New form of hallucination identified as psychological disease and public health concern

8 July 2019

A new form of hallucination has been identified as a psychological disease and an emerging public health concern as part of an international research project led by the University of Derby.

Conventional hallucinations typically involve seeing or sensing things which do not really exist.

Now, researchers have come up with the theory of ‘inverted hallucinations’, which means not seeing or sensing things which do exist.  

If a person suffers from inverted hallucinations, it implies that their real-time awareness of psychological and sensory experiences is significantly impaired, and therefore they experience a distorted perception of reality and miss out on their life.

Dr William Van Gordon, from the University of Derby, along with academics from the University of Exeter, CHU Montpellier, in France, and the Awake to Wisdom Centre for Meditation and Mindfulness Research Centre, in Italy, have come up with the new theory, which estimates that most people experience at least a mild form of the condition at some point in their life.  

Specific examples of behaviours likely to indicate the presence of inverted hallucinations would be:

Dr William Van Gordon, Associate Professor of Contemplative Psychology at the University of Derby, and international expert in the research and practice of meditation and other contemplative approaches, said: “Inverted hallucinations appear to reflect a key overlooked public health concern that not only stunt human potential and quality of life, but also pose a risk to the wellbeing of the population more generally.

“Another key feature of inverted hallucinations is that they appear to be communicable. This has far-reaching implications because, while scientific understanding of how certain biological diseases spread from one person to another is reasonably advanced, until now the possibility that there exist transmissible psychological disorders has largely been ignored.”

In terms of health consequences, the new research states that inverted hallucinations can foster unhappiness, depressive thinking, problematic behaviours such as social media addiction, and increased susceptibility to other mental health problems.

Inverted hallucinations are also understood to play an active role in the spread of some other key public health concerns, such as certain forms of mental illness, obesity and social media addiction.

Dr Van Gordon added: “In addition to the need to understand more about inverted hallucinations along with what measures can be implemented to build up resilience, future research should focus on evaluating the adequacy of existing scientific assumptions in terms of precisely what constitutes a communicable disease.”

Dr Van Gordon will be presenting his research at ‘Inverted Hallucinations: A Public Health Barrier to Healthy and Smart Communities’ – an event being held at the University of Derby on Thursday, July 11, 2019.

The research has been published in the Journal of Concurrent Disorders.

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