Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Closed Eye Hallucinations

Image by Copilot/Bing

This weekend I learned that other people do not continue to see images behind their eyelids when they close their eyes.

I always have. Generally, it's an outline of whatever I was looking at before I shut my eyes, with the white or lighter color showing up and giving me sort of a negative of the object.

No eye doctor or regular doctor, or anyone else for that matter, has ever mentioned this to me. And before this weekend, I'd never mentioned it to anyone else, either. Like my tinnitus in my ears, I thought it was something everyone experienced because I've experienced for as long as I can remember. (Then I began reading about tinnitus and realized it wasn't normal.)

Saturday night I shut my eyes to a particularly vivid negative image of the dresser because my husband had had the overhead light on instead of the bedside lamps, and I asked him how it looked to him.

"When I shut my eyes, all I see is dark," he said.

"All the time?" I asked. "You don't see outlines or white streaks?"


I rolled over and asked Alexa what it was called if you saw things behind your eyelids when your eyes were closed.

She came back with "closed eye hallucinations."

Also called "CEVs," this is apparently not something everyone experiences. It is not a dream, either. Unlike dreams, CEVs occur when individuals are fully awake and conscious. These hallucinations, therefore, can range from simple geometric shapes to complex, lifelike scenarios. (Fortunately, I don't have the lifelike scenarios, although I do daydream quite a lot. But not with my eyes shut.)

Common triggers include using psychedelic drugs (which I do not use, although I am on a lot of medication for blood pressure and chronic pain) or sleep deprivation and fatigue. I don't know what the trigger for me would be, since it happens all the time. 

I suppose it could be something else. I found these possibilities:

  • Image Burn-In (Afterimage): Not to be confused with CEVs, image burn-in occurs due to bright light and fades away as the retina heals. (Maybe I looked at the sun when I was a kid and my retina never healed? But wouldn't an eye doctor have noticed?)
  • Entoptic Phenomena: CEVs exclude phenomena like floaters, wiper ridges, and vitreous movement, highlighting the distinction between controlled hallucinations and involuntary visual experiences. (I have floaters. What I see when I close my eyes is not a floater. It's an image.)
  • Blue-Sky Sprites: CEVs are unrelated to bluefield entoptia, which involves leukocytes migrating through retinal blood vessels. (Perhaps this is a reference to that white line I see in the sky when I look up with my eyes open?)
  • Physical Retinal Stimulation: CEVs are independent of visual noise caused by physical retinal stimulation, such as pressure phosphenes, which result from mechanical stimuli. (I think that refers to the weird things you see if you push on your eyeballs.)

I am not sure what this is, honestly, except that apparently not everyone has it and I'm 60 years old and just figuring that out. I place it up there with my photographic memory, which was something else I thought everyone had only to learn they didn't, and auditory hallucinations I sometimes have. (I hear people calling to me, like when I'm in the car and there is no way anyone is actually calling to me. It's weird. It doesn't happen often. Usually, I am highly stressed when it does happen.)

I have something screwy in my brain, I guess. Maybe I should leave my brain to science. As busy as it is up there, there must be something interesting going on.

At any rate, next time I see my eye doctor, I will mention it to him and see what he says, now that I know it's not normal.


  1. I have had this for years. I see things all night long as well as the images in my brain that never turn off.

  2. What a fascinating post! I do not seem to see things when I close my eyes--other than my eyes adjusting from light to dark (or vice versa).

  3. I do not see things either though I might have a white outline image after something bright. I do get floaters in the day when I am looking at a blank bright surface. I have had tinnitus for a couple of year now with a 30% hearing loss. Maybe your eyes thing is hereditary?

  4. Like you, I often see the outline of what I was just looking at when I close my eyes. Especially if it's light-colored or white. And, like you, I didn't know everyone else didn't. After all, I've only ever been me. Over the last six months I've twice had a battery of tests to rule out glaucoma and the ophthalmologist didn't see anything amiss, so I'm just going to shrug this off. BTW, it wasn't until I went to the chiropractor that I didn't know everyone else's non-dominant hand wasn't useless. Like, I can't brush my teeth or unlock my front door with my left hand, I just don't have the dexterity. I didn't realize that was unusual and a result of my spinal stenosis. Apparently I'm something of a freak. :)


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