My issue is complicated. I was diagnosed with different several mental disorders between the ages of 17 and 22. By about the age of 21 I was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder. This is the label I continue to carry; despite being in complete “remission” for several years and off all medications. I no longer have access to a psychiatrist (& could spend several months waiting to see one).
I’ve continued to see a fantastic counsellor through my university who has been helping me through all of my past issues. However, I’ve found myself in a completely unusual situation which has even my counsellor stumped. I’ve been having intrusive flashbacks to my past traumas that seem almost real. However, I’ve also been experiencing hallucinations which mostly consist of hearing voices and seeing bizarre images (most of which somehow relate to my past traumas). It all started when I began feeling extremely low a couple of weeks ago & my condition quickly deteriorated to where I started hearing and seeing things.
I have no desire to revisit medications as they severely impaired my level of functioning. My question is whether there are alternative ways of learning to deal with these horrifying experiences. I have reason to believe that they’re simply manifestations of the recollection of my past…but even so,I do not know how to manage them & stop these hallucinations from persisting. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
A. I realize that you do not want to take medication. Many people feel the same way. They don’t like the side effects and medication alters their personality. However, you are experiencing serious symptoms that are disrupting your life. Hallucinations, if left untreated, generally become worse. The risk is that you will experience a full-blown psychotic episode. You don’t want to take that risk.
Medication may be necessary but only temporarily. It seemed to have worked for you before, to the point where you no longer needed it. You may have to repeat that process.
Another option to consider is taking a low dose of medication or a different combination of medications. All of these options should be discussed with a psychiatrist.
You have to deal with the reality of your situation. Yes, medications can be unpleasant but they have a proven track record of treating your symptoms.
You are also experiencing flashbacks. One particular treatment that many people have found to be effective for reducing flashbacks is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR is a form of highly structured psychotherapy that is used to treat symptoms associated with past traumas. Hypnosis may be another option.
If you choose to pursue either option, you may want to consult a specially trained trauma therapist. Perhaps your current therapist could assist you in deciding whether or not those treatments would be appropriate for you. Please take care.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Feb 2012
Randle, K. (2012). Is it Possible to Manage Hallucinations without Medications?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 8, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/02/20/is-it-possible-to-manage-hallucinations-without-medications/