Hallucinations, delusions, and illusions are the three symptoms of psychosis. New research, however, finds that psychosis is not simply a black or white diagnosis, but rather involves more of a gray area. A 2013 meta-analysis, performed by Jim van Os of Maastricht University in the Netherlands and Richard Linscott of the University of Otago in New Zealand, brought forward interesting statistics about the unseen commonality of psychotic episodes among the general population. Reports of hallucinations or delusions occurred in 7.2% of the participants in these previous studies. This is a staggering number compared to the 0.4% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia.
More recent data published in the July 2015 issue of JAMA Psychiatry concluded that psychosis affects more individuals than previously known. Out of 31,261 adults surveyed, 5.8% admitted to having a psychotic episode such as a hallucination or delusion of reality. This was found even after factors such as drugs and lack of sleep were taken out of the equation. These individuals were not taking medications or being treated for psychosis at the time. Many of those surveyed even reported to having more than one hallucination or episode.
Out of 31,261 adults surveyed, 5.8% admitted to having a psychotic episode such as a hallucination or delusion of reality.
Multiple factors seem to contribute to this scale of neurosis: the environment, a person’s socioeconomic class, and, surprisingly, gender. Women in the 2015 study reported a more experiences of hallucinations, yet men are more commonly diagnosed with schizophrenia. This could be because schizophrenia involves not only hallucinations and delusions, but also a number of other symptoms including flat affect, poor executive function, and reduced speaking.
Women in the 2015 study reported a more experiences of hallucinations, yet men are more commonly diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The conclusions of both the 2013 and 2015 studies may serve as a step in the direction of liberating the stigma of psychosis. It is now understood that people can experience some symptoms of schizophrenia and be completely functional in society. Hallucinations do not make a person “crazy.” Psychosis spans the gamut from one hallucination in a lifetime to recurring and convincing daily visions. There should be no shame in admitting to seeing or hearing things that are not real. Who knows, the person next to you could be experiencing the very same thing.
Makin, S. (2015). Does Schizophrenia Exist on an Autism-Like Spectrum? Scientific American, 26 (6). Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-schizophrenia-exist-on-an-autism-like-spectrum/