, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 97-104
Date: 08 Feb 2014

Determinants of occurrence and recovery from hallucinations in daily life

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Background Data related to the dynamics of hallucinatory experiences of patients suffering from schizophrenia are scarce. Detecting antecedent conditions and coping strategies may aid development of targeted psychological interventions. Method We studied hallucinating and non-hallucinating patients suffering from schizophrenia spectrum disorder (n = 57), and non-schizophrenic severe mentally ill patients with depression (n = 37). Data were collected using the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) over a period of 1 week. Contingent on a randomly signalling beep, subjects filled in reports of ongoing hallucinations as well as thought, mood, current activity, social circumstances and places frequented. Results More subjects suffering from schizophrenia reported hallucinations, but for all hallucinating subjects the qualities of hallucination episodes were quite similar. More subjects reported visual hallucinations at least once. In contrast, the intensity of auditory hallucinations was higher. Anxiety was the most prominent emotion during hallucinations and reports of anxiety intensity exceeded baseline levels before the first report of auditory hallucinations. Context modified hallucination intensity over the course of an episode. Social withdrawal resulted in a decrease of hallucinatory intensity (AH > VH), while social engagement slightly raised intensity levels (VH > AH). Doing nothing (VH > AH) and work activities (AH > VH) led to decreases in intensity levels over time, while passive leisure activities (watching TV) resulted in increases in intensity levels of hallucinations (AH > VH). Conclusion The results suggest that hallucinating experiences are subject to a host of contextual influences. Understanding variation offers useful insights for therapy.

Accepted: 14 December 2001