Differences Between Hallucinations and Delusions

by | Sep 21, 2023 | Advices

Hallucinations and delusions profoundly influence one’s perception of reality, making it challenging to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t. While both are parts of distorted reality, they are different.

Understanding the distinction between hallucinations and delusions can help you or your loved one get proper treatment and support.

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Hallucinations vs. Delusions: What’s the Difference?

Delusions and hallucinations are symptoms of psychosis, a mental health condition that causes a loss of awareness of reality.

For instance, delusions and hallucinations, which alter how a person feels, thinks, and behaves, are a defining feature of schizophrenia. This chronic mental disorder affects how a person sees the world.

Hallucinations and delusions can also occur in various medical conditions characterized by alterations in perception and cognition, such as brain tumors, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, HIV and other infections, some types of epilepsy, and drug withdrawals.

Since hallucinations and delusions often co-occur and overlap, they can be difficult to distinguish. For example, a person may have the delusional belief that they are responsible for a natural disaster and may have hallucinations where they hear accusing voices.

However, hallucinations are false sensory experiences that people perceive as accurate when they are not. On the other hand, delusions are false beliefs that persist despite proof to the contrary.


Hallucinations are false perceptions that lead a person to sense things that are not truly present. They can occur as a result of:

  • certain medical and mental health conditions
  • substance use
  • medications

Hallucinations can affect any of the senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. For example, a person may see things that others cannot see (visual hallucinations), hear voices, noises, or sounds that do not exist (auditory hallucinations), feel sensations on the skin (tactile hallucinations), etc.

They frequently result from disruptions in the brain’s neuronal networks responsible for processing sensory data, which cause false perception. Hallucinations can be highly unsettling, making distinguishing between reality and imagination difficult.


Delusions are distorted beliefs that involve inaccurate thoughts and interpretations of reality. Delusions can take various forms, such as:

  • Paranoid delusions: a person believes they are being conspired against, mistreated, or hunted.
  • Grandiose delusions: an exaggerated sense of self-importance, skills, intelligence, appearance, etc.
  • Paranoid delusions: a person suspects their partner is unfaithful to them.
  • Somatic delusions: a person believes they have a physical illness or disability.

It is also possible to experience more than one type of delusion simultaneously. Some delusions don’t have to be harmful. Still, others can significantly impair a person’s ability to work relationships and general well-being. They can cause individuals to behave in absurd and unrealistic ways.

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Hallucinations vs. Delusions: Key Differences

Fundamental distinctions between hallucinations and delusions might help you differentiate and understand the symptoms:

The nature of the experience: hallucinations involve incorrect sensory perceptions, whereas delusions represent false beliefs and interpretations of reality.

Perceived reality: hallucinations cause people to perceive things that don’t exist, while delusions drive them to believe things that aren’t real.

Manifestations: delusions are internal cognitive creations, whereas hallucinations might be external or internal.


It can be challenging to distinguish between hallucinations and delusions since both indicate a departure from reality typical of psychosis and frequently co-occur. However, while hallucinations are about sensory experience, delusions represent false beliefs.

To support the work of the people working on TherapyHunter.com, we may receive compensation if you sign up for online counseling through the links provided.

Looking for a therapist? Get matched with a therapist today.


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