Command Hallucinations in Outpatients with Schizophrenia

S. Zisook, D. Byrd, J. Kuck, D.V. Jeste, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, October 1995, 56, 10, 462–5.


BACKGROUND: The presence of command hallucinations in individuals with schizophrenia may result in an increase in clinical monitoring to reduce the perceived risk of violent behavior. However, the issue of whether command hallucinations hold any clinical relevance in relatively stable outpatient samples has not been established.

METHOD: The clinical and research records of individuals with schizophrenia who participated in outpatient research protocols at the University of California, San Diego were reviewed for the presence of command hallucinations. Information on clinical characteristics was collected in a detailed chart review from 106 patient records.

RESULTS: Command hallucinations were reported by one half of all patients with auditory hallucinations, and these hallucinations often were violent in content. Yet, in over a third of the patients, these hallucinations had not been documented in their clinical charts, but instead were uncovered during a secondary source review. Patients with command hallucinations generally did not differ on prognostic or clinical course variables. However, the 2 patients who committed suicide during the study were patients with command hallucinations.

CONCLUSION: Although command hallucinations may be more frequent than clinicians generally note, in most cases they have minimal influence on the outcome of schizophrenia. However, in outpatients with schizophrenia who have a history of suicide attempts, suicidal command hallucinations should be taken seriously.