What are Tactile Hallucinations?

Article Details
  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 July 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
In 1937, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, famous for his Charlie McCarthy dummy, was awarded a wooden Oscar statuette.  more...

July 20 ,  1969 :  The first human walked on the moon.  more...

When a person hallucinates, he or she is essentially sensing something that isn’t really there. People can hear voices or sounds, smell things that aren’t present, or have a variety of experiences that are real to the person but not real outside of the person. One type of hallucination that often isn’t discussed in depth is the tactile hallucination; this occurs when someone feels a sensation on the body that is, in fact, not present. Like many forms of hallucinations, tactile hallucinations are not limited to those suffering from mental illness and could have many causes.

Tactile hallucinations can present in a number of different ways. One of the most common of these is phantom limb. When people lose a limb, they may still experience its presence on the body. It could very much feel like the limb is still there, and sometimes this condition can even be extremely painful. The sensations in the “not there” limb are very real to the person experiencing them, and a variety of treatments might be used to control this pain that is both there and not there.


For most people experience of phantom limb is not suggestive of conditions like schizophrenia, though the mind has definitely been tricked to be aware of something that doesn’t exist. A number of treatments might be attempted to get rid of pain, including giving antidepressants or using therapies that involve a box with mirrors. Sometimes “seeing” and working with the missing limb, through mirror work, has an appropriate effect on relieving discomfort.

Another of the form of these hallucinations is when people feel they have things moving over their skin. Often people identify this as having insects or bugs under or on top of their skin. This is not an uncommon reaction to certain types of drugs, particularly methamphetamine or cocaine. The sensation often leaves when a drug has left body’s system too, and hopefully discouraged the person from use of illegal drugs in the future. This hallucination can cause great mental distress as it occurs, provoking irrational behavior.

Sometimes tactile hallucinations are transient and might occur as part of hypnopompic or hypnogogic experiences. These are any hallucinations that happen just before waking or falling asleep, respectively. A person might feel that someone or thing has touched or exerted pressure on him. Alternately, the sensation of falling and hitting the ground may be tactile, and it really can feel as though a physical experience occurred. These hallucinations are fairly common, and many people will experience at least one in a lifetime.

Occasionally, people have a real reason for feeling what might be initially dismissed as tactile hallucinations. Some medical conditions unrelated to mental illness can make the body feel things that seem not be there. Certain skin conditions, for instance could create pain, burning, or pressure on certain parts of the body. These are not actually hallucinations because there is a reason why such feelings are present, even if that reason is below the skin surface or not automatically apparent.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 19

I have paranoid schizophrenia. I experience tactile and auditory hallucinations on a daily basis. I have tried six different types of anti-psychotics, but they haven't been very effective.

I feel as though I am being attacked when I experience the tactile hallucinations. The pain seems totally real. When the hallucinations stop, there is no pain. I get scratched, stabbed and bitten. Sometimes the physical contact is more subtle and more gentle. Although, it is always annoying. Especially, when I try to sleep.

Post 18

A few weeks ago, I experienced the strangest sensation and occurrence. I fell asleep and woke (somewhat woke) as my mother was turning lamps off and such readying herself for bed. I was completely aware of my surroundings and hearing and seeing everything accurately.

Seconds after my mother turned her lamp off, a wave of numbness and tingling rushed over my entire body. While the feeling was disturbing, I didn't want to push panic buttons so I decided to go back to sleep. Well, that same feeling came over me a second time. I tried calling out to my mother, but no words came out -- just a faint sound. Then I thought to knock something over to get her attention

, but lo and behold, I couldn't move my limbs at all.

I kept struggling to get the word out of my mouth, and finally after about 10 or 15 seconds, "Mom" rolled off my tongue in a very low (fatigued) tone.

Off to the ER we went where the doc made the call: hypnopompic hallucinations coupled with sleep paralysis. Talk about scary! Basically, he said, the part of your brain that receives stimuli was receiving as if I was awake. The part of my brain that computes and responds to that stimuli was still in twilight sleep mode. So, my entire body was at that pivotal moment (rare moment) of being awake and asleep at the same time.

Post 17

I have tactile hallucinations. I was completely normal until I was struck by lightning in Sept, 2006. I feel them deep inside my body. I feel hands that reach through me, creatures that attach themselves to me, hands that pull these creatures through my body, biting, scratching, extreme pain. I have seen insects, mostly flies and gnats that feel and appear to come from inside my body. It is miserable.

Antipsychotics only make me completely sedated and totally worthless. Pain medication lessens the pain. For me, I do not know of any answers. I call on The Lord to help me. It then feels as if hands reach in and grab on to whatever it feels is hurting me and

for lack of better words, pull it out. Then, I feel something walk up my body and simply enter in wherever it feels that the other thing was pulled from.

The craziest part of it all is that there are at times physical manifestations of the hallucinations. I get marks on my body, burns on my face especially around my mouth that look like a chemical burn. I could go on but you get the picture. I hold on and survive for those who love me!

Post 16

Tactile hallucinations are curable.

