Hearing voices is more common than many people think. However, it can be a frightening experience both for the hearer, and for those around them, who may be unsure how to react.
Although not everyone who hears will ever be in contact with the psychiatric services, a person who is, may well be given a diagnosis of a mental illness. These are some of the more common:-
anxiety or stress
Research has shown that 70% of people who hear voices can relate the experience to some trauma which has occurred in their lives. Hearing Voices Network - Cymru seeks to encourage people to explore their experiences and develop rationale for their voices. This can be a long and difficult experience, which the Network supports by offering self-help groups for both people who hear voices and their carers.
It can be very difficult for someone who is hearing voices to talk about their experiences. Some people who hear voices will take a long time to disclose this fact to anyone else, some will never disclose it.
Voices often respond to what is happening around the hearer. Therefore, they can tell the hearer that the person they are speaking to is trying to harm them, that their food is poisoned, or that something bad will happen if they talk about their voices. This can lead to feelings of fear and vulnerability, resulting in the person reacting differently to those around them, or becoming isolated from others.
All voice hearers are different. What is helpful for one voice hearer could be terrible for another.
Reasons for Hearing Voices
Over time, many people who hear voices develop belief systems about why they hear voices. These may seem strange and unusual to other people. Some of the belief systems expressed by voice hearers include:-
Angels, Saints or God
Demons or the Devil
It is fairly common for people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness to be given medication. This is usually an anti-psychotic or an anti-depressant. Some of the more common medication prescribes for people follows:-
Benefits of Medication
Some people who hear voices report that they get some relief from taking medication, as it can reduce the severity of their experiences, or stop the voices altogether.
Most medication, does however, cause some side effects. These can include drowsiness, dry mouth, feeling shaky or restless, weight gain and blurred vision. Not everyone who takes medication will experience these or other side effects. More information on various medication can be found in the box it comes in, or from a doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Common Misconceptions about hearing voices
There are many fallacies about hearing voices and voice hearing. Some of the more common ideas about these and the opinions of voice hearers on why they are wrong are listed below.
People who hear voices are mad
Many people who hear voices are living a 'normal' life in society and have never been in contact with psychiatric services.
People who hear voices are dangerous and should be locked up.
A voice hearer is no more likely to be dangerous than any other member of the general public. A small minority of voice hearers can become distressed and may stay in hospital voluntarily or be detained if they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or to others.
That someone has been violent as a result of hearing voices can sometimes be used as an easy defence to avoid punishment by the courts.
All voices are bad.
Bad voices are more distressing and can cause more problems for people, but it is not unusual for people to experience voices which are positive, helpful and supportive.