Friday, November 06, 2009

Delusions and Hallucinations

NaNo Stats:

31872 / 50000 words. 64% done!

I'm not sure why I've come across so much on hallucinations and delusions lately on physorg, but I figured it was fitting to write a post up about it in honor of all of those people taking part in National Novel Writing Month. Especially for those who are going without sleep, and putting their mind and bodies through the grinder to pump out that 1,667 words on top of their already overfull schedule of working full time, parenting, and school. If you're feeling haunted by your characters, it's okay! Even "normal" people can start hallucinating extremely quickly, under the right circumstances!

Yesterday I linked briefly to a post discussing how children (mostly young girls) can sublimate imaginary friends into dear diary personalities, and then later, if they're writers, into the characters they write about (Abstract can be found here!). Basically, writers are expected to be nagged by their creations. Right now, I'd be more surprised if in the sleep-deprived-overly-stressed state that NaNoWriMo can sometimes subject us to, people weren't feeling haunted by their characters, even if it weren't relatively "normal."

The study I linked to above talks about how, placed in a sensory deprivation room, even people who aren't necessarily prone to hallucination may begin to experience them in as few as 15 minutes. And this is what they suspect:
One of the researchers, psychologist Oliver Mason, said the results of the experiment support the idea that hallucinations are produced through what the scientists call faulty source monitoring: the brain misidentifies the source of its own thoughts as arising from outside the body.
Personally I find it kind of interesting. It's another example, I think, of believing being more powerful than actuality. Of the brain having this incredible power of belief over its surroundings and the body.  We know this is true, we see it every day, but we don't really give it the research and study it deserves, in my opinion. For example, WHY would our brains decide, in the absence of other stimuli, to believe that our own thoughts are external? What's the pathway that allows something like that?

One of the last sentences in this article kind of threw me for a loop though. It was just too ambiguous for me to follow. Maybe because I don't know as much about mental health issues as I do other things. I'm hoping someone else can offer me an interpretation.
The findings may be important because they suggest that mental illness and normality occur on a continuum.
By this, I'm assuming, they mean that the two situations are related and exist within the same plane. Basically, that there is a movement between "normal" toward mental illness, and back again. A progression. I kind of already thought that was probable though. I mean, why else are we medicating people, if not to bring them back to a more "normal" range, or to bring them to a place where they can function "normally" in society or at least with a greater control of their symptoms? Those of you with more expertise in the field, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.


  1. There are some insightful comments posted by folks at the article itself. Here's the dealio - there is a continuum of perception and perceptibility that goes from standing in front of the speakers at a KISS concert to being deep in meditation. Along that continuum, our "consensus reality" stops at the edge of our scientific world view, so anything beyond that becomes "supersition" or "psychosis".

    That's a flawed and frankly immature and arrogant world-view. Of course there's a continuum of mental "health"; in fact, the continuum is not restricted to notions of health or disease, but a another dimension of a range of "sensitivity" (some people have really good hearing, some have really poor night vision, etc., etc.).

    What we sense when we're deprived of our consensus reality and "gross" physical senses is not necessarily an hallucination. It may well be the "sensing" of things ordinarily too buried in the higher-amplitude sensory noise of our daily world to otherwise detect. How we react to it (perhaps with fear, anxiety, etc.) is as likely a function of the unfamiliarity of the experience as it is an indication of disease.

    Reality is way more than what our five senses and our common mass hallucination says it is. Talk to Plato about his allegory of the cave, or investigate the Hindu concept of Maya and you'll see that this idea is not a new one.

    The problem with today's religion of science is that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  2. So, rather than misfiring of the brain causing us to perceive our own thoughts as external, it may be the perception of things that when distracted by the rest of the world, we can't normally hear/see/experience?

    Is it just me, or does it seem like there's some kind of theme going on in the things I've been drawn to post about?

  3. I used to teach psych so this is really interesting. I guess if your characters talk to you the next step would be seeing them.

    BTW- I left a little something for you on my blog! Happy Monday!

    Oh- my word verification is reads. Very cool!

  4. Thanks Stephanie! I'm glad I'm keeping your interest :) Happy Monday back!


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