Common Hallucinations in Psychosis

Both psychosis and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are often characterised by hallucinations. I have wrote about hallucinations briefly in the past, if you would like to view that article please click here. Hallucinations are defined as an experience where the apparent perception of something is not present, a hallucination would be when an individual hears, sees, smells, tastes or feels something that doesn’t exist outside of their mind. Hallucinations can vary drastically from person to person, but one thing will stay the same, they are all incredibly difficult to deal with in one way or another. Although hallucinations can be greatly varied, there are some which appear to be more common than others, which is what I am going to write about in this article. However, I want to make an important statement to verify that you do not have to experience any of the following or similar hallucinations to qualify as psychotic or mentally ill. Your hallucinations and your illness will always remain valid, regardless of the commonness of your symptoms.

The following are what I believe to be the most common hallucinations that individuals with psychosis experience.

Visual Hallucinations

Shadow People

The most common and well known hallucination experienced by individuals with psychosis is the apparent appearance of shadow people. The shadow people can appear anywhere, sometimes they may appear as a typical shadow against the surface of objects such as the walls and floors, or they can present themselves as actual shadow beings, existing in a three dimensional world just like the rest of us. It is also common for them to follow the individual who is experiencing the hallucination, which can cause a large amount of distress.

Morphing Shadows

Another common visual hallucination that sticks with the shadow theme, is the hallucination of shadows morphing and turning into objects or people that are not really there. These shadows may appear out of nowhere, or they may morph from already existing shadows.

Audible Hallucinations


Not only is hearing voices the most common audible hallucination, but also the most common hallucination in general. This hallucination is when an individual hears a voice or voices which are not the result of external stimuli.  These voices are typically of a critical and negative nature, and can be extremely difficult to live with. This type of hallucination becomes most dangerous when the voice or voices begin commanding the individual to perform certain tasks, which may cause harm to the individual or those around them.


Many people who experience psychosis may hear footsteps when no one is actually present. This hallucination may occur when one is walking, sounding as if a person is walking behind them. Others may hear footsteps when they are idle. This hallucination can occur at any given time, and it can cause a vast amount of paranoia as the affected individual may believe they are being followed by a person for sinister reasons, which is not the case, although it would appear very real to the individual at the time.


Musical hallucinations are actually as uncommon as they are frustrating; yet they still deserve a mention in this list, as I have found them to be quite common amongst those with a chronic psychotic disorder. An individual may hear various genres of music, including those they strongly dislike. Others may only hear an instrument or a certain combination of instruments. This hallucination may be constant or come and go at different times.

Physical Objects Banging/Moving

Another common hallucination is the sound of windows and doors banging, or just physical objects moving, often in a rather aggressive manner. This type of hallucination can be particularly frightening as it can cause an individual to believe that there is either an intruder in the home, or some form of paranormal activity occurring; which is incorrect in each case.

Tactile Hallucinations (External)

Crawling Feeling On or Under Skin

This hallucination is typically common amongst users of hard drugs such as crack cocaine and methamphetamine, although, anyone with a form of psychosis can experience this delusion. The crawling sensation often leads the individual who is experiencing the hallucination to believe that there are bugs on or under their skin. This hallucination can become dangerous as many people who have experienced this hallucination will scratch at their skin until they bleed, whereas others may even go to the lengths of a more severe form of self-mutilation in order to remove the bugs.

Visceral Hallucinations (Internal)

Movement of Internal Organs

During this type of hallucination an individual will experience the feeling of their internal organs moving. This may mean experiencing the sensation that an organ is moving around your body, the feeling that the organ is palpitating, that pressure is being applied to that organ, or the feeling that it is being stretched. This may cause extreme distress to an individual, or cause them to self-mutilate. Therefore this type of hallucination does have the possibility of being dangerous for the individual.

Olfactory Hallucinations

An olfactory hallucination is when an individual can smell something which does not really exist within the present environment. The odours detected may vary greatly from person to person. Olfactory hallucinations are typically unpleasant as many describe, however this is not always the case. As they differ so greatly, there would be no common ones to identify, other than those which are unpleasant. Olfactory hallucinations tend to be less common that both visual and audible hallucinations, but once again this may differ from person to person.

Overall, this should provide you with a good idea of what people with psychosis experience, and why these hallucinations could make day to day life very difficult, as well as put them in danger. If you or someone you know has experienced any of the hallucinations above and you are not receiving treatment, please seek professional help immediately.


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