Regarding Hallucinations and Dream states while in an induced coma in ICU

I would very much like to compare notes with anybody who is researching or writing about the dream states and hallucinations experienced while in induced comas in ICU.

I am now almost 70 years old but in my life and career have been notorious as a risk taker and been frequently told I had a charmed life for some of the crazy stunts I've gotten away with. It's extremely ironic therefor that in June this year I tripped and fell on a short flight of stairs, only about four stairs up, and fractured my neck and spine in multiple places. It's been hard to accept that such a simple tumble could have done the damage that it did.

Despite the misfortune of the accident itself I was extremely fortunate to have been quickly taken to the ICU at Charing Cross Hospital where the skill of the surgeons and medical technicians there probably saved my life and repaired the neck fractures that might have otherwise left me paralysed. God bless and long live our wonderful NHS. I'm happy to report that 18 weeks later I have made an almost complete recovery and am now back at home, I can get up and down the stairs and even drove my own car again, briefly, a few days ago.

Reading other peoples stories in this community it's tempting to go off on topics like the quality of nursing, the difference in attitudes between nurses in ICU and those in the recovery wards, the information about ones condition and prospects, or lack of it, provided by both doctors and nurses, the insane staff rotations and medication cycles that don't allow patients to sleep properly more than four hours at a time, the noise levels and continual beep-beeping of equipment in ICU, the disco-ordination between departments like outreach and physiotherapy and so on and so forth on and on but that's not why I'm writing.

I was in an induced coma for five weeks. The dreams, hallucinations, phantasms, nightmares, whatever you want to call them, were spectacular and so very 'real', in 3D and technicolor, like visiting other worlds, other lives, other dimensions. All that was lacking from ordinary reality was sensation, touch, scent, etc., but there was sound, language (often difficult to understand), speech, background noises all seeming very real.

As it turns out I later discovered that my experience was far from uncommon, in fact it seems to be typical of ICU patients under heavy sedation. The paranoia, the sense of having been abducted and restrained by some agency or other, some report it as aliens, I imagined that I had somehow stumbled into some kind of CIA mind control program. On at least two occasions I thought myself to be already dead and in some twilight realm beyond.

I'm not going to go into detail of the dreams here, I could write a book, but would like, even need, to compare the content and emotion of my hallucinations with other ICU survivors with a view to being able to help partners, relatives and friends understand better what's happening to loved ones currently in ICU or still suffering from the effects of having been in ICU.



16 Replies

  • I'm so glad you're all right. It's been nearly two years since I was in ICU two weeks b/c of pneumonia, and six more weeks in the regular hospital, where the hallucinations persisted, although not as fearful. Every organ in my body failed during those eight weeks, though thankfully not at the same time. I've made an almost complete recovery, a little weaker, and my vocal cords are shot b/c of being intubated for so long. My doctors say I'm a "modern day medical miracle". BUT, I can't remember much, and what I think I remember is distorted, I'm told. I don't know, but none of my family and friends will talk to me about it. I wish you would write a book; I'll buy it!

  • Hi David I can really relate to your post. I spent a month in hospital earlier this year the majority of which I was ventilated in ICU. I was fighting septic shock, multi organ failure, pneumonia and pulmonary emboli and I won! So pleased you had such a good outcome from such a horrific accident.

    I suffered from delerium and my dreams, nightmares, hallucinations were extremely vivid. I can recall the majority of them unlike ordinary dreams during sleep. I was convinced I was held hostage at one point and also that I was being taken to the morgue when my bed was moved. My family were told delerium is quite common when your body is under such stress and pumped full of drugs. At the time I was convinced my hallucinations were reality no matter what I was told. I still wonder if some of my experiences were real or a mixture of reality and hallucination.

    I unfortunately still have nightmares surrounding my time in ICU but they are nightmares andmost dedefinitely not reality. My family were given a booklet about ICU and within it was mention of delerium etc. The mind is a wonderful thing and I think there is more we do not know than know about its capacity to heal. Our physical and mental health are interlinked so it is not surprising that when we are physically very unwell our mental health and/or abilities are thrown askew.

