Hearing voices is often the term used for hearing speech or sounds that no one else present can hear. This type of auditory hallucination can be distracting, confusing and particularly distressing. Contrastingly, it is not always a negative experience and some people do find comfort in what they hear.
There is an unfortunate stigma surrounding the term hallucination, and a belief that it is abnormal or not real. However, it is important to remember that this term merely describes the perception of stimuli that others around you don’t share; perception, by definition, is an individualised process that is experienced differently by different people – it doesn’t mean the experience is any less real to the individual. In fact, it does not differ hugely from the common experience of hearing our conscience deliberate over the decisions we make every day.
What does hearing voices sound like?
Hearing voices is commonly described as either perceiving someone (or multiple people) standing next to you talking to you, or a thought-like set of voices, which may or may not feel as though they belong to you, that occur in the mind. These hallucinations may be coherent and even engage the listener in conversation, or they could be a muddled set of voices talking over each other. A main characteristic is that they occur spontaneously and remain out of the conscious control of the individual hearing them.
Who might hear voices?
Anyone can hear voices. In some cases, hearing voices can be a symptom of brain diseases such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and dementia. It is often triggered by a traumatic event such as abuse or neglect. It might also arise as part of the bereavement process (feeling like the deceased is calling out to you or talking to you) or after consuming illicit substances (drug-induced psychosis), or even as a side effect of prescribed medications. A high number of children also report auditory hallucinations, sometimes as a result of a high fever, or, less sinisterly, as part of childhood fantasy play. It is more likely to be due to mental illness if it persists into adulthood.
What can I do if I’m hearing voices?
If you think you are hearing voices, an immediate response can be avoidance. This might be due to fear of stigma, shame or even an anxiety related to admitting that these voices exist. A major part of the therapeutic process is accepting that these voices are real to you. There is often a misconception with psychiatric disorders that there is no treatment. However, in most cases, a psychiatrist can help to create a treatment plan that is customised to each individual. Even if the voices are not a symptom of mental illness, it can still be beneficial to talk through the experience with a psychologist. It might also help to explore what may have triggered the experiences by discussing any trauma, past events or bereavement with a psychotherapist or cognitive behavioural therapist. This can be a good opportunity for the individual to really try and understand where the voice is coming from and what purpose it is serving.
Here at The Blue Tree Clinic, we have a team of highly specialised professionals that can help anyone that thinks they might be hearing voices.
Contact us now to book a consultation.