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Explains what it is 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.
Although your experience of living with voices will be unique to you, this page explores some situations, questions and feelings you might recognise.
You may have different feelings about your voices at different times in your life - or even at different times of the day or week. You might:
Often voices are a problem because of your relationship with them rather than just because you hear them. Thinking about your relationship with your voices can help you work out what (if anything) you want to do about them.
Some people can find hearing voices a positive experience. Your voices might be friendly and supportive. You may welcome them and miss them if they stopped. They might make you feel better or encourage you during difficult times.
It isn't always easy to work out whether your voices want the best for you or not. They might feel friendly but tell you to do things that make it harder for you to look after yourself or live the life you want. If your voice feels comforting it can be hard to recognise that they might be manipulative or harmful.
"I first started hearing voices when I was developing my anorexia. My voices were my best friend. I thought she just wanted the best for me... she was extremely manipulative and whatever she said I would do."
Watch Lilith talk about how hearing voices lead them to commit arson and how a local paper's disclosure of their mental health problems made them confront their problems at a very difficult time and before they were ready.
You might find your experience of hearing voices quite difficult:
This may mean you avoid certain places or experiences – or find them very difficult.
"I had an interview .. I left the house and the whispering started, growing steadily louder until I eventually fled home drenched in sweat and absolutely terrified."
Your voices might:
These experiences are likely to make you upset, scared or angry. You might feel you deserve to be shouted at and that it's difficult to stand up to anyone.
It can be hard to talk about hearing voices. The way other people react can make a big difference to your experience.
You may feel about to cope with your voices, but find that other people’s reactions are more of a problem, or you might feel you need to hide what your voices say or how often you hear them altogether.
"I didn't want to talk about it because that would somehow make it more real."
You might find that other people:
It may be easier to talk about your voices if you choose someone who you trust and feel comfortable with. If you are worried about their reaction you could show them this information.
Unfortunately some people have misconceptions about what it means to hear voices. They might think that hearing voices means you are dangerous or very unwell. This can be really upsetting, especially if the people who feel this way are family, friends or colleagues.
It's important to remember that you aren't alone and you don't have to put up with people treating you badly.
See our page on stigma and misconceptions for lots of ideas on how to deal with stigma.
This information was published in October 2018. We will revise it in 2021.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.