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How to Distinguish Between the Voices You Hear

Maybe you’ve heard a voice telling you to do something good or bad.

Maybe you’ve heard a couple of voices having a discussion about you, good or bad. Maybe you hear a choir singing or a baby crying or Jesus speaking or your late grandfather reaching out. There are many instances in which you can hear voices but you can’t distinguish between the voices you hear.

Before you start to panic, hear this. Just because you hear voices does not mean you have a mental health disorder. In fact, 1 in 10 people claim to hear voices that other people do not hear. That’s right, you may be more normal than you thought. Hearing voices does not automatically give you a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

There are many people who hear voices and emotional states can play a huge role in the type of voices they hear. In some cultures, such as religious cultures, hearing voices may be God or another higher power speaking to them. These people are praised. But in cultures such as with those who have mental health disorders, hearing voices can be a negative trait and one to avoid. In America, there is a lot of support in the mental health fields for people who hear voices, but not so much support in general society.

Hearing voices is treated sometimes like a dirty word, whispered when talking about it to a friend, as if they don’t want anyone to hear them say the words, “they hear voices”.  People are automatically said to have schizophrenia or jokingly compared to the kid in the movies who said, “I see dead people”.

It’s actions like this that add to the stigmas surrounding mental illness.

The Stigma

Our society has given a negative stigma to those who hear voices.

People automatically think if you hear voices you have schizophrenia. Even in movies they portray people who hear voices as total nut jobs, roaming the streets and talking to themselves. This is not the case at all. Are there some people who go untreated who do suffer from schizophrenia? Yes- but this is true for every mental health disorder.

There are several other mental health disorders associated with hearing voices including borderline personality, bipolar disorder, and even anxiety.

There are many people who hear voices that are perfectly capable of coping with the voices they hear and are even very successful at managing the voices they hear without medication or a diagnosis.

It is very important to first learn about hearing voices or more commonly called auditory hallucinations. Then figure out what type of voices you are hearing so you can then determine if you can cope with them on your own or if you need a professional counselor or Psychiatrist to help you.

What is an Auditory Hallucination?

Auditory hallucinations are false perceptions of sound.

Like if you are riding the bus, and you are the only one on the bus, but you hear a person behind you talking to you. No one else can hear it but you. That is an auditory hallucination.

Voices can be heard inside or outside of the head. Most professionals consider the voices coming from outside your head to be more serious than the voices inside your head. The voices can be male or female. It can also be from a child or adult. There are no age limits or race or cultural limitations of the voices. Some voices may even try to speak to you in a different language. There are literally no limits to what a person may hear when dealing with auditory hallucinations.

Hearing voices is distinctly different than negative self-talk. An example of negative self-talk is when you stand in front of the mirror and look at yourself and all of a sudden you hear, “You’re worthless” coming from inside your head. Or you hear, “you are not pretty” or “you suck at your job” or any other statements negative in tone and totally untrue. These voices that come from within your head are simply negative self-talk and you can smack down this problem like that pesky little gnat that won’t leave you alone on a hot summer day.

Get rid of negative self-talk by correcting the statements you hear in your head. You have control of these types of voices. Every time the voice in your head tells you something negative, correct it with something positive. Train yourself to have a positive comeback for each and every negative statement you hear. Eventually, you will start offering up positive statements before the negative ones even have time to get started.

Negative self-talk is usually caused by self-esteem issues or insecurities. There are many other causes for auditory hallucinations.

Causes of Hallucinations

There can be a variety of causes of hallucinations. Some of these include medications you may be taking. Check for side effects of any medicines you are prescribed. Dig further in your research on your medications to find out the side effects of your side effects. For example, some medications can cause anxiety and anxiety can cause shortness of breath and shortness of breath can cause dizziness and dizziness can cause feeling light headed and so on.

Substance Abuse and dependence can certainly cause hallucinations and has been known to do so with many drugs, including marijuana. When you’re young and “experimenting”, hallucinating may seem cool or funny. However, when you get older and are still abusing drugs and alcohol, the hallucinations may start to become more fear invoking and turn into a “which came first” scenario in your life.

Do you use drugs because of the hallucinations or have hallucinations because of the drugs. Do not let it get to this point. There are many facilities out there that can help you conquer any substance problem.

Migraines, brain injuries or some other type of emotional or physical trauma can create hallucinations, as well as mental health illnesses. Sleep Deprivation, spiritual experiences, and even stress have been shown to cause hallucinations. Many people report hearing a voice or someone calling their name right as they are about to fall asleep. Believe it or not, this is quite common.

