Hearing voices is not as rare as you might think. Many of us will have heard noises or voices that others haven’t heard at some point in our lives. It’s estimated that as many as one in ten people hear voices on a more regular basis. For some, this can be a scary experience, for others, it can be a comfort.
These voices may crop up when no one else is around, or when you’re in a room full of people. There could be just one voice or many. You may recognise the voice as someone you know or it could be the voice of a stranger.
For some, the voices can be positive, uplifting and even comforting. For others, what they hear can be confusing, frightening and commanding. It may sound like someone is standing next to you talking, or it may be more like a thought. Sometimes people have a combination of the two.
You may not hear voices at all. You may hear other noises like knocking or music. When you hear something other people can’t, it’s generally called an auditory hallucination. Other forms of hallucination include seeing, smelling, tasting and feeling things others don’t.
There can be many reasons why someone hears voices. You may find certain situations or environments trigger your voices, for example when you sit down to eat dinner or when you feel stressed. Other reasons include:
- not getting enough sleep
- falling asleep/waking up
- having a high temperature
- taking recreational drugs
- taking prescribed medication
- being bereaved
- being bullied or abused
- experiencing something traumatic
- having a spiritual experience
- having a mental health condition
Mental health conditions that can lead to hearing voices include:
- severe depression
- bipolar disorder
- borderline personality disorder
- eating disorders
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- dissociative identity disorder
- obsessive compulsive disorder
- schizoaffective disorder
But, not everybody who hears voices gets a medical diagnosis – you can hear voices without having a mental illness. Research shows that many people hear voices or have other hallucinations, it is not always a sign of being unwell.
There are a number of treatment options that can help if you’re finding it hard to cope with your voices. Typically, you’ll be recommended talking therapies and you may also be offered medication.
Talking therapies can help you explore difficult emotions and learn how to manage and cope better with your voices. There are many different talking therapies available and it’s important to find what works for you. Here are some examples of talking therapies that can help with hearing voices.