Contrary to popular belief, we have a lot more than 5 senses, and people can perceive things differently in many ways. We can not only hear or see, but also have the ability to sense things like air or water pressure, gravity, the location of our own body parts (this is why you can close your eyes and still touch your fingertips together), and sensations such as hunger and pain. Sometimes people can have unusual experiences in a bundle – seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting things that others can’t. In other cases a single sense may register things no one else can – for example, lying on bed and feeling a profound sensation of falling, or feeling your limbs float and twist when you close your eyes. In some cases, certain sensations such as persistent unexplained pain, tingling, or numbness may mean you get a diagnosis of a psychosomatic or dissociative condition. There’s some overlap in the experiences of people with these labels and those who are designated psychotic or hallucinating.
Unusual sensations are common when people are deprived of sleep, food, sensory input, and connection with others. It’s also very common for people to experience intense emotions as physical sensations – feelings such as deep grief may be described as a deep empty pain in the chest, terror as a heavy weight in the gut, euphoria as weightlessness and tingling in the hands. The body and mind are highly connected and emotions such as fear create and are created by real physical changes to hormones, digestion, blood flow, capillary action, and so on.
To read a personal account of various unusual sensory experiences see What’s it like to have hallucinations?