Post 15

I'm 15 and have tactile hallucinations too. I feel bugs crawling into my ears and down my throat. It's horrible. I also have auditory hallucinations which are trauma induced. I used to have visual hallucinations when I used to see a boy whenever I closed my eyes. But I shut down very easily especially when it comes to therapy, so they can't give me the right treatment.

Post 14

In addition to "brain zaps" and annoying visions of tarantulas before falling asleep, I sometimes get pressure in the head, and random sensations of being slapped and punched in the face. It is painful and always an unpleasant surprise. Usually I can mentally transcend it, but last night it was very powerful and eventually I quit trying to fall asleep. I am drug- and alcohol-free and have been so for about 10 years.

I think that the brain zaps might be repercussions of withdrawal from antipsychotic medications I discontinued several years ago. I also suffered a TBI (diffuse axonal injury) in 2001, but I am fully recovered. I assume the slapping and punching feelings must be some form of hypnagogic tactile hallucination.

I can't seem to find much information about these specific symptoms online. Has anyone else ever experienced something similar? Thanks.

Post 13

It was preceded by about four weeks of a devastating and continuous headache. Then just last week, I suddenly felt a painful slap on one side of my face as I walked down the road. I quickly turned around and slapped a guy nearby, thinking he was the one who slapped me. It turned out no one touched me. Since then, I have experienced many more such feelings.

Post 12

If you suffer from tactile hallucinations, ask your doctor to try you on an SSRI antidepressant. This will help increase the amount of serotonin in your brain which will help you feel better with less anxiety, hence, help you tolerate the tactile hallucinations because they are related to emotions.

It must be an SSRI and not an SNRI. SNRIs increase norepinephrine which can increase anxiety. When you have a mental illness, the brain chemistry and electrical activity is altered and your emotions are altered accordingly. You cannot just control this on your own, hence the need for medication.

Anti-anxiety medication may help to decrease or stop the tactiles, but this type of medication is addictive and doctors hesitate to subscribe it.

Ask your doctor for a trial and if it helps, use it sparingly so that you will have it when you really need it.

Post 11

I hear lots of sighs and whispering coming from different areas around the house to where I am. I sometimes find myself answering a question they've asked me out loud and my friends ask me what I'm going on about. I usually pass out a lot from it.

I see shadows and outlines of bodies in reflections like mirrors or windows, mainly at night time when I'm tired and I feel things crawling up my legs really really fast, then they both go dead and I am unable to move at all, that also happens on my arms on occasions. I feel like something is pushing down on my body when I'm lying in bed, like on my chest. And

sometimes I forget how to breathe and it feels like something it grasping my throat really tight.

I experience a lot of twinges in my body and tend to zone out a lot when I hear things and don't quite seem to remember what it was I heard afterwards.

Post 10

I have a broad range of tactile hallucinations and the only thing that I have found to lessen them is diaphragmatic breathing. Research it if you aren't sure how to do it properly. Try it out.

Post 9

I have had the pressure (being pushed downward by my shoulders) and the "shoves", which are very bothersome when they occur. It feels exactly as though someone walked up behind me, while I was just standing there totally unaware of anyone or anything other than a mental or philosophical thought. It can also bring the realization on.

Post 8

My mother has tactile hallucinations. She is 95 years old with some dementia. Life is miserable. What to do?

Post 7

I have the same problem! I feel like there are leeches and ants, and freak out pretty much. It helps if I acknowledge it's happening, but then choose to focus on something else.

It helps if I don't eat too many simple sugars in a row too. Like one day I had it, I had eaten basically bread all day. And I sometimes get them after I start new medications too, or drink caffeine.

Post 6

@anon106342: why do you think so? life is beautiful and we all have your problems, dear. look at me. i blank out every 10 minutes of the day. i could have let it stop me from having fun, but that's not how we go on in life.

You must believe in something very sincerely. These hallucinations begin from our brain, and that's where we've got to stop it from. Think positive, look at the good things in life. And when you know you're hallucinating? try your best to ignore it. if you believe in god, chant His name when you have hallucinations, especially auditory hallucinations. And you see, hallucinations and schizophrenia can occur due to biological reasons.

It's been proved that yoga helps, just as do breathing exercises. Go to a doctor. ask him and i hope you'll be fine. If you believe it, it'll happen and life is beautiful. look around.

Post 4

I have tactile hallucinations in my hands and feet. I feel vibrations, usually in my feet, depending on what I am doing or thinking at the time.

Post 3

I have paranoid schizophrenia. I have auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations and tactile hallucinations. Life is difficult. Life has nothing for me.

Post 2

i have tactile hallucinations also but i feel hundreds of bugs under my skin. it's horrible and freaking me out. i don't know how to make it stop but i am trying to find out more.

Post 1

I have tactile hallucinations where swarms of flies drive at me and I feel them all over my body. This happens during the day and also at night. Even when I hide under my duvet I feel the pressure of them on top of me. I know they're hallucinations but it's still terrifying and they are there for hours. Does this happen to anyone else? If so, how do you make this stop? Thanks!

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?