What Does Tactile Hallucinations Mean: Causes and Ways To Stop It

Hallucination is state of mind in which the person perceives things which in actuality does not exist. In short it is a false sensory perception without any real external stimuli. Most of the hallucinations are visual or auditory, but in small number of cases people may also have hallucination related with smell, taste and feeling. Tactile hallucination is imaginary feeling of something touching patient’s body. The false percenption of something tocuhging the skin or moving inside the body is not related to a specific disease or condition but it is a symptom that may occur due to various underlying causes.

It can be a symptom of mental disorder or can be due to side effect of certain medicines that affect the neurotransmitters present in brain. Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective treatment for people suffering from tactile hallucination.

Causes of Tactile Hallucinations:

Hallucinations are of various types and one of them is tactile hallucination. It occurs because of some changes in brain function. Researchers believe it is because of malfunctioning of electrical activity inside certain area of brain. This abnormal activity may stem due to several reasons such as:

  • Psychiatric conditions: Various mental disorders can cause hallucination of various types including tactile hallucination.
    Patient suffering from depression, schizophrenia, postpartum psychosis, mania etc.
  • Neurological diseases: Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia can cause tactile hallucination.
  • Phantom limb syndrome: A person who has lost a limb but he still feels that the limb is still present or feels pain or something crawling in the limb.
  • Use of illicit drugs: Often people who consume illicit drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, LSD etc feel insect crawling on or under their skin which in fact is not present.
  • Abuse or withdrawal symptoms of alcohol: Alcoholics are known to suffer from hallucination. The often hear abnormal voices, feel something touching them even though in reality it is not so. Person may feel burning or itching sensation on skin.
  • Medications: Certain medicines used for Parkinson’s disease, anti-depressants, anti-epileptics or anti hypertensive medicines are known to produce tactile hallucination as its side effect.

Symptoms of Tactile Hallucinations:

Tactile hallucination is false sensation of touch or movement in or on the body. For example you may feel tickled even though there is no one around you. Patient suffering from tactile hallucination may experience following symptoms:

  • Sensation as if an insect or a worm is crawling on or under the skin. This feeling in medical term is referred as formication.
  • Feeling as if the skin on face and head is stretched.
  • Feels as if someone is kissing on lips or having sexual intercourse even though no one around him.
  • Feels as if the stomach or other organs of the body are moving internally.
  • False itching and burning sensation of skin.
  • Patient suffering from Parkinson’s disease feels as if he is floating in air or walking on cotton.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

To diagnose hallucination, the physician takes into consideration following aspects such as; medical history of the patient, past history of any illnesses, patient taking any medications, sleep pattern, whether patient is alcoholic or drug addict, history of head injury, etc. He may also recommend certain tests that include EEG and brain MRI.

Treatment consists of addressing the underlying cause that may be responsible for tactile hallucination. For example if the cause is mania or schizophrenia or chronic depression, patient may need antipsychotic medicines. In case of Parkinson’s disease patient is treated with anti-Parkinson’s medicine.

Along with appropriate medicines, patient also needs cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy helps the person to how to act when he has distorted thinking. Behavioral therapy also makes him understand to be positive and divulge from negating feeling. People around him and family members support is also important. They must be caring and calm and help him to understand the reality about his false perceptions.

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