top of page


So, What's The Difference: Hallucination vs. Delusion vs. Depersonalization vs. Dissociation

These are words we may recognize, but not always know their true meaning or appropriate application. So I figured I would take a moment to highlight them so that we can all gain a better understanding…

Hallucination: Hallucinations have to do with how we inaccurately perceive the world around us through our senses. They are false or distorted sensory experiences that appear to be real perceptions. These sensory impressions are generated by the mind rather than by any external stimuli, and may be seen, heard, felt, and even smelled or tasted. Auditory and Visual Hallucinations are the most common, and may be present in mental health conditions such as Schizophrenia, or as an effect of a psychoactive medication/drug.

Delusion: Delusions have more to do with an inaccurate belief system. They can range from very bizarre to very subtle. We may all hold mild delusions at times throughout our life (see Santa, tooth fairy, or old pets “running away to the farm” for additional information). On a more serious note, these delusions may include paranoia or persecution. In medical clinics, we may also observe somatic delusions of pain or other body dysfunction. These beliefs are often firmly held despite contrary evidence. When examining the delusion, it is also important to consider cultural differences, as the belief must be contrary to the individuals cultural norms (not the assessors).

Depersonalization: Depersonalization can be referred to as a malfunction or anomaly of the mechanism in which an individual has awareness or perception of his or her own self. It is a feeling of watching oneself act, while having no control over a situation. It can be considered desirable, such as in the use of recreational drugs, but it usually refers to the severe form found in anxiety and, in the most intense cases, panic attacks. A sufferer feels that they have changed and the world has become less real, vague, dreamlike, or lacking in significance. It can sometimes be a rather disturbing experience, since many feel that, indeed, they are living in a "dream".

Dissociation: Dissociation is an unexpected partial or complete disruption of the normal integration of a person’s conscious or psychological functioning that cannot be easily explained by the person. Dissociation is a mental process that severs a connection to a person's thoughts, memories, feelings, or actions. There is often a protective element of these events, and can have roots in histories of trauma or assault. In extreme cases an individual may have lapses in their memory that spans weeks.

Hope this helps!

~ Dr. Miles

Featured Posts
bottom of page