'Hallucinations more common than you think'
Hallucinations are more common than previously realised, affecting not just people with schizophrenia but also the broader population.
Hallucinations are where someone sees, hears, smells, tastes or feels things that don't exist outside their mind.
A new study, led by Dr Ian Kelleher of the Royal College of Surgeons, said hallucinations also affect people with other mental illness and even those who have no illness.
Overall, 4.4pc of adults in the general population experienced hallucinations and they are quite common among mental disorders, he said.
"For example, 14pc of people with depression had hallucinations, 17pc of people with obsessive compulsive disorder had hallucinations and nearly a quarter of people with agoraphobia (high levels of fear and anxiety about being in public places or open spaces) had hallucinations.
"People who experience these symptoms will often research them online and, based on what they read, worry that they may be developing schizophrenia," Dr Kelleher said.
"It's important for people to realise that hallucinations are common in a whole range of illnesses, not just schizophrenia, and at times even happen in people with no illness at all. So it's important not to jump to conclusions based on online self-diagnosis."
He advised: "If you have these symptoms, don't panic; they are more common than you think and they don't necessarily mean that something terrible is happening.
"But they are something you should discuss with your doctor who can put them in perspective."