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Do Astronauts Hallucinate?

17 Feb

It has long been known that isolation can lead to all sorts of psychological problems, including delusions and hallucinations. Prisoners in isolation, who have limited interaction with others, can suffer just such effects.

In medicine, we see it frequently. Someone has surgery, and then for whatever reason (complex surgical problems, complications, co-morbidities, etc.) must linger in the ICU for a few days. This is a form of isolation as they are limited in their activity and in who they see and talk with on a regular basis. Sort of like prison isolation. Not to mention they might be receiving medications for pain, sleep, or agitation, each of which can alter mental function. After as little as a couple of days, the person can become confused and disoriented and suffer delusions, such as everyone is trying to kill them, or they are being held prisoner and undergoing some alien experimentation, as well as hallucinations where they see, feel, and hear things that don’t exist. Seen it hundreds of times. It’s that common.

icu

It even has a name: ICU Psychosis.

Astronauts are in a similar situation. They spend months in an enclosed, monotonous environment, interacting with the same people, day after day. It’s like prison, or an ICU. Do they also develop delusions and hallucinations? It seems that the do. In fact, I would be surprised if they didn’t.

astronaut-moon

So, during a trip to Mars, where isolation is very real, could such psychiatric problems jeopardize the mission? You bet. NASA takes this seriously and has begun studies into such long-term deprivations.

HI-SEAS

MedNet: ICU Psychosis: http://www.medicinenet.com/icu_psychosis/article.htm

NIH: Intensive Care Unit Psychosis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2154033/

Astronauts and Hallucinations: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/oct/05/hallucinations-isolation-astronauts-mental-health-space-missions

NASA Trains Astronauts to Bins, Tranquilize Unstable Crewmates: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/02/25/nasa-trains-astronauts-to-bind-tranquilize-unstable-crewmates/

NASA Has Guidelines for Dealing With Psychosis in Space: http://www.utsandiego.com/uniontrib/20070224/news_lz1n24read.html

Mars One Astronaut Training Program: http://www.mars-one.com/faq/selection-and-preparation-of-the-astronauts/how-are-the-astronauts-prepared

NASA’s HI-SEAS Training Program: http://www.sci-news.com/space/science-nasas-hi-seas-team-hawaii-mars-mission-02220.html

 

6 responses to “Do Astronauts Hallucinate?

  1. Sandy

    February 18, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Fascinating. Something I would have never considered, but makes total sense.

    Like

     
  2. suecoletta

    February 18, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Fascinating. I’ll keep this in mind for future stories. Which is why I love your blog. It’s filled with tidbits like this. Thank you!

    Like

     
    • suecoletta

      February 18, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      I wanted to share this, but I don’t see a share button. Is that intentional?

      Like

       
      • D.P. Lyle, MD

        February 18, 2015 at 4:25 pm

        I don’t think it’s set up that way so copying and pasting the URL is best.

        Liked by 1 person

         
      • suecoletta

        February 18, 2015 at 6:53 pm

        OK. Will do.

        Like

         
    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      February 18, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Greta. That’s always the hope.

      Liked by 1 person

       

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