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What Are Bipolar Hallucinations?

Among some patients with bipolar disorder, hallucinations may signal the start of a manic episode.
People experiencing bipolar hallucinations can often be treated with mood stabilizers and psychotherapy.
Some people with bipolar disorder might experience visual hallucinations.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2014
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Bipolar hallucinations are hallucinations experienced by people with bipolar disorder. By definition, they are only present in patients with bipolar I, and not everyone with this condition will develop hallucinations. In patients who experience them, clinical treatment can include medications like lithium, along with psychotherapy. For some patients, hallucinations can be a warning sign of a manic episode, as they may occur before patients enter a manic state.

Sensory hallucinations can take a number of forms and they vary from patient to patient. Patients with bipolar hallucinations may see, hear, smell, feel, or taste things that do not actually exist. In some patients, the hallucinations are accompanied by a break with reality and they may not realize they are hallucinating. In others, they are clearly recognizable as hallucinations and this may be traumatic or upsetting for the patient.

Hallucinations are observed in cases of bipolar I where the patient experiences psychosis during manic episodes. The diagnostic process for mental illnesses like bipolar disorder is complex and can require hours of evaluation to exclude similar diagnoses. Patients with psychosis must be evaluated for conditions like schizophrenia before they are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as the treatment for these conditions is different and it is important to get an accurate diagnosis when developing a treatment plan.

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Patients can manage bipolar hallucinations in a variety of ways. For patients who choose to control the condition with medication, symptoms like hallucinations often resolve. In patients who do not use medications or who experience recurrence of symptoms, some people may attempt to interact with the hallucinations, while others may use them as a warning sign that their bipolar disorder is increasing in severity. Other patients attempt to ignore hallucinations or work to learn to differentiate between hallucinations and reality.

Patients with bipolar hallucinations may discuss the sensory experiences with caregivers, friends, and family. Some people find hallucinations less frightening when they talk about them and patients who have trouble differentiating between bipolar hallucinations and reality might ask people for verification about a sensory experience.

In people with undiagnosed mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, hallucinations can be an important diagnostic sign for clinicians. People who start to experience abnormal sensations or other signs of mental illness may want to consider evaluation by a psychologist or physician; in addition to being signs of mental illness, hallucinations can also indicate an underlying neurological problem, such as a tumor or a degenerative disease.

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bluedolphin
Post 3
@literally45-- I'm not a doctor and I do think that you need to speak to your doctor about this because you could possibly misdiagnosed. Or you might need a different type of treatment.

I don't think that people with bipolar disorder are as likely to suffer from hallucinations as people with more serious form of psychosis like schizophrenia, but it certainly happens.

I personally think that there is a strong neurological component to bipolar hallucinations because they're mostly due to brain over-activity. For example, hearing conversations or music, or seeing something in the corner of one's eye is very common among people with bipolar. They're not exactly like typical hallucinations.

literally45
Post 2

@burcinc-- So were you in a manic state when you got these hallucinations? People keep telling me that one has to be in a bipolar disorder mania state to hallucinate, but I don't think it's true. I hallucinate even when I'm not manic.

burcinc
Post 1

When got my bipolar disorder diagnosis, I didn't know that bipolar could cause hallucinations. I started getting some mild hallucinations a few years after my diagnosis. I was actually not completely sure that I was hallucinating because the hallucinations only lasted a few seconds at a time and they were very believable. Like I could see an insect on the wall or hear something and then it was gone.

When I finally mentioned this to my doctor, she switched me to a stronger medication and the hallucinations stopped. I realized only then how much I had really been hallucinating. It's all gone now, I'm doing very well.

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