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    Thread: Am I hallucinating?

    1. #1
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      Am I hallucinating?

      My dad had a seizure a month and a half ago, and it was a very traumatic experience for me. The day after I had a hynagogic hallucination upon waking and saw a non-colored outline of his face, which frightened me greatly. Unfortunately, after that time I've been seeing faces in my head before I go to sleep at night.

      I used to have a very active brain at night. It often took me hours to get to sleep, and my brain would constantly cycle through everything I wanted to accomplish the next day. After my dad's seizure, that stopped. However, with the new lack of activity, I would see brief flashes of faces of objects when my eyes were shut. They weren't in color, weren't in 3D, weren't even proper outlines. It's just like the lines swirling in my head that I always had would form what looked like a face for a fraction of a second and then it was gone. This frightened me greatly at first, but now it's just an annoyance. The thing is, while at first I thought it was a hallucination, now I'm not so sure.

      This is because I have actual simple hallucinations upon waking in the morning, caused by medication. I'll see the form of the something, like a person or shape (Once the shape was in color) and the second I blink it's gone. Or I'll see something that I see with my eyes closed. Only it's not like before I go to sleep, it's a definite and staying shape, like an 8-bit video game figure, or a made up language. This seems to be going away as a result of weaning off the medication. The faces, if you could even call them that, at bed time, aren't. On top of that, compared to what I see with closed eyes in the morning, also makes it seem like it isn't hallucinations, and merely a normal thing that I wasn't used to having had an extremely active brain for several years. Another thing is hallucinations are supposed to happen more often when you're tired. The more tired I am at night, the less I see the "faces." It seems to me they're only happening because my brain isn't active and is trying to "Find something to do."

      I know what I see in the morning are simple hallucinations. But I don't think what I do at night is. What are your thoughts on the matter? Hallucinations or normal? Is seeing faces instead of other shapes simply because I'm subconsciously or consciously thinking about them? Is this a method or thinking or something I can do to either see nothing at all,, (When I'm really tired) or random things instead of faces all the time? I already know my sleeping habits are weird. I enter REM sleep instantly and can wake up and go back to sleep five times and have five dreams in fifteen minutes. Thanks for the help!

    2. #2
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      There are 2 things I can say in relation to this (3 actually, see below), though I can't give you all the answers.

      1 - After seeing my dad laid out in the funeral home I returned to the hotel room (had to travel to Colorado where he had been living) and as I was falling asleep I had a sudden flash image of his body laying in the bed beside me. It wasn't frightening at all, in fact there was a sense of peacefulness. I suspect it was my subconscious' way of resolving things and reassuring me that everything was alright - I was worried that I was going to have nightmares but after that I didn't. I think I could very easily have let myself get frightened by it, probably the only reason I didn't was because I had spent a lot of time studying brain science and dreaming states and had developed a very open-minded, observational approach to weird phenomena relating to images seen when half asleep. People who haven't looked into this kind of stuff tend to respond with fear, so it's understandable why it affected you the way it did. In fact when people do respond to something like that with fear it tends to set up a cycle of self-fulfilling nightmares or similar hallucinations, mainly because you expect them and the brain tends to give us what we expect.

      2 - The brain has some extremely sophisticated 'facial recognition programs', which accounts for why we can tell people apart instantly even at a great distance when we can't tell most animals of the same type apart even while looking right at them side by side. There are powerful evolutionary reasons for having this type of circuitry - we need to rapidly be able to tell friend from foe and to read expressions.This circuitry develops very early, in fact apparently the dreams of children at a certain early age consist mostly of a parade of faces. One side effect of having this circuitry, coupled with our tendency to seek order in random patterns (which explains why we so often see faces in clouds etc) means we will often also see faces in the random static that plays 'behind our eyes' when laying in bed. I don't know the reasons for it, but in some people at certain times this facial recognition software seems to get overstimulated, making them see faces sort of transparently all over the place.

      Oh, one more thing I can say - the colorless transparency you mention is a feature of dreamlets - the half-formed images that we begin to see as we're falling asleep, which will resolve themselves into more colorful and fully resolved dream images and begin to move when REM sleep sets in. These images resemble reflections on a pane of glass at night, with no color and very transparent - I believe you described the faces very similarly. Most people generally never notice this stuff because they never pay attention to the states between waking and sleeping. My suspicion is that when you saw the first face it alarmed you and after that you started to become hyper-vigilant to such phenomena, so you began to notice the dreamlet imagery, and because it was a face, that probably made you hyper-vigilant in particular to faces, activating that circuitry. Oh, I forgot to mention, this dreamlet imagery forms itself in the beginning from the random static behind your eyes. If you remain aware as you're getting relaxed and approaching sleep you can watch it happen by stages.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 08-08-2014 at 11:56 AM.
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    3. #3
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      Thank you VERY much. That's very helpful and alleviates my worries.

