Visual hallucinations

Up to half of all people with macular disease experience visual hallucinations, known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Many worry unnecessarily that there is something wrong with their mind. But it is important to understand that these hallucinations are a natural experience, not a sign of mental illness.  

What do people see?

Charles Bonnet hallucinations can be simple unformed flashes of light, colours or shapes. However, many people see geometrical grids and lattices. Other people also report seeing disembodied heads, Edwardian people, snakes and other terrifying creatures.

As part of our campaign to raise awareness of Charles Bonnet Syndrome, we asked people to share their experiences with us. We received hundreds of stories, some of which are illustrated below:

From left to right:

"I see Edwardian gentlemen in plus fours and tweed jackets cycling through a wall in my garden."
"At night I see revolving planets in the sky flashing different colours."
"On the bus I see people with triangular pixelated faces."

You can find more examples in our Charles Bonnet eBook, or watch our video below.

Research

The Macular Society has sponsored research by Dr Dominic ffytche at the Institute of Psychiatry in London into non-drug treatments for visual hallucinations. Dr ffytche recommends using eye movements to lessen hallucination impact and length. Eye movements activate visual parts of the brain in people with macular disease, even if they have little remaining vision. These movements may stop certain types of hallucinations, particularly the grids, checkerboards, lattices and colours.

For more information download our Visual hallucinations leaflet or see our Charles Bonnet Q&As.

Counselling service

Visual hallucinations caused by sight loss can be very distressing. But our professional telephone counsellors can help. Call our Helpline on 0300 3030 111 for information.

Find out about our counselling service