A query for bipolar peeps – things that aren’t hallucinations

This is just a general query, out of curiousity more than anything else.

I’ve never had a visual hallucination in my life, but a handful of times, I’ve had things which I can only really describe as almost-, not-quite-visual hallucinations – these have been during hypomanic episodes.

I haven’t ever mentioned them to anyone ’til this week, as it just hasn’t come up, or hasn’t seemed relevant, but I’m kind of curious if anyone else has had the same experience.

I find it very hard to describe them – but it’s as if a thing or person is kind of lit from within, and yet not lit from within at the same time. I don’t think there’s any visible change (beyond the usual hypomanic thing of colours seeming brighter & crisper & sharper); the best way I can describe it as that you have a feeling that’s like the feeling of seeing something, without actually seeing something. It seems like a thing is lit up, even though it isn’t.

The last time this happened was late last year, I think around last November, and I wish, now, that I’d written down something about it at the time (again, just out of curiousity), because it’s easier to try describing things when the memory is still fresh.

I’m kind of curious as to what’s happening at a neurological level here, though I have no training in neuroscience or anything. From the small amount of psychology reading I’ve done – I wonder if it’s some sort of brain error in giving things salience (the degree to which an object mentally “stands out” relative to surrounding things)? Subjectively, it also sort of feels like a kind of spilling-over between what’s emotional, and what’s visual – somehow, something that isn’t visual is giving you a kind of “feeling” of there being something visual.

Anyway, comments welcome.

UPDATE: @rabbitsoup_zola on Twitter says these sorts of things are called “pseudohallucinations” – Wikipedia article here.

FURTHER UPDATE: It feels kind of embarrassing to say this, which is why I only mentioned the weird pseudo-, not-quite-visual-effect – but the last time this happened, it was someone who’d walked into a coffee shop I was in, and in addition to the shinining-but-not-shining thing, they sort of “felt” … erm, magical, I guess; celestial might be a better word … even though, again, I didn’t actually believe they were magical or angelic, it just felt like a weird feeling; I didn’t think it was true, I thought it was just my brain being odd.

@BipolarBlogger (blogging at purplepersuasion.wordpress.com) and @PsychiatrySHO (blogging at psychiatrysho.wordpress.com) also think this might be a case of aberrant salience, which has been proposed as a mechanism behind some symptoms of schizophrenia.

FURTHER FURTHER UPDATE: The effect is kind of pretty, though, insofar as something you don’t actually seem to have a visual impression of can nevertheless be pretty, visually. Maybe this sort of thing is why I like non-classical logics…

And then a week or so later I happened to see the same person again, and there was (naturally) nothing particularly remarkable about them.

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5 thoughts on “A query for bipolar peeps – things that aren’t hallucinations

  1. rapidcycler

    The Wiki article is really fascinating. but it is not something I have any experience of. Unless you count tripping on LSD, but knowing that you are tripping on LSD.

    1. gravbeast Post author

      Yeah, having read the Wikipedia article and a few others though, a pseudohallucination seems to be where you do actually get a subjective visual impression of something, but know it doesn’t represent reality. So yes, I guess taking a drug and knowing that any visual effects were due to the drug would count.

      I don’t know if what I mean is quite the same, because I don’t think I’m getting even a visual impression of something – it’s somehow more a feeling that something is bright or lit up or glowing.

      If I used colors, rather than brightness – by way of analogy – it’s if you were looking at a red object, and you know it’s red, and can see it’s red, but somehow have the “feeling” that it’s blue. That’s kind of what I find so weird, that I’m not seeing something, but have a strong “feeling” that I am.

      1. gravbeast Post author

        Or maybe I am getting some sort of visual impression as well. Ah well. If it happens again I’ll try and pay better attention. This last time it happened, it was someone who’d just walked into the coffee shop I was in, and it was a bit weird to feel like a person was sort of shining at you.

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