Hearing Voices (Auditory Hallucinations)

Some professional associate hearing voices with a medical illness but some of the voice hearers tend to cope up and are able to live with the voices. They have regarded the voices as positive aspect of the lives.

How is it to hear voices?

Explaining what it feels like to hear voices is hard especially if you have not heard any for yourself. But for some, hearing voices is not an alien experience as most see it to be. At first, you may hear the voice normally through your ears, but the voice comes from no physical source. The voices would have variety and each experience with hearing the voices are different. Some researches show that some people, especially those who have lost a loved one, can hear voices, which is a common experience.

Aside from hearing the voices through the ears, hearers could hear the voices as thoughts in their heads or from somewhere else. This is not the same as having an ‘inspired idea’ which some would recognize as ideas coming from themselves. Some would even regard this as ‘telepathy’. An example of this is like recalling a tune or a rhyme. You tend to repeat the tune or thyme in your head, unconsciously, and you keep it going through your head repeatedly. You do not consciously think about the rhyme or the tune but you have a hard time stopping yourself from thinking about it.

There is a difference between the "voice thought" and tune. The "voice thought" appears as words in the hearer’s mind. The voice could talk coherently to the voice hearer or engage the hearer to a conversation. The hearer is not responsible for what the voice says. There are many alternatives on how to hear voices. Some people experience non-verbal thoughts, visions, images, tastes, smells, and touch. Hearing voices can be a different way for other people.

Some would even hear the voices inside or outside their heads or even from their bodies. They could her just one voice or hear a multitude of them. They hear the voice as something that talks to you or talks about you.

Voices are like dreams because we experience the images, words and the sensations. We drift to sleep and dream when we are bored. We dream of a lot of things and sometimes we think that our dreams are really happening to us.

Hearing voices is like that except that it can does happen in real life. The voices are present all day. For the voice hearers, it could affect them from doing their normal routines every day. Some of the voices tend to be abusive and punish the hearer if he does not do what the voice wants.

Hearing voices as a symptom for a mental illness or as a variety for human experience

To hear voices is a disturbing experience for both the voice hearer and his friends and family. In the past, hearing voices were seen as symptoms for a lot of mental illnesses and as a taboo which was not talked about for fear of being socially stigmatized. Hearing voices are considered as an auditory hallucination by clinical psychiatry and as symptoms for schizophrenic disorders, bipolar disorder and psychosis. The common treatment, which involves tranquillisers, is administered to reduce the hallucinations and delusions.

Not everyone would respond well to this treatment. Nurses, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals were taught that people who hear voices cannot do much for themselves. In the past, professionals were not supposed to engage the voice hearers nor ask them of what they felt about the voices or the content of what the voices were telling them.

Professional health workers tend to distract the patients from the voices as they thought that engaging the patients meant that they believed in their accounts. Studies have found out that many people who hear voices are able to cope up without any psychiatric intervention. It was also found out that the people who hear voices who can cope up treated the voices as a positive part of their being. The voice hearers never regarded the voices as negative aspects of their lives.

Some of the voice hearers throughout history have said that the voices that they hear are comforting and inspirational. These facts are always countered by the negativity imposed by psychiatry on hearing voices. For some researchers and practitioners, it is a mistake to quickly associate hearing voices to a psychopathic syndrome or disease. For them, it should be considered as a variation of a human experience.

Finding meaning in voices

A survey for many voice hearers were done and the results showed that most of the hearers could cope up with them hearing voices just as long as they have built a sense of relationship with the voices: it did not matter what the hearers have experienced with the voices like abusing, guiding or inspiring them. In other word, as long as the voice hearer believes that he is far stronger than the voice, and then he could cope but is he does not, then he could not cope up.

Because of the findings, associating hearing voices with diseases like schizophrenia are no longer a valid idea. Hearing voices can be thought of a something real, meaningful, oftentimes painful, overwhelming and fearful. It can also be thought of as something metaphorical for their loves, environment and emotions. For example, the voice hearers can attribute the violent voices to someone whom they know were violent to them. These voices can attack the hearers’ self-esteem and sense of worth.