Other causes can be due to a medical problem found in the inner or middle ear. Genetics, brain chemistry, environment are also possible reasons people hear voices.

After learning about the causes of hearing voices, take the time to learn more about the types of voices there are so you can distinguish exactly which ones you are hearing.

Which Voice Do You Hear?

Researchers have defined the types of voices a person may hear when they are hallucinating.

Controlling Voices are voices that tell you to behave in a negative way. The voices try to control your thoughts and behaviors. No, this is not your nagging spouse telling you what to do, even though that does feel pretty bad. With controlling voices you feel as if you need to obey these voices or trouble may come to you. Okay, so maybe it is a little like your nagging spouse.

There are also supportive voices, or nice voices that tend to be positive in nature. In kids this can be somewhat compared to having an imaginary friend that offers companionship. Only in this case, the imaginary friend is auditory and not visual.

A person can also have random voices where the voices are simply talking in random order and about nothing in particular. You may also have spiteful voices which are more cynical and mean in nature. Furthermore, second person and third person voices and echo de la pen see are other types of voices a person may hear.

Echo de la pen see happens when a person has a thought, and then hears that thought being spoken aloud. Whatever they think is then followed by that thought being verbalized.

Musical ear syndrome happens when a person hears phantom sounds, similar to an auditory hallucination. However, musical ear syndrome mostly occurs when people hear music or people singing. This mostly happens with elderly people or people who already experience hearing problems.

If you have never heard voices before, you are probably wondering what it would be like. Many brave people are willing to share their experiences and offer their testimonies so you can get a clearer view on what it means to hear voices.

What It’s like to Hear Voices

If you hear voices then there are probably many examples you can provide to those curious about what it’s like. Unless they experience it first hand, they may not ever be able to completely understand what you are going through. However, it is very beneficial for you to try and teach others about this disorder. In doing so, you will be removing the stigma about hearing voices and giving more people permission to talk about this condition openly.

Several people who hear voices shared their experiences through video testimonies you can watch.

This first-hand account of Eleanor Longden is incredibly candid and informative. Eleanor even comments that people who hear voices are not necessarily schizophrenic and have been unjustly diagnosed by professionals. She even claims to be able to be humored by her voices, which is a nice thought, being able to find humor in a situation that can be so serious.

In the mental health world it has become far too easy for patients to see a Psychiatrist, give them all of their symptoms, and get a diagnosis, all within a limited amount of time and effort on the part of the doctor. This should not be the case, especially when trying to figure out the voices you hear and why you are hearing them. Seek help the right way.

Seeking Help

There may be a time when your voices are getting too hard to cope on your own. It is totally okay to seek out professional help. In fact, it would be best to get at least two opinions from trained Psychiatrists to determine exactly why you are hearing voices.

If you go to a doctor, they meet with you for 20 minutes and then try to prescribe you medicine; this may not be the best doctor for you. There are many more tests to run, brain imaging, blood work and good old fashioned discussions to be done before they should introduce medications.

One thing you can do to help your doctor is to be prepared. Get all of your medical and personal information together and organized to present to your doctor. You can use a checklist to help guide you to make sure you document all of your symptoms. By providing your doctor with a complete list of symptoms, you will help your doctor develop an accurate diagnosis, if a diagnosis is needed.

The checklist will ask you questions regarding delusions. Having delusions means you believe one thing to be true even though there is no evidence that it is true. For instance, you may think the man knocking on your neighbor’s door is some sort of signal for you or a sign that something is about to happen to you.

The checklist will also ask you about your hallucinations. Questions will include whether or not you have hallucinations that are visual, auditory, or even through smell or touch. All of your senses can experience hallucinations.

Finally, the checklist will ask you about your thinking, memory, concentration and social skills and whether or not these are functioning correctly.

Great resources can be found both online and in your community. Support groups are a great way to meet others who also hear voices. Plus, you can get the name of their Psychiatrist if they recommend him or her as a positive support. Referrals are the best way to decide on a doctor to try. There are many online support groups as well for schizophrenia and for those who hear voices but are not schizophrenic.

The best thing you can do if you hear voices, especially if you feel as if you hear them too often and can’t cope with them on your own is to get the professional help of a Psychiatrist. Don’t try to guess why you are hearing voices. Don’t try to deal with this alone. You are not alone. Good doctors will spend the time with you explaining why you are hearing voices, whether it is due to a stressful situation you are going through right now or a mental health illness. The good news is that both are treatable with professional help. Getting help will allow you to have a positive and productive life and be a very successful member of society, no matter what “the others” say.