    Healiing thoughts to all


  • Hi Lesley-Anne, You could be writing my own experience of my hospital stay 2 and a half years ago now. The dreams and memories often hit me without warning even now and I am afraid to go to sleep most nights as any sleep I do get is so full of these nightmares that I don't get any rest. I think during the month I was in hospital with double pneumonia and multiple organ failure, I 'lived' a whole lifetime (most of it in Australia for some reason!) I am undergoing treatment for PTSD but I'm not sure if this helping or not, re-living the dreams really isn't the most pleasant of experiences and it doesn't seem to lessen the effect they have on me. I don't know what the answer is but trying to explain the feelings to someone who hasn't experienced them (even a therapist) is like trying to explain colours to a blind person!!

  • Hi Avrack I understand how you feel about your treatment for PTSD. If you are thinking about a frightening experience during the day then you can train your brain to think of something else. If your frightening experience returns in your sleep how do you train your brain to think of something else before you get fully involved in the dream? I spoke to a CPN about possible treatment but she wasn't sure that regular treatment for PTSD like CBT would work or be helpful. I don't know what the answer is and unfortunately if you don't have a restful sleep it affects your wellbeing. In an effort to have a restful sleep I'm trying to be calm and relaxed when I go to bed. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. I have tried lavender oil baths, lavender balm on my temples, chamomile tea and reading.

    I hope your treatment helps. Healing thoughts


  • Hi Lesley-Anne, sorry to have taken so long to reply, this site has been difficult to access and the e-mails they sent me set off a storm of Spam Warnings in the mailer ap' I was using. My new e-dress is Nothing here seems to have updated in three months? What I was looking for was some sort of chat group with the immediacy of Facebook, this isn't it. ;-)

    I'm most curious to compare notes with others who've experienced coma hallucinations or delusions or dreams, whatever we want to call them. The one thing I've found that experiencers have in common is the sense of having been abducted and 'imprisoned'. Who or what they were abducted by varies from person to person, for some it's a secret government agency, for others it's a religious group, in many cases it's aliens. One old man I met in hospital shortly before I was discharged was convinced it was the Japanese in some sort of WW2 scenario, I was able to help him a little by repeating over and over he was safe in hospital, in England, and the nurses meant him no harm. He kept trying to 'escape' but because he couldn't walk he'd fall on the floor and the nurses would have to come, put him back in bed and reattach all his drips and feeds and so forth.

    You say that at the time your 'hallucinations' seemed absolutely real, as real as 'reality', as were mine. 3D, technicolor, sharp focus and quite solid. I think that voices from outside, voices from the 'real' world found their way into the soundtrack of my dreams and somehow I rationalized those to fit the dreamworld.

    In one episode I had died and was about to be cremated, I was in a clinic of some sort in a foreign country with those blue hospital curtains opening and closing all the time around me, where the 'nurses' all looked alike and could walk up the walls like in an MC Escher drawing. I was hanging in the air like Christ on the cross and beneath me was a boat, a long wooden boat like the Vikings used to have, and blue flames were reaching up but there was no heat. I said, (it seemed I said it aloud), "I can't feel anything.", and a voice from nowhere I thought might have been God said, "Of course not. You're dead." It went dark but then I awoke into another dream back in a hospital bed.

    The thing about what we think is reality is what haunts me, that was the shortest episode I can remember but there were many others, equally bizarre, that seemed to last for years. I was actually in the coma for five weeks and for three more weeks unable to distinguish real world from coma dream. The impression that lingers still is that there are parallel dimensions which in certain circumstances, like heavy sedation or deep anesthesia we are able to access or slip into in some way. Did you get that impression?

    It seems to me, now that I've had time to research the topic, that few if any doctors, surgeons and especially anestheiologists (sp?) that have never experienced the effects of their own medicine when dealing with post coma patients have little or no idea what they're talking about let alone understand what the patient is going through.

