Perception distortion is an abnormality in sensory or psychological perception. This can be the result of psychological disorders, damage to the brain or nervous system, medications, or other potential interruptions to the cognitive processes involved in perception. Research on this subject is a complex topic aimed at understanding what happens when perception goes wrong and how it can be addressed. Sensory perception research involves neurologists, cognitive psychologists, and people in related fields, while self-perception is a subject of interest for psychologists and mental health professionals.
A number of factors are involved in perception, making it very different between individuals. Two people may experience the same event or witness the same scene and provide very different descriptions. Understanding how perception works on an individual level is important for research into larger distortions. For example, if two people witness a crime and one person says the perpetrator had a red shirt while the other claims to have seen a blue shirt, this isn’t distortion. It’s a trick of memory that changes recollections of the scene.
Sensory perception may distort in a number of ways. People can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel phenomena that are not there. A common cause of perception distortion in these cases is a reaction to medication. Some psychoactive medications, for example, can cause hallucinations. Patients can also experience problems because of neurological disorders that lead to mixed or false signals reaching the brain.
Self-perception, the identification of the self, can be distorted by psychological disorders. A common example can be seen in people with eating disorders, who see a fat body in the mirror even as they lose large amounts of weight with tactics like overexercising or not eating enough. Perception distortion can also play a role in the cognitive processes behind some mental health conditions; people may experience a decreased sense of self worth, for example, as part of depression or anxiety disorders.
When a patient suffers from perception distortion, a care provider can explore the topic to learn more about its origins. If the problem is medical in nature, it may be correctable with measures like changing the dose of medication or controlling a neurological disorder more effectively. For psychological conditions, the patient may need therapy, and in some cases could benefit from medications to correct chemical imbalances that can contribute to perception distortion. Some people may participate in research to provide more information about how the brain works and what happens when perception is distorted.