Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS) is a condition that causes vivid hallucinations people who suddenly lose all or part of their vision. It doesn’t affect people who are born with vision problems.

A 2009 study found that anywhere from 10 percent to 38 percent of people with sudden vision impairment have CBS at some point. However, that percentage may be higher because many people are hesitant to report their hallucinations because they worry they’ll be misdiagnosed with a mental illness.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of CBS are visual hallucinations, often shortly after waking up. They might happen on a daily or weekly basis and can last for a few minutes or several hours.

The content of these hallucinations also varies from person to person, but they may include:

  • geometric shapes
  • people
  • costumed people from prior eras
  • animals
  • insects
  • landscapes
  • buildings
  • fantasy-related images, such as dragons
  • repeating patterns, such as grids or lines

People have reported having hallucinations in both black and white as well as color. They may also be still or involve movement.

Some people with CBS report seeing the same people and animals over and over again in their hallucinations. This often adds to their concern about being misdiagnosed with mental illness.

When you first start having hallucinations, you may be confused about whether or not they’re real. After confirming with your doctor that they aren’t real, the hallucinations shouldn’t alter your perception of reality. Tell your doctor if you continue to be confused about the reality of your hallucinations. This may indicate an underlying issue.

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