Hallucinations with Chronic Migraine: Source for Creativity?

April 9, 2013

Embracing the effects of migraine aura “for the sake of art?”  Not all episodic or chronic migraine sufferers have migraine aura, but for those who do they can be scary or at least rather unsettling.  Not necessarily so, according to the author of the recent book Hallucinations. He is well known for his earlier 1999 book entitled Migraine that discussed the role migraines and aura played in the works of many famous artists including Alice in Wonderland.

Auras can occur prior to the onset of a migraine or accompany the migraine itself.  According to the Mayo Clinic they often come in the form of visual distortions like images of geometric shapes, zigzag lines or bright flashes.  The visual disturbance may actually be a temporary and partial loss of vision.  Auras can also be sensory or motor-based including traveling tingling sensations.   Treatment for migraines with aura is similar to that for migraines without aura.

This past November, the book’s author wrote an article in the New York Times discussing the book and explaining the misconception in modern society that hallucinations are exclusively a phenomenon occurring in people who have serious mental or neurological problems.  In fact he says that hallucinations are more common than we realize, usually harmless and sometimes even normal!  He points out that many of us have had hallucinations and not realized what they were, such as images we see before dozing off to sleep at night or accompanying a high fever or migraines.  He also reveals that millions of people are afraid to reveal they experience hallucinations and that in some cultures they are appreciated as special or spiritual phenomena.

If you believe you may experience hallucination type aura with a chronic migraine condition, you should honestly discuss this as well as your other symptoms with your physician, to help determine the best migraine treatment for your unique medical situation.

In discussing Hallucinations in the New York Times, the author explains they entail essentially seeing or experiencing things that aren’t really there.  The images are processed in the same neural pathways involved with perception of real things.  Hallucinations can involve visual, auditory or other sensory experiences and may be linked with delirious states from excess medication, anxiety and sickness.

The good news is that if you have a chronic migraine condition the medication that is prescribed to prevent attacks or treat symptoms is the same treatment that you can take if your migraines are accompanied by hallucination type aura.  Who knows, they may even inspire you to create some artistic project of your own.

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