Can Hallucinations and Social Security Go Together?
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.
There’s no shame in admitting that you’re experiencing hallucinations, and here at Renda Law in Tacoma, we’re here to help.
What Are Hallucinations?
Hallucinations are sensations that occur involuntarily and without any external stimulus. Any of the five senses can be affected. For example, although auditory and visual hallucinations are the most common types, a person may also smell, taste, or feel things that don’t 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 very sane people.
What Are the Causes?
The causes of hallucinations are innumerable, but there are some general categories we can 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.
Not getting enough sleep, believe it or not, could contribute to hallucinations. 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 lights around objects. Anti-seizure medications, some antibiotics, medication meant to treat Parkinson’s disease, and some others all can produce hallucinations.
Which 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.
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.
Hallucinations induced by such drugs 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.
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, 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.
In order to qualify for disability benefits, your condition must prevent you from engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), and last or expect 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.
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 are denied benefits for a condition that causes or is related to hallucinations, we highly recommend hiring a Social Security Disability attorney.
Have More Questions About Hallucinations and Social Security?
If you have further questions about hallucinations and social security disability benefits, contact us today for a FREE consultation! At Renda Law we help guide you through the process of obtaining social security benefits, one step at a time.