      To note, the first hallucination of my dad's face was a hypnagogic hallucination. I've had maybe 10 in 3 years. Before it was just moving dots and lines on the wall, this time it was a static image I believe due to having a dream of him having a seizure immediately prior to waking. The actual feeling that accompanies these phenomena is always one of peace, and in the past it wasn't much of a grievance at all. (I didn't even realize it wasn't a dream until I saw the face) Unfortunately it's difficult now for me the take naps (8/10 of the hallucinations have been naps, the way they happen is if I oversleep, which I rarely do) as I don't really wish it to happen again, so my naps usually only last five minutes.

      As for the faces, as more times passes they'll go away I assume as I become less focused on the seizure. It's still fresh on my mind as I have another month and a half of driving my parents everywhere as my dad and mom can't drive. They're not longer scary (More like amusing, just not-so-much when I want to get to sleep.

      As for the dreamlets, I didn't know about those! I've done so much research about this kind of stuff in an attempt to relieve my worries, but I missed something important. Those have now been gone for two days after lowering the medication, along with seeing vivid things under my eyelids upon waking. (Well not in color, just the 8-bit video game character and made up language, it's just that they're clear instead of the faces and dreamlets, presumably because they're actual hallucinations unlike the other two)

      Anyway, once again thanks for the help. I feel a lot more at ease now.
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    4. #4
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      My thoughts are- bring it up with a doc! If you see things after you're out of bed and eating breakfast, it's closed-eye hallucinations. Pretty simple. Hypnagogia can linger after waking up. I slept poorly recently (and slept a lot- like you did), and woke up convinced that I for a brief second saw a large face in front of me. Upon waking up properly, I realized I had looked at a chair.

      One thing you can do (and probably should do if you're going through a tough period) is get enough quality sleep if you aren't already. Fixed sleep periods, no longer than, say, ten hours, so that you can flex a little. But try to get up and get to bed at the same time and get no more than 9 hours of sleep, but no less than 6 or 7.

      I wouldn't worry too much, but it is still worth bringing up with a doc- none of us here have claimed to be medical professionals. Hallucinations (not sure that's what you have, but) aren't to be taken lightly, it could be indicative of extreme stress among other things.

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      Whenever I'm going to sleep I will occasionally see a split second flash of a random really scary face, and then it is gone. They startle and scare me, but they don't show up in my nightmares and as far as I know no face has appeared many times, but it still bothers me. I just assume it is a subconscious thing.
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    6. #6
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      To support what Darkmatters is saying here, facial recognition really is one of the things that the brain really tries to do most often. It is more or less the same with recognizing human figures as well, but it just goes so much further with faces. It is very common for "hallucinations" to involve faces in some way, your brain just has so much processing power devoted to recognizing faces and their emotions that it's just natural to see them in everything. I place "hallucinations" in quotes because when I say it, I am referring to a very broad spectrum of perceptual disturbances that can range from something as small as seeing a few lines drawn on a piece of paper and kind of imagining they look like faces up to full blown seeing faces popping out of things that are not there, or seeing a person's face directly in front of you that isn't actually there. On the lower end the "hallucinations" are so minor that most would not consider them hallucinations, and then on the upper end its entirely hallucination. The brain is a device that constantly is filtering out things in order for them to correspond with "objective" reality and when you start to turn off some of the mechanisms for filtering things out, so to speak, like closing one's eyes, the filtering is no longer occurring and starts to seep into one's conscious perception of reality.

      Perhaps what I am meaning to say is, you are always "hallucinating" or "dreaming" up the entirety of your external reality, but percepts that do not fit with the external stimuli your brain is receiving from sensory organs are filtered out in feedback loops that govern one's conscious perceptual reality. So, when you close your eyes, your brain is no longer receiving real input for its output, and its own internal output becomes what you experience. Thus, you see things when you close your eyes.

