Quite recently (within the past 24 hours) I have started hallucinating. I’m hearing voices, well, more like conversations. Conversations that I’ve had in the past with other people, it hasn’t stopped. I was worried that this might be something rather serious. What do you think this is?

A. Two of the most common types of hallucinations are visual and auditory. Visual hallucinations involve seeing things that are not real. Auditory hallucinations involve hearing things that are not real, including voices and possibly conversations, a symptom you have described. Hallucinations involving smell and taste are relatively rare. Hallucinations are typically associated with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. They can also be brought on by drug use, fever, brain disorders, dementia, or parasitic infection.

People who are experiencing grief may on some occasions report seeing or hearing things that are not real. These experiences are not necessarily abnormal or cause for alarm. For instance, if an individual has just lost a loved one, he or she may believe that their deceased relative has “visited” them. Hearing the voice of a lost loved one is thought by some mental health professionals to be a normal part of the grieving process.

Without more information it is difficult to know for certain what may be occurring. I would strongly advise making an appointment with either a primary care physician to rule out a possible medical cause or a psychiatrist for an evaluation. It would be wise to do both and to do so as soon as possible. Hallucinations, under most circumstances, are not normal everyday occurrences. If you are hearing and seeing things that are not there and this problem continues, then it is important to be seen by a mental health professional. They can provide insight into what you are experiencing. Having an evaluation can also bring you peace of mind. Please take care.