Since these relationships were discovered, psychologists and psychiatrists in the Netherlands and the UK started to develop techniques to help voice hearers concentrate on their experiences and to get to know the other voices better. This new approach needs the voice hearer to give space to the voices. This enables the voice hearer to listen, engage and control the voices in his own terms which is according to the explanatory framework and from their own beliefs. Accepting that the voices exist is a major step to resolution and growth.

Information for those who hear voices

Voice hearers often find themselves overwhelmed by the world which leaves their power of reason to be extinguished. This makes it hard for them to go through their lives. An open discussion with other voice hearers or your friends, family or a mental health professional can help you accept the voices:

  • Letting other voice hearers communicate with each other gives them the opportunity to share their experiences and to learn from each other. This is achieved through setting or joining them in support groups like Hearing Voices Network in UK.
  • Voice hearers believe that it is vital to mention the existence of the voices because the voice hearers are able to master the voices’ patterns, tricks and their pleasant aspects, if any. This helps them prepare for the onset of hearing of voices. Some voice hearers think that they the only ones who could hear such things. Thins idea causes them to be depressed and go mad to some extent. Anxiety and withdrawal from society can also happen, as well as feeling shameful for hearing the voices. The feeling of being anxious restricts freedom and can aggravate the problem even more.
  • Voice hearers want some form of explanations for the voices. A personal understanding is helpful as there are tons of confusing perspectives used by some voice hearers. Developing an explanation is vital for the improvement of a coping strategy. If meaning is placed on the voices, then building a relationship with them can be difficult because building relationship with them should reduce stress.
  • If the voice hearer wants to develop his own point of view and wants to take responsibility for himself, then the first thing that he should do is to accept that the voices belong to him.
  • The voices are able to express exactly what the voice hearers feel or think. When the voices give information in this manner, the feeling of the voice hearer is more important than the existence of the voices. When voices say these things, it is important that their messages be related to someone you trust or to a mental health professional.
  • When the voice hearer hears malicious voices, then it can be hard for them to attribute a positive dimension to the experience. If this is the case, let him come in contact with other voice hearers to know that there are positive voices that exist. Creating a structure on the nature of voices helps to reduce the feeling of being overpowered by the voices. The voice hearer can put a limit the voices from intruding into their lives.
  • Sharing their experiences helps the voice hearers know what medicines can be used, what their effects and their side effects are. Some medicines can help reduce hearing the voices while some are used for treating anxiety or confusion.
  • Sharing information about the voices with friends and family is helpful. If the closest people to the voice hearer can support him, then this makes his life easier and can improve his confidence in social events.
  • Voice hearers who have adjusted say that the process has had an impact on their personal growth. Personal growth is the acceptance of a need to have a fulfilled life and how to achieve these goals.
  • To talk about voices can make the voice hearer feel uncomfortable because most of them have problems opening up about their experiences. Voice hearers relate better with other voice hearers. Another problem is that the voices can become more acute. The disadvantages outweigh all the advantages. It is important to be aware of all the possible scenarios. Advice the voice hearer to become more dominant than the voices. Do not emphasize their weakness over the voices.

Information for friends, family, and the mental health workers

To help those who hear voices, it is essential that the professionals examine which coping mechanism is most useful and efficient for the patient. This can result in having more support for the voice hearer as they attempt to relate their experiences.

The following are step for the process:

  • Believe what the person who hears the voices truly hears them. The voices are perceived more strongly than what they can feel through their senses.
  • Recognize the varied languages that he uses to account and describe the other voices’ experiences. This is very tricky as it involves a lot of symbolisms.
  • Help him ‘communicate’ with those voices. Help him differentiate between the bad or good voices. Encourage him to accept that he has negative feelings of his own which helps him be more confident and increases is self-esteem higher.
  • Encourage him to see other people who have the experiences and read more about hearing voices for him to overcome taboo and isolation.

Self knowledge and self determination are the very essential keywords.