Can hearing voices in your head be a good thing?

Psychologists have launched a study to find out why some people who hear voices in their head consider it a positive experience while others find it distressing.

The University of Manchester investigation – announced on World Hearing Voices Day (Thursday, 14th September) – comes after Dutch researchers found that many healthy members of the population there regularly hear voices.

Although hearing voices has traditionally been viewed as ‘abnormal’ and a symptom of mental illness, the Dutch findings suggest it is more widespread than previously thought, estimating that about 4% of the population could be affected.

Researcher Aylish Campbell said: “We know that many members of the general population hear voices but have never felt the need to access mental health services; some experts even claim that more people hear voices and don’t seek psychiatric help than those who do.

“In fact, many of those affected describe their voices as being a positive influence in their lives, comforting or inspiring them as they go about their daily business. We’re now keen to investigate why some people respond in this way while others are distressed and seek outside help.”

Although the voices heard by psychiatric patients and members of the general population seem to be of the same volume and frequency, the former group tend to interpret the voices as more distressing and negative.

The team believes that external factors such as a person’s life experiences and beliefs may be the key to these differences: for example, the presence of childhood trauma or negative beliefs about themselves could have an affect.

“If a person is struggling to overcome a trauma or views themselves as worthless or vulnerable, or other people as aggressive, they may be more likely to interpret their voices as harmful, hostile or powerful,” said Aylish.

“Conversely, a person who has had more positive life experiences and formed more healthy beliefs about themselves and other people might develop a more positive view of their voices.

“People being treated for hearing voices are usually given medication in an attempt to eliminate the problem. By investigating the factors influencing how voices are experienced we hope to contribute to the development of psychological therapies to help people better understand and cope with their voices.”

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1,195 thoughts on “Can hearing voices in your head be a good thing?”

  1. I wanted to comment because I wonder if anyone has a similar experience to me……..first of all I’m now 33 years old with 2 children & 5 mths pregnant I’ve not had any problems since I think around 9 yrs old maybe younger. But what I experienced was just multiple voices in my head talking really fast all at once & I never could make out 1 word they were saying & it would last a couple of mins but it seemed like it happened every mth maybe every week as a child I never thought much of it. I never told my parents about it I did ask my twin sister & older brother if they ever had that happen to them no was the reply. So again I never thought nothing else about it until my mom stated she was concerned with my niece because she hears voices & she wanted to look into it. So I talked to my niece she said everyone thought she was crazy & she says the same thing happens to her she can never make out what their saying its been going on for awhile now & she is 15. So just curious if anyone has been through this like I said I’ve never heard them again since I was 9 or 10, please help?

  2. Not sure I hold with the theory that negative abusive voices are the result of childhood trauma, etc. We’ve supported a young family member through the most awful psychosis, all the head-voices were apparently abusive and threatening. Medication did not change any of that. Four years later, a minor relapse has brought them back again, very loudly. It makes daily life very difficult, hard to concentrate and listen to others.

    He was never abused nor had trauma in the early years; and in fact was given a first rate education, but was struck down by schizo in his second university year. The idea of engaging with those voices is, well, novel but quite frankly I dont think there’s any benefit. Keeping their volume down, so that some kind of normal life can be enjoyed, would be far better.

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