Explains what it's like to hear voices, where to go for help if you need it, and what others can do to support someone who is struggling with hearing voices.
Coping with hearing voices
Different things may help you cope with your voices at different times. Some of these ideas may not be helpful or possible for you right now. Try a few different things and see which works best for you.
On this page we cover tips on how to:
Understanding more about your voices may help you:
- Feel more in control
- Recognise when your voices are causing problems
- Stand up to your voices
- Develop or change your relationship with your voices so they don't interfere with your life, or prevent you from making your own choices
It's not always easy to work out what your voices mean. Sometimes they might not mean anything. And that's okay too.
By facing the significance of this voice, and owning the actions he compelled me to take, I am learning a new and sustainable way to live
Voices and your past
These questions might help you think about how your voices relate to your past experiences.
- What was happening when I first heard voices?
- Where was I? How was I feeling?
- What did they say?
- What did they sound like? What age were they?
- Do they represent a person or problem?
- Are there any patterns to the voices?
You may recognise voices as people from your past or as your own voice at different ages. They may be related to traumatic or painful experiences.
Voices and your life now
These questions might help you think about voices in your life now.
- Do I hear voices at a particular time or place?
- What is happening when I hear voices?
- How am I feeling before I hear the voices?
- What do the voices want me to do?
- What do I want to do?
You may start to recognise when your voices are causing problems and what makes them worse.
This could help you identify when you need to look for support or look after yourself. It may help you feel more in control.
Keep a diary
Some people find that keeping track of their voices can help them answer some of these questions. You could write in a diary or make notes or recordings on your phone.
For example, you could note when you hear voices and write down what's happening when you hear them. You could also note what they say, their tone of voice and how they made you feel.
Looking back over your notes might help you see any patterns to the voices. This might help you understand how they affect you over a longer period of time. You might also notice if certain things seem to trigger your voices.
My voices were very prevalent around food times and times I was doing nothing.
Changing how you communicate with your voices might help you:
- Feel like you have more control over them
- Build a more positive relationship with them
- Stop them having as much power over your life
It's not always easy to communicate with your voices, especially if they're controlling or aggressive. There are different approaches you can try, depending on the type of voice and how you're feeling.
Challenge your voices
Challenging your voices may help you feel more in control. Here are some things you could try:
- Stand up to them. Tell them they have no power over you.
- Ignore their commands or threats. Tell them you’re not going to listen to them or do what they say.
- Be assertive. Imagine what you'd say or do if you weren't afraid of your voices. Practice acting in that way until it feels more natural.
Be kind to your voices
Sometimes it's more helpful to treat your voices with kindness and compassion. Here are some things you could try:
- Ask them: ‘What do you need?’ Trying to understand them may help you feel more in control.
- Remember where the voices come from. For example, angry or frightening voices may be coming from a place of fear, pain or trauma.
- Thank them for trying to keep you safe by reminding you of your fears. Tell them that you understand, but you're not going to listen to them right now.
- Practise treating your voices very kindly. It may feel hard at first, but after time it can become more natural.
- Be kind to yourself. Try not to judge yourself if your voices are saying things that you find disgusting or offensive. What they're saying isn't a reflection of who you are.
React neutrally to your voices
Sometimes, reacting neutrally to voices can be the most helpful way to communicate with them. Here are some things you could try:
- Acknowledge what the voices say without agreeing or disagreeing with them.
- Use neutral phrases to reply to them. For example, you could say ‘okay, sure’ or ‘is that right?’
- Keep your responses short and simple.
- Once you've responded, try to distract yourself and get on with your day.
Negotiate with your voices
It may help to set boundaries with your voices. Here are some things you could try:
- Give them times when you pay attention - and when you won't.
- Tell them that you would like to wait before you do what they say.
- Try to gradually spend less time on your voices, building this up each day.
- Set alarms or timers to limit and track the time you spend on your voices.
I understand I don't have to give in to their demands. I can negotiate and wait before acting on instructions and try grounding techniques to distract myself.
Communicate in your own way
There's no right or wrong way to communicate with your voices. Here are some things you could think about:
- Try to ignore the voices you don't like and focus on the ones you find easier to listen to.
- You might want to speak aloud to your voices. Or you might find it easier to write things down.
- Start slowly and take your time.
- Different voices may call for different reactions. Some may be easier to challenge, and some may be better to ignore.
- It might help to use creative methods to explore your voices, such as journalling. Making art or music might also help you to express your voices in a way that feels separate from yourself.
Sometimes you may want to ignore or block out your voices. This may be helpful if you don't want to communicate with them. Or if you don't have time to listen to them.
Here are some different things you could try:
- Focus on what's around you. Try listing 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
- Focus on your breath. Breathe slowly and deeply. Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Some people find it helpful to count while doing this.
- Do activities or tasks to distract yourself. For example, you could try exercising, cooking or knitting. You might have to try a few different distractions to find what works for you.
- Listen to other things. Some people find listening to music, audiobooks or podcasts a helpful way to distract from voices. It might help to use headphones.
- Use a grounding object. Keep a small object with you to hold and focus on when you feel bothered by your voices. For example, you could use a stone, a fidget toy or a piece of fabric.
Music has also had a massive impact in my life... It always helped me to stay calm, and distracted, whether it was listening to it, or playing it.
A safe space to talk to other people who hear voices can help you to feel heard and understood.
Peer support groups for people who hear voices can:
- Help you feel less alone - you may be relieved to hear that other people have similar experiences
- Help you talk about hearing voices in a safe, non-judgemental place
- Help you gain new perspectives on your voices
- Give you the chance to support others - helping other people may improve your mood or help to reduce stress
- Help you feel accepted and listened to
- Be great for your self-esteem
- Encourage you to make your own decisions about how you want to deal with your voices
You could also think about looking for online support. This is a good option if you don't want to attend a support group or if you can't find one locally. You might like to try Side by Side, a supportive online community run by Mind.
As soon as I began talking, I found my voice again and the fear slowly evaporated.
- Try to improve your sleep. Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. Hearing voices may make it difficult for you to get enough sleep. And if you're not sleeping well, you may find it harder to manage your voices. Our pages on sleep problems have more information.
- Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels.
- Learn ways to relax. Learning to relax can help you look after your wellbeing if you're feeling stressed or anxious. Our pages on relaxation have tips you could try.
- Spend time in nature. Being outside in green space can improve your wellbeing and help you feel more in touch with your surroundings. Our pages on nature and mental health have more information.
- Try to exercise. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing. Our pages on physical activity have more information.
If you feel that your voices are a spiritual experience, you might want to talk to someone from your faith. You may be able to find support through places of worship, community centres or local support groups.
Or you may find it helpful to connect with people online or through social media. Our information about online mental health have more information on how to do this safely.
Unfortunately, not everyone will understand your experiences. It may be hard to find someone who understands your spiritual needs as well as your mental health needs.
Some psychiatrists may be able to suggest someone who can help. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has more information about spirituality and mental health.
Will I ever stop hearing voices?
Some people do stop hearing voices. But many people find that they never go completely. There are lots of things you can try that may help you cope and manage your voices. Finding an approach that works best for you can help you develop a better relationship with them. Many people do this and live happy and fulfilling lives.
Hearing voices and hobbies
James has experienced hearing voices and depression. Watch him talk about how his hobbies have helped him manage his mental health. Content warning: this video includes a brief mention of self-harm methods.
This information was published in November 2022. We will revise it in 2025.
References and bibliography available on request.
If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.