkinson’s disease experience what are known as hallucinations or delusions, which unfortunately can be part of the dementia process. These false ‘eerienesses’ appearing as reality (otherwise known as F.E.A.A.R.), tend to be more prevalant in the later stages of the disease, and are more commn in people who have had the disease for a long time.
Many variables exist for hallucinations to be present, but it can be caused by drugs given a person to treat their PD. The type of meds, the dosage, the person – it all comes into play.
When you see things that aren’t there – people, animals, crawly creepy things – these are hallucinations.
Hearing things like a door open or close can freak you out, especially if it didn’t happen. Someone is knocking so you go to answer the door and …no one is there. The phone rings and the same thing. These are hallucinations.
You are reading a book and someone is standing behind you. But are they – really? (You really don’t want to turn around to find out.) This is a hallucination.
You smell something burning and figure dinner must be ready. However, when you get to the kitchen, the cook is reading a book and nothing’s on the stove. You are disappointed. Perhaps relieved. Dinner still stands a chance.
An illusion is a form of a hallucination. You see real things differently from how they really look. For example, the monkeys on the wallpaper appear to be swinging from tree to tree. Or the lampstand may appear to be Uncle Jed. And, the carpet under your feet appears to be moving like the tide coming in at the ocean. (What a nice thought – to be at the beach.)
In all seriousness, hallucinations (or FEAAR) can be quite disturbing, causing much fear and anxiety. There are, however, things that can be done, as with those suffering with delusions.
Delusions are conjured up by thoughts and beliefs that aren’t really there, whereas we learned that hallucinations deal more with the senses. Delusions can include paranoia (no, there are NOT cameras in all the trees), jealousy (no, your 83 year old husband is not having an affair with the 19 year old who lived next door eons ago), and exaggeration (no you are NOT superman).
Hallucinations, illusions, delusions – all scarey stuff. Both for the patient and the caregiver. They can cause problems in relationships. They can leave the patient feeling confused, helpless, misunderstood.
Get medical care/advice and rule out other causes. Get treated, if possible. Don’t count on someone else telling you that you’re hallucinating. They may be delusional. Safety could be an issue so make sure to hide the bats from both the weary caregiver and the wild patient.
It may not be PD that’s the culprit of your hallucinations. An infection that leads to a fever, or somethng else may be to blame for this one. Hopefully.
But then again, maybe hopefully not.