Ever experienced hallucinations? The answer may be in some of the childhood events

Hallucinations are linked to various medical and psychiatric disorders[1].  Examples of the psychiatric conditions include major depression, Schizophrenia and other psychosis, Bipolar disorder, Disassociated identify disorder and alcohol or drug intoxication or withdrawal.  Example of the medical conditions include thyrotoxicosis, meningitis, encephalitis and other central nervous system injuries. Since hallucinations occur in a number of different clinical groups, they can be considered nonspecific for psychotic disorders[2].  Hence, it is being acknowledged that while hallucinations are linked to various disorders, they can also be part of everyday experience for people who do not meet the criteria for mental illness. One such possibility is described as spiritual emergency marked by rapid spiritual awakening that becomes uncontrollable with extreme altered states and a chronic overload of the senses (see PLRA website [8]).

Adverse Childhood Experiences & mental health

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) such as abuse (emotional, physical, sexual) witnessing domestic violence, separation of parents or neglect, etc have been linked to increased risk for several mental health challenges including psychosis[3]. There is growing body of evidence showing graded relationship between the number of ACEs and increased health challenges later in life i.e. those who experienced more ACEs before age 18 show increased odds for facing emotional and physical health challenges later in life.

Is there a link between ACEs and hallucinations?

The simple answer is YES. Details are captured below:

  • A study of 17,337 patients showed significant and graded relationship between the childhood traumas and hallucinations.The study indicated that with an increase in the ACE score, the Adverse Childhood Experiences & Hallucinationsodds are likely for that individual for pursuing alcohol or drug abuse and also the probability of experiencing hallucinations. This is also supported by several other studies where hallucinations were found to be symptoms of psychosis  (See Figure. Source [1]).
  • Another study assessed the relationships between adverse childhood events and auditory and visual hallucinations. The findings indicated that those who have been raped as children are 3.3 times more likely to have experienced visual hallucinations and 3.5 times more likely to have experienced auditory hallucinations as compared to that who have not been raped in the childhood. The study also indicated that physical assault and rap were significant predictors of hallucinations.  As the number of adverse experiences increased during the childhood, the odds of experiencing hallucinations also increased[4].
  • Hallucinations are being now linked with adverse childhood experiences and the association appears strongest between physical and sexual abuse and auditory verbal hallucinations[5]. Unfortunately, this is observed in individuals with psychotic disorders and non-psychotic individuals as well.

Implications for wellbeing and quality of life:

It is critical for anyone with history of hallucinations to seek help especially to understand the impact of the adverse childhood experiences.  From therapist perspective, for any history of hallucinations, the childhood experiences, especially related to persistent abuse must be reviewed and addressed.

At Society for Energy & Emotions, we often work with individuals who face hallucinations.  The ideas and contents, based on ACE and covered in Module 3 (Healing the Child Within) provide help in such cases.  Each client we meet is assessed for ACE and accordingly, we work to address the emotional charge associated with each adverse event.  This is part of the intervention methodology “Release Reframe” methodology we use.

Contact [email protected] for further details or queries.


Additional Background:

What is Psychosis?

The word psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality. When someone becomes ill in this way it is called a psychotic episode. During a period of psychosis, a person’s thoughts and perceptions are disturbed and the individual may have difficulty understanding what is real and what is not.  Symptoms of psychosis include delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear). Other symptoms include incoherent or nonsense speech, and behavior that is inappropriate for the situation. A person in a psychotic episode may also experience depression, anxiety, sleep problems, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and difficulty functioning overall[6].

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which causes significant distress for the individual, their family members, and friends. If left untreated, the symptoms of schizophrenia can be persistent and disabling. However, effective treatments are available. When delivered in a timely, coordinated, and sustained manner, treatment can help affected individuals to engage in school or work, achieve independence, and enjoy personal relationships [7].



[1] Whitfield, C. L., Dube, S. R., Felitti, V. J., & Anda, R. F. (2005). Adverse childhood experiences and hallucinations. Child abuse & neglect29(7), 797-810.

[2] Flavie Waters, Charles Fernyhough, Hallucinations: A Systematic Review of Points of Similarity and Difference Across Diagnostic Classes, Schizophrenia Bulletin, Volume 43, Issue 1, 1 January 2017, Pages 32–43, https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbw132

[3] Read, J. and Bentall, Richard P. 2012. Negative childhood experiences and mental health: theoretical, clinical and primary prevention implications. British Journal of Psychiatry. 200 (02), pp. 89-91. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.111.096727

[4] Shevlin, Mark, Murphy, Jamie, Read, J., Mallett, John, Adamson, Gary and Houston, James Edward 2011. Childhood adversity and hallucinations: a community-based study using the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 46 (12), pp. 1203-1210. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-010-0296-x

[5] Daalman, K., Diederen, K., Derks, E., Van Lutterveld, R., Kahn, R., & Sommer, I. (2012). Childhood trauma and auditory verbal hallucinations. Psychological Medicine, 42(12), 2475-2484. doi:10.1017/S0033291712000761

[6] National Institute of Mental Health Website, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/raise/what-is-psychosis.shtml (Last Accessed Jan 1, 2021)

[7] National Institute of Mental Health Website, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml (Last Accessed Jan 1, 2001)

[8] Past Life Regression Academy website article captures this in more details.  “Recognising a Spiritual Emergency and Treatment“.