Hallucinations and other psychotic experiences across diagnoses: A comparison of phenomenological features

Psychiatry Res. 2020 Oct;292:113314. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113314. Epub 2020 Jul 22.


Although psychotic experiences are prevalent across many psychiatric, neurological, and medical disorders, investigation of these symptoms has largely been restricted to diagnostic categories. This study aims to examine phenomenological similarities and differences across a range of diagnoses. We assessed frequency, severity and phenomenology of psychotic experiences in 350 outpatients including; participants with schizophrenia spectrum disorders, hearing impairment, Parkinson's disease, Lewy Body Dementia, Alzheimer's disease, visual impairment, posttraumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, and participants with recent major surgery. Psychotic phenomena were explored between these groups using the Questionnaire for Psychotic Experiences (QPE). Participants with major psychiatric disorders reported a combination of several psychotic experiences, and more severe experiences compared to all other disorders. Participants with recent major surgery or visual impairment experienced isolated visual hallucinations. Participants with hearing impairment reported isolated auditory hallucinations, whereas the neurodegenerative disorders reported visual hallucinations, occasionally in combination with hallucinations in another modality or delusions. The phenomenology between neurodegenerative disorders, and within major psychiatric disorders showed many similarities. Our findings indicate that the phenomenology of psychotic experiences is not diagnosis specific, but may rather point to the existence of various subtypes across diagnoses. These subtypes could have a different underlying etiology requiring specific treatment.

Keywords: Hallucinations; Major psychiatric disorders; Neurodegenerative disorders; Phenomenology; Questionnaire for psychotic experiences (QPE); Sensory impairment; Transdiagnostic; Voices.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Hallucinations / diagnosis*
  • Hallucinations / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Lewy Body Disease / diagnosis
  • Lewy Body Disease / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnosis
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*