Visual Hallucinations & Urges to Do Strange Things

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hello, for the past few months I have started to have strange visual hallucinations. Usually when I see things I become scared; I turn on the sink and blood comes out or a man will be standing by the top of the stairs when I’m walking up to my room. The hallucinations last seconds. I know that what I am seeing is not real but at the same time when it happens I am afraid for my life, when I see a person in my house I believe they’re really there(from another universe or something) until after the fact when I am calm and the hallucinations are gone. I remember as a young child I would hear a voice telling me to “do it” and I would get so angry that I would hurt myself but I’m not sure at what age that went away. I have also been having urges to do strange things… for example I woke up last week and had this urge to go dig a hole in my yard thinking there was something in the ground. I got up and did it because I believed it but looking back I know it was foolish for me to think something/someone was trapped in the ground.

I have talked to my therapist about this and he recommended I see a psychiatrist but my parents won’t allow it. He is a LCSW and can not diagnose me. I have not spoken to him about it in awhile because it is embarrassing and part of me feels like he doesn’t believe me. He said visual hallucinations are very rare. Could this be schizophrenia?(my sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia then re-diagnosed by a different psychiatrist with BPD she is currently medicated and it helps but I am unsure of what her symptoms were, I do not think she hallucinated) or could the hallucinations be caused by my depression, which has gotten pretty severe recently? Is there any advice you could give me to help control my strange urges/decrease the occurrence of my hallucinations.

A. It is difficult to know what may be wrong. Visual hallucinations are experienced by individuals who have schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and on less frequent occasions, major depression and bipolar disorder, if there are psychotic features present. Approximately 16 to 72 percent of individuals with schizophrenic disorders have reported experiencing visual hallucinations. In that way, they can be relatively common among individuals who have those disorders.

Individuals can experience visual hallucinations in the absence of a psychotic disorder. In these cases, there may be an organic brain syndrome present. Some physical problems that may cause visual hallucinations include (but are not limited to): dementia, delirium, drug and alcohol withdrawal, severe sleep disturbances, migraine headaches, seizures or tumors. Generally it is recommended that an individual who is experiencing visual hallucinations be evaluated by both a psychiatrist and neurologist.

Your parents are unwilling to allow you to see a psychiatrist. I would encourage you to inform your parents that visual hallucinations are possibly a sign of a neurological problem. It is very important that you are medically evaluated to rule out the possibility of neurological problems. It would also be helpful to share this information with your therapist. He may be able to help convince your parents that you need to see a neurologist and or a psychiatrist. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Jun 2012

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2012). Visual Hallucinations & Urges to Do Strange Things. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/06/12/visual-hallucinations-urges-to-do-strange-things/