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Registered Nurse (RN)
Psychiatric Nursing
Mood Disorders
Hallucinations, Illusions, Delusions

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Hallucinations, Illusions, Delusions

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Hallucinations, Illusions, Delusions

Halloween-hallucination, Illusionary-stairs, and Doll-illusionist
Having an understanding of the differences between hallucinations, illusions, or delusion is important in managing the patient who has loss of contact with reality, such as the patient with schizophrenia. The most common form of altered perception is the hallucination. All three of these experiences by the patient are perceived as real.
No External Stimulus
No Exit for outside stimulus

Hallucinations are false sensory experiences that are tied to the five senses. There is no physiological or real stimulus to cause the sensory experiences related to hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and feeling.


This is when the patient hears voices or sounds. It is a commonly experienced hallucination with patients who have schizophrenia. Example: Hearing a voice telling you to do something (jump off a roof). Command hallucinations are very terrifying, because they direct the person to do something. This may involve a psychiatric emergency, especially if the experience is placing the patient at danger, i.e., jump out the window.


When the patient states that they are seeing persons or things, this would be a visual hallucination. Alcoholic clients who are experiencing delirium tremens often see bugs crawling on them and in their environment.


When a client smells an odor that is not present, they are experiencing an olfactory hallucination.


The gustatory hallucination is characterized by experiencing tastes that are not associated with the food that is being ingested. This can lead to patients refusing to eat.


This type of hallucination is the feeling of bodily sensations. Patients may think that bugs are crawling on them or insects are eating their brain. It can be very frightening to the client when this occurs.

Misinterpretation of Stimulus
Mice-interpreters misinterpret Stimulation

Illusions are a misperception or a misinterpretation of a real experience. Example: Being out in the desert with a hot sun and seeing an oasis of water just a few feet in front of you, when in reality all that is seen is desert.

Fixed, False Belief
Fixed in place with False Bee-leaf

Delusions are false, fixed beliefs. There are numerous types of delusions; however, delusions of persecution and grandeur are the more common. Examples: Your friend believes that the CIA is monitoring their activities and refuses to use the phone or eat any food, because the phone may be tapped or the food poisoned (delusion of persecution). Stating that you are the reincarnation of Cleopatra or that you are a famous movie star is a delusion of grandeur.


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