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A hallucination is a perception in the absence of apparent stimulus that has qualities of real perception. Hallucinations are vivid, substantial, and located in external objective space. They are distinguished from the related phenomena of dreaming, which does not involve wakefulness; illusion, which involves distorted or misinterpreted real perception; imagery, which does not mimic real perception and is under voluntary control; and pseudohallucination, which does not mimic real perception, but is not under voluntary control. Hallucinations also differ from "delusional perceptions", in which a correctly sensed and interpreted stimulus (i.e., a real perception) is given some additional (and typically bizarre) significance.

Hallucinations can occur in any sensory modality — visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, proprioceptive, equilibrioceptive, nociceptive, thermoceptive and chronoceptive.

A mild form of hallucination is known as a disturbance, and can occur in most of the senses above. These may be things like seeing movement in peripheral vision, or hearing faint noises and/or voices. Auditory hallucinations are very common in paranoid schizophrenia. They may be benevolent (telling the patient good things about themselves) or malicious, cursing the patient etc. Auditory hallucinations of the malicious type are frequently heard, for example people talking about the patient behind his/her back. Like auditory hallucinations, the source of the visual counterpart can also be behind the patient's back. Their visual counterpart is the feeling of being looked or stared at, usually with malicious intent. Frequently, auditory hallucinations and their visual counterpart are experienced by the patient together.

Hypnagogic hallucinations and hypnopompic hallucinations are considered normal phenomena. Hypnagogic hallucinations can occur as one is falling asleep and hypnopompic hallucinations occur when one is waking up.

Hallucinations can be associated with drug use (particularly deliriants), sleep deprivation, psychosis, neurological disorders, and delirium tremens.

The word 'Hallucination' itself was introduced into the English language by the seventeenth century physician Sir Thomas Browne in 1646 from the derivation of the Latin word alucinari meaning to wander in the mind.

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