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Conditions: Hearing Voices

What is voice hearing?

Hearing voices refer to an experience of hearing a voice or voices when no-one is present with you, or which other people around you cannot hear.

There is stigma around voice hearing that can contribute to the distress that is associated with the phenomenon and it is commonly assumed that hearing voices is associated with mental health problems. However, research has demonstrated that voice hearing is a relatively common human experience, and many people hear voices that do not have mental health difficulties and therefore it is important to normalise and de-shame the voice hearing experiences. Research has also shown that our relationship to the voices (even the most disturbing ones) can make a key difference and determine whether the voices would cause a significant distress. Some people do not mind their voices or do not take them seriously while others simply find them irritating or distracting, while others find them frightening, disturbing and intrusive.

 We may hear voices when we are falling asleep or waking up, due to sleep problems and sleep deprivation; when under a lot of stress, due to hunger, head injury or physical illness (such as delirium, high temperature, migraine, dementia, vitamin deficiency); due to drugs, as a result of grief and bereavement; as a result of abuse, bullying and any other traumatic experiences; or in the context of mental health difficulties (such as psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, severe depression, PTSD, borderline personality disorder or dissociative personality disorder) as well as in regards to spiritual experiences.

Voice hearing experience can take a variety of forms. For example, you might:

  • hear your name called when there is no one with you

  • hear a voice commenting on you and your activities

  • hear or see things as you are falling asleep

  • experience the voices as being in your head or feel voices are coming from outside and heard through your ears like other sounds

  • feel as if you are hearing other people’s thoughts or as if other people can hear your thoughts

  • experience nasty or threatening voices that command you to do dangerous and unacceptable things or that try to control you

  • hear a voice that feels friendly but encourages you to do things that might not be good for you

  • hear a kind supportive voice or a voice that helps you

  • hear more than one voice and they may talk, shout, or argue with each other

When to seek help?

  • When your voices are a problem, for example if they are causing you distress or negatively affecting your day-to-day life

Treatment recommendations

A range of psychological therapies could help you to understand the meaning behind the voices and their content and can help you to think about what makes you hear voices and to facilitate better coping with the voices and learning to control them. The selected treatment would be individually tailored to your needs following a comprehensive assessment process in our service.

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