Hearing