Hearing voices is actually a fairly common human experience, but one that has become linked to serious mental illness and major stigma. A lot of people who do hear voices keep this a secret and fear being found out and thought of as mad. Some very interesting findings have come out of research into voice hearing, such as-
- Many people who hear voices do not meet any of the other criteria for a mental illness
- Many people hear positive or encouraging voices and are not distressed by their experiences
- Most people who hear voices do so after a particularly emotional or traumatic event
- Some people only hear voices for a short period of time, then they go away
- Some people find that ignoring their voices and constantly trying to distract themselves actually makes their voices or experience worse
Some people who are hearing voices may have a diagnosis of a mental illness, others do not. Some people hear voices all the time, others only sometimes. Some people hear one voice, others many. Sometimes voices have a name and a personality. Some people hear the voices of people they know, or people who have died. Some people hear voices as if someone is talking to them inside their head, others hear voices as if someone is standing next to them talking. Some people hear whispers, or infants crying, or crowds shouting. Voices can be kind, abusive, controlling, gentle, frightening, insightful and more. People who hear voices can want them to go away, can get along with them, or can be attached to them and miss them if they’re quiet. Some people don’t hear voices, but hear other sounds or music. There’s a tremendous diversity of experiences and responses.
People also understand their experiences differently. Some people find the biochemical model most helpful and have found medication and/or ECT to be lifesaving, but wish also to be able to talk about their experiences with people who understand. Others have a spiritual framework for their experiences, or link hearing voices to trauma. Some people find telling the voices to be quiet can restore a sense of control, while others find it escalates them. Some people find that the right approach leads to their voices going away, others find it helps them learn to live with them.
If you hear voices, or know someone who does, take heart. It is still possible to lead a wonderful meaningful life, even if your experience is one of those around learning to live with, rather than being cured of. If what you’ve tried or been told to try so far hasn’t worked, perhaps there’s some suggestions in our resources that may help you to look at your situation from another perspective, and find a new approach. It’s important to keep in mind that even your best strategies may not work all the time in all situations, so don’t give up, keep looking, learning, and discovering those keys that help to give you back a sense of hope.
For more information, and resources in other states, check out our free resources.