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.
The first place to go is normally your GP. They may refer you to a psychiatrist who may give you a diagnosis and treatment.
Your GP should always check if you could be hearing voices for a physical reason. They should do this before they prescribe any medication or refer you to a psychiatrist. For example, they should check:
- That you don't have a high temperature and you're not delirious
- If it's a side effect of any medication you're taking
Different doctors may have different approaches. Our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem have information on how to make sure your voice is heard. And what you can do if you're not happy with your doctor.
You might find getting a diagnosis is a positive experience because:
- You find that a diagnosis helps you make sense of your experiences
- You feel like you have support in place to help you when things are difficult
However, you may find this kind of support more challenging because:
- Seeing your voices as something to be 'treated' may make you feel powerless to control or manage your voices yourself
- Being diagnosed with a mental health problem may make you feel worried, as though you can never recover
There are different types of talking therapies. They're all designed to give you space to explore difficult feelings and experiences with a trained professional.
A therapist may be able to help you:
- Explore why the voices say what they say
- Think about what might trigger your voices or make them harder to cope with
- Find better ways of coping with them
- Learn to manage your voices
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
CBT will focus less on why you're hearing voices. It will focus more on how the voices make you feel or think about yourself, and how they affect your life. CBT may help you:
- Reduce your distress about the voices
- Reduce the impact the voices have on your daily life
- Identify things that might trigger your voices
- Help you gain more power or control over your voices
See our pages on CBT for more information.
You may be offered a type of CBT for psychosis called CBTp - although this is less likely to be used to treat hearing voices specifically. CBTp may help you think about the beliefs you have about your voices and how these beliefs affect your experience of hearing voices.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)
ACT is a type of therapy that uses mindfulness and acceptance skills to help you deal with difficult experiences. It may help you find more helpful ways to react to your voices.
CFT is a type of therapy that combines mindfulness and self-compassion skills to improve wellbeing. It may help you understand your voices and how they are linked to things that have happened to you.
ACT and CFT are both available on the NHS. But they're only available in some parts of the country and can be hard to access. They're also both available privately, but this can be expensive.
Understanding Voices have more information on ACT and CFT.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
MBCT is a type of therapy that combines mindfulness and CBT. It may help you:
- Move your focus onto other things instead of your voices
- Separate yourself from your voices
- Take notice of and name your voices
- Manage how you feel about your voices
- Accept your voices
- Spend less time worrying about what your voices mean
Some mindfulness-based therapies may be available on the NHS, but this varies across the country and waiting lists can be long.
See our pages on mindfulness for more information.
Talking therapies work well for me and are essential for improving my coping mechanisms.
If your voices are very troubling and you have been referred to a psychiatrist, they may prescribe an antipsychotic drug. These drugs may:
- Stop the voices or reduce how often you hear them
- Make the voices less frightening and more manageable
- Make you feel less bothered by the voices, even though you can still hear them
- Make the voices quieter and less intrusive so you feel calmer and less distracted by them
Medication may only be something you need in the short term, while you learn other ways of coping with the voices.
See our pages on antipsychotics for general information about this type of medication, and details about specific drugs.
You may need to access crisis services if:
- You start to feel very unwell
- You don’t feel that you can keep yourself safe
- Your voices become very distressing and hard to cope with
- Your regular treatment isn't helping
If you feel unable to keep yourself safe, it's important that you seek help quickly.
Crisis services may include:
- Emergency support, such as going to A&E
- Support from a crisis resolution and home treatment (CRHT) team
- Hospital admission
For more information about your options in a crisis, see our pages on crisis services.
Hearing voices and prison
Watch David talk about his experience of getting help for hearing voices.
This information was published in November 2022. We will revise it in 2025.
References and bibliography available on request.
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