Hallucinations and Social Security—Causes, Effects, and Disability

Hallucinations and Social Security—Causes, Effects, and Disability

Hallucinations and social security
Hallucinations and social security don’t often go together. However, there are some unique situations where hallucinations and social security benefits can coexist.

Hallucinations can be frightening to deal with. Some hallucinations are neutral or positive, while others can be malicious and malevolent. No matter the type, all hallucinations should be addressed in an appropriate manner. But many people don’t report that they’re experiencing hallucinations for fear of being seen as crazy. 

There’s no shame in admitting that you’re experiencing hallucinations, and our legal team from Social Security Disability Advocates USA is here with helpful details. Read on for some critical information about hallucinations and social security disability benefits.

What Are Hallucinations?

Hallucinations are sensations that occur involuntarily and without any external stimulus. Any of the five senses can be affected. For instance, although auditory and visual hallucinations are the most common types, a person may also smell, taste, or feel things that don’t actually exist. Hallucinations are involved in many medical and psychiatric conditions, but depending on the cause and the circumstances, not all hallucinations mean that a person has gone crazy. In fact, there are plenty of things that can cause hallucinations in perfectly sane people. 

What Are the Causes?

The causes of hallucinations are innumerable, but there are some general categories we can take a look at to better understand how hallucinations work. Anything from mind-altering substances to blindness to mental illness could contribute to hallucinations. Here are the basics:

Mental Health Conditions

Certain mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Lewy body disease, Alzheimer’s, and others can all potentially cause hallucinations. In schizophrenia, for instance, auditory hallucinations are most common, and they usually include voices that are negative and hateful. 

Some other conditions, though, can produce hallucinations that are neutral or even pleasant. For example, the visual hallucinations in Lewy body disease are generally intricate and vivid but not necessarily frightening.

Sleep-related Issues

Not getting enough sleep, believe it or not, could contribute to hallucinations. Randy Gardner stayed awake for 11 days and 25 minutes as part of a high school project to beat the world record for most time without sleep. By the fifth day without sleep, he had been experiencing hallucinations. Luckily, though, there was no permanent damage.

Hypnagogic (onset of sleep) and hypnopompic (upon awakening) hallucinations normally occur in people with disorders such as narcolepsy; however, such hallucinations can occur in individuals without pre-existing conditions. Also, such hallucinations may happen in people who get frequent sleep paralysis. 


Some prescription medications could potentially cause hallucinations or even make them worse. Some blood pressure medications, for instance, may constrict or dilate the cerebral artery, resulting in patients seeing shimmers, halos, or scintillating lights around objects. Anti-seizure medications, some antibiotics, medication meant to treat Parkinson’s disease, and some others all can produce hallucinations.

This is why it’s very important to inform your healthcare professional about all medications you’re taking, as multiple medications can interact in strange ways and cause unintended side effects.

Hallucinogenic Substances

Certain illicit drugs such as magic mushrooms (psilocybin), phencyclidine (PCP), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline (peyote), N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), 5MeO-DMT, and others can contribute to hallucinations when taken at a high enough of a dose. Such substances act as agonists, meaning that they activate receptors in the brain to cause chemical reactions. For example, psilocybin affects the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain associated with mood, perception, and critical thinking) and is a serotonin agonist.

Luckily, hallucinations induced by such drug use are usually temporary. However, chronic abusers of hallucinogens have been known to develop Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD), wherein a person has flashbacks (continuous or sporadic) of hallucinations that occurred while under the influence of mind-altering substances. Sometimes, the flashbacks can even be accompanied by the emotions felt at the time of the experience.

Other Conditions

There are some other conditions that could cause hallucinations that don’t necessarily result from mental illness:

  • Migraines—severe migraines can be accompanied by visual hallucinations such as flashing zig-zag lines. Additionally, one’s perception of size may be distorted, and a person may see things as being larger or smaller than they actually are.
  • Seizures—depending on the area of the brain in which the seizure occurs, seizures may be accompanied by olfactory, gustatory, visual, and possibly other types of hallucinations. When the hallucinations are olfactory, they usually involve an unpleasant smell.
  • Stroke—Visual and auditory hallucinations can occur in a person having a stroke. Additionally, if the brain is damaged enough after the stroke, the hallucinations can last anywhere from a few days to a few years. Though, they generally get better over time. 
  • Brain tumors—Depending on the location of the brain tumor, a person can experience all kinds of hallucinations. Visually, a person may see people that aren’t real, or geometric patterns, flashing lights, etc. Other types of hallucinations are possible, as well.
  • Charles Bonnet Syndrome—This is a condition prevalent in elderly people who have impaired vision/blindness. Though, anyone of any age can have Charles Bonnet Syndrome if their vision is impaired enough. This syndrome involves visual hallucinations that involve people/geometric patterns. It’s thought that this occurs because when one’s vision deteriorates, the brain doesn’t get enough input, and it therefore spontaneously generates visual hallucinations.
  • Delirium—This condition can come about by certain mental conditions, but it can also come about by alcohol withdrawal (i.e. delirium tremens) or drug withdrawal. Symptoms can be fatal, and hallucinations are a comparatively minor thing to worry about. Some forms of delirium involve shaking, confusion, high fever, raised blood pressure, and other serious symptoms.

Hallucinations and Social Security: Why the Conflict?

Generally speaking, if the hallucinations accompany a neurological or mental disorder that renders a person unable to work, they may qualify for social security disability benefits. However, there is nothing in the SSA Blue Book that says hallucinations alone can qualify for disability. This is because some hallucinations are short term and do not render a person disabled, according to the Social Security Administration’s definition.

There are some surefire criteria that one must meet to qualify for disability benefits:

  • Your condition prevents you from engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), and
  • Your condition has lasted or is expected to last for no less than one year

Additionally, for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you’ll have to make sure that you have a certain number of work credits (the amount changes based on age). For Supplemental Security Income (SSI), though, while you don’t need any work credits, you’ll have to meet some other criteria.

Regardless of which form of disability benefits you’re applying for, you must present medical evidence that affirms the fact that you cannot work because of your condition. Some documents you should consider gathering include:

  • Treatment records
  • Laboratory test results
  • Prescription receipts
  • Medical notes
  • Surgery/procedure paperwork
  • Expense reports
  • Insurance information and bills

Your case will be inspected by your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) center, at which point a decision will be made whether or not you qualify. If you do, you will receive disability benefits. If not, don’t lose hope; many people don’t qualify on their initial application. 

You can take steps to file an appeal, and Social Security Disability Advocates USA can help you throughout the entire process.

Have More Questions About Hallucinations and Social Security?

If you have further questions about hallucinations and social security disability benefits, feel free to contact Social Security Disability Advocates USA today! Our professionals will help guide you through the process of obtaining social security benefits, one step at a time.

You can get in touch with us anytime by calling (602) 952-3200. Additionally, you can reach us online via our online contact form or by taking advantage of our convenient LiveChat feature. Consultations are absolutely free. Don’t keep your questions bottled up; contact an advocate right away!

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.

Leave a Reply