      Now, whether you find this to be frightening or unsettling is merely up to you. Fear is an emotion handled by the amygdala, which is a much older part of the brain that causes an emotional reaction before you actually even realize what it is you are seeing. The critical thinking part of your brain is a much newer part that allows you to use reason and combine emotional responses from older parts of the brain to make a decision on whether to continue feeling fear or not. This is your frontal lobe. So, while these faces are frightening at first, it is ultimately your conscious decision to continue fearing them. If you choose not to fear them any longer, eventually the older parts of your brain will follow and will be less likely to cause the fear response when you see them, should you even see them at all. As time goes on and you control this fear response even more, you might stop seeing the faces altogether. Hope this can help you some! It's all mind over matter.
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    7. #7
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      I just woke up quite abruptly from sleeping deeply and I'm on my way out. I couldn't be closer to sleepwalking. I close my eyes and I feel like falling asleep... but I'm getting no such thing as images or faces popping up.

      A hallucination is perception without stimulus. Sure, your perception is internal, but it is NOT a hallucination. Wooing away the meaning of a pretty serious symptom isn't going to help anyone. We do "fill in between the lines", but that's because there are lines there to begin with. When you close your eyes, there are no lines to fill in.

      I think handling this in a calm way is good, but emotional responses are a way to incite action or passiveness. A person who doesn't react strongly to say, the discovery of a cut on their finger, isn't going to do much about it. See what I mean? We're primarily feeling creatures that think. You should feel a little worried. Don't let it consume you, is all. If you're still here and haven't already talked to the doctor, do so right the F now, then you can stop feeling worried, given that you resolve to actually go.

      Avian- you may be talking about exploding head syndrome, or something similar. I've fallen asleep (and started dreaming) from an awake state many times, and I almost invariably experience a loud, freight-train noise that becomes deafeningly loud, and a very bright light. They grow to a great intensity then fade. It's often a little scary, and requires some effort to "get past" without aborting. Additionally, a face was at first the only visual feature (in an otherwise black background) in a lucid dream I had and recalled very accurately.

    8. #8
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      A hallucination is a false perception of reality, but it is still a perception. The only reason you know it is false is because there are other people to tell you it is false. The same way you see real people, feel real pencils, taste real pizza, hear real music, or smell real cookies is the same way you see hallucinated people, feel hallucinated pencils, taste hallucinated pizza, hear hallucinated music, and smell hallucinated cookies. I don't mean to say that reality is a hallucination per se, but rather that hallucinations are just as subjectively real as objectively real things are because the brain creates these models the same way. Can you really deny that the only way to make a distinction between real reality and hallucinated reality is an outside observer? Even the outside observer might be a mere "hallucination". You are arguing semantics--you are arguing against my word choice and not my meaning.

      If the OP starts to suffer other schizotypal symptoms or something else that suggests that there is actually a reason to worry, then the OP can make an educated decision based off of that knowledge. However, something like this isn't very invasive in daily life and isn't hindering him from functioning. There is no sense in getting worried over something little, that's just looking for a reason to worry because you feel like worrying. If it's something different enough from the norm, then simply keep it in the back of your mind, and worry about it later if things start to progress for the worse.

    9. #9
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      Hallucinations are not caused by external stimuli. Period. Hallucinations without a clear cause are not something to be shrugged off. If you're extremely stressed or sleep deprived, that's one explanation. But in an otherwise healthy person it is not something you treat like a sneeze.
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    10. #10
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      I didn't say hallucinations are caused by external stimuli, I said they are influenced by them. So we are agreeing, must you continue to argue with that?

      Besides, sneezing can be a symptom of a deadly disease, yet because it is so common as a side effect we still would treat it like it's not a big deal. My point is that you should look at the facts concerning the situation you are in. You decide to shrug things off if it makes sense. If it doesn't make sense, don't do it. This really isn't that hard to do.
      Last edited by snoop; 09-22-2014 at 12:48 AM.

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      To bring up another point, I hallucinate on a daily basis, but it is a result of extensive hallucinogenic drug use and I have symptomology corresponding with Hallucinogenic Persisting Perception Disorder. So, despite the fact that I am literally always experiencing hallucinations, given my situation, it makes sense to shrug these hallucinations off, because they aren't harmful to me. I can still function just fine. Make sense?

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      I was at sports practice and one of our players (who has had a history of LSD) did a handstand and apparently the blood rushing to his head gave him hallucinations because he got up and shouted "What the fuck!" and looked really bewildered. It was pretty funny.
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