    Your thoughts?

    Thanks for your kind reply,



    Any reply will reach me quicker at

  • Hi brother is still in James hospital Dublin..He had major heart surgery 7 weeks ago. In the last few days he has been moved to side ward just off ICU He had a stroke durning op and also had to have a traceostamoy fitted..poor man has been through so much! While heavily sadated he had very bad hallucinations ..told all the meds were causing this. At the moment he is not on any meds but! the terrors as he calls them are still there! I was in to see him yesterday , wasn't as bad as last week .. much more lucid . .as you can imagine I was delighted . He then asked me for the time..I said are you ok..he looked very upset..then he said... I'm going to be murdered at 3pm! . Mention also that he had ordered a gun for protection as people were shooting at him.It took me a while to settle him and convince him this was not the case . He told me he is finding it difficult to separate what's reality and what's not and he is not on any meds now. .nurses are saying this is all part of recovery . .tough to witness tho..take care all ..tessan

  • While I was in my coma there was on a hill hundreds of army people sitting facing away from me in combat uniform and today I remember the most was you know the helmet and the skies were red and it was night time so you could see and then there was monster trucks and girls flopping around in mud like fish out of water and then there were these have dodo birds have naked women from the waist up Chase me making me eat their eggs for some reason and even after I was awakened out of my induced coma if I close my eyes I would see it it was like in the most brilliant. HD picture I've ever seen I was scared to death thinking that this is where I'm going to end up and I would tell the nurses and my wife that I was joking on the eggs and I needed help it was crazy very scary

  • I too had dreams that were so real I can recall them now nearly 5yrs since being in an induced coma. I can go to places & see some object which transports me back to those living dreams. I was later diagnosed with PTSD as they said the trauma of being on ICU had affected me as I had terrible mood swings.

  • i hallucinated that i had a netted curtain around my bed and an elderly thin woman dressed in black was taking a baby out of a crib, she came and removed my curtain and pushed a black ice lolly into my mouth, what i now think was someone wetting my lips with water, this old woman told me she was taking the baby because Mary the mother of Jesus was too ill to look after him, i knew she was evil and could not get up to save baby Jesus, she told me i was the antichrist, i could not talk i was saying but i am a born again christian, there was no one to help this poor little baby or me for that matter. there was a nurse who came round and i was sure she was watering down my insulin, i tried to tell someone but another nurse came up and told me i could not speak because i,d had an operation on my throat and a trachiotomy . some nurses were not nursed they were aliens as they had silver on their faces and ningas were running round the room in black hoping they would not be seen , i could go on forever but they are the main things, needless to say four years on i now know it was hallucinations but very real at the time.

  • Ninjas in black (shadow people) running around pretending they couldn't be seen! And nurses that were just actors faking it! I had that too!

  • Intriguing, and inexplicable. I haven't (yet) found any substantial professional study on coma dreams or hallucinations. Because they don't understand it and apparently no professional working in anesthesiology has ever taken their own medicine as research, they dismiss it as delusion or something like that. I've read that Fentanyl is the primary anaesthetic but there are others that maintain the coma state after surgery, or whatever, as you begin to recover.

    I was in an induced coma in ICU for five weeks, the dreams were incredible and, as you say, HD, 3D and very 'real' at the time. I was in a prototype airplane made of glass with family and friends on board, something I did made it crash, everybody survived but were cut to pieces by the glass, they were all sewn up like Frankenstein's monster. I was sent to a spinal specialist surgeon in North Korea, (North Korea??), where the hospital was on top of a huge cliff and shaped like a chrome plated beer barrel on it's side. The hospital had been paid for by Barack Obama as a goodwill gesture. (??)

    I was in a special articulated bed that could put you in any position they wanted but I couldn't move at all by my own will. The slightest attempt to move set off those beep, beep alarms and they'd come running to check I hadn't moved. There was a security camera on the wall watching me the whole time. And they'd be opening and closing those damned blue curtains all of the time, I've grown to hate that color, sometimes I could see through a window to gardens outside where there were elephants wandering around, the elephants were painted all over with white symbols, like lettering that I couldn't read, and the park was some sort of mating sanctuary for them. I don't think there are any elephants in North Korea.

    I had visitors there, family members, who I thought must have just driven from England as if it were just up the road. I think the visits were in real life and my comatose mind just tried to make sense of it. Although I was completely unable to move I was constantly looking for ways to escape. I thought that if I could just get off the bed and make a run for the windows a security guard would shoot me and that would end it. This turned out later to have happened in the real world as I tore out all my pipes and feeds and drips and so on and caused a major panic on the ICU ward, male nurses had to hold me down while they put it all back together.

    That was just the start of it, the dreams became more and more bizarre, fairground style roller coaster rides through houses of horror populated by evil Barbie dolls and apparently staffed by guards in Nazi uniforms that ended by being dumped into a railroad box car. All like some psychotic video game. The detail in every scene was fantastic, 3D, technicolor and 360 degree visible… I could write for hours and not tell it all.

    After ICU, as I was coming around, I realized/remembered not only had I not been in an air crash but that I hadn't even been on a plane in four years so the whole early part of the phantasms had been just that, hallucination. That helped a lot with the burden of guilt I was feeling. The thing that haunts me though is when I remember the dreams I can't help feeling they weren't just dreams, they seemed so real, it seems, even now, that I'd somehow slipped sideways into other dimensions, parallel dimensions, concurrent timelines, alternative realities and I'm curious to know if other coma survivors got (and still have) a similar impression.

    Best Wishes, David.

  • Yes I still remember the dreams 5yrs on. Its always so real the best way I could describe it you live the dream you just have to learn what's real and not.

  • Hi David,

    I've just joined the group and am so glad I did! I was in ICU with necrotising fasciitis, sepsis, organ failure, ventilated etc etc just over 3 years ago. I was given a 2-3% chance of survival and was in an induced coma for two weeks. Coming round from the coma was the most frightening experience of my entire life (I'm 48 now). The paranoia and hallucinations were beyond belief. Reading the replies to your post, although obviously disturbing for those going through it, makes so much sense to me - finally people who I am able to relate to, who understand, who've experienced it themselves. The nightmare happenings affected me more than my physical 8 month recovery but health professionals gave a wry smirk and a nod when I explained what happened and assured me it was quite normal, not to worry. Normal!!? I think not! My very own thoughts, when digesting everything that I went through, immediately turned to the possibility I entered parallel universes as many others have said - so vivid, so emotionally charged. I cannot even begin to explain the nightmare scenarios I experienced in one post, like most others - I could write a book! More research is needed to help healthcare professionals understand what patients are experiencing when they awaken from their 'sleep' and not just sweep it under the carpet 'cause it's 'normal'.

  • Hi Gwen, sorry, only now spotted your post. i was in a coma for five weeks and the paranoia and hallucinations, as you say, were beyond belief. I too could write a book and probably will one of these days. When they say 'normal' I think they mean something more like 'expected', they encounter similar reports from most people waking from induced coma and since they have no personal experience of having been in that state themselves they push it away, "Don't worry, it's normal."

    So far as I've been able to tell in my research to date there are no anesthesiologists that have taken their own medicine. The cocktail of drugs used to induce coma are all powerful hallucinogens. There's some reluctance amongst practitioners to even tell you what they are or which they used. I've listed a few, principally Fentanyl, Phenobarbital, Ketamine and, of course, Morphine, the ultimate universal pain killer. When I mentioned Ketamine to one doctor she practically had a fit, "Ketamine? OMG! They would never use that!" Ketamine has in the past been nicknamed 'elephant tranquilizer' and there's good reason why.

    In my experience and my opinion people surfacing from coma are moved far too quickly from ICU to a general ward. The nurses in ICU are fantastic people but their patients are basically asleep and all they have to do is keep an eye on your vital signs, heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, breathing, etc., they have little or no training in post coma psychology and do what most good nurses do, attend to dressings, clear tracheotomy tubing, administer ongoing medication, make you as physically comfortable as they can and so on. As you wake up they simply don't know that you're still half in, half out of a hallucinatory state in which, although you are somewhat cognisant and attempting to speak, the things you say make no sense to them, patients quite often seem afraid, distrustful or suspicious of them, that's the paranoia part. ICU nurses, although they must have experienced it many times before, are not equipped or trained to respond to the patient appropriately and in the general ward the nurses know even less and will sometimes respond with hostility or rejection. "Oh well, if you're going to be rude when I'm trying to help I'll come back later." There's a lot more I could say about nursing standards in general.

    Regarding the hallucinations it's much too deep stuff to get into here, everybody has different dreams. I think the imagery that clothes the dreams is drawn largely from memories, including memories of TV and movies, that get all plastered together like a moving jigsaw puzzle and the brain attempts to organize and make sense of them but fails. The emotions that go along with them, fear, guilt, shame, etc., are just as fragmented and inexplicable. If you want to discuss the actual content of the nightmares, what they are, where they come from, feel free to write to me,

    The thing that caught my attention in your post was you said, " very own thoughts, when digesting everything that I went through, immediately turned to the possibility I entered parallel universes as many others have said..." Many others have said that and so did I and I think it's an indicator of high intelligence in those that do. That said you can't discuss 'parallel universes' with a doctor who has never been there. It moves into the realm of the paranormal and only trained psychologists will take you seriously.

    So it would seem that the thoughts and experiences in a coma are not all yours/ours but are coming from elsewhere in the multiverse. Is it just the drugs or there actually other realities besides ours that the drugs open doors into? I've been reading about people experimenting with a substance called Ayahuasca, it comes from somewhere deep in the Amazonian jungle and is used traditionally by tribal shaman to do exactly that, contact other dimensions. An author you may already have come across named Graham Hancock has done extensive research and taken several Ayahuasca trips himself. You'll find his many books easily on line and some of his lectures on You Tube.

    I'll leave it there and wish you well in your continued recovery,

    Kind regards,


  • Hi all! My Dad is currently in the ICU (5 weeks and 2 days so far). He's no longer on propofol, and no longer on a fentanyl drip but he still gets fentanyl every 4 hours; and he's on Seroquel, precedex, and klonopin. The only drip is precedex. He's intubated via trach.

    Anyway, is there anything I can say or do to help him with his state of mind? It terrifies me that he's probably having such scary hallucinations. From your experiences do you think there is something I should talk about with him, should I play his favorite music, should I keep repeating he is safe? When he was on propofol, it was like he couldn't see. I would have my face directly in front of his and even though his eyes were open, it was like he couldn't see. Now that he's on other stuff, it seems like he does recognize me and my family. His facial expression changes when he looks at me. Honestly he looks terrified. He moves his head back and forth like he's trying to say 'NO'. He doesn't follow commands, won't blink if you ask him to etc.

    Anyway, if there is anything you can tell me to do to help him, I will do it!

    Thank you

  • I just woke from a dream that reminded me of my induced coma experience. Nothing I'd ever want to relive! But....decided to look up other people's experience when I found yours. Finally someone who understands! My coma dreams were a constant shifting of scenarios all with the same mission, my survival. I was either running from someone or something trying to kill me or trying to escape somewhere.

    Each "story" was based ,either with characters or scene, on TV or movies I had seen, and included people I know. For instance one was set in AHS asylum, I needed to escape and would plead with my family to no avail. They had me. Another was like the hills have eyes where I ran from trailer to trailer trying to escape my death.

    They were repetitive and never ending. I have discussed the dreams with others but have wondered to myself if I was actually in my own personal hell!

    Being able to sit down and hear from others who have experienced these dreams would be intriguing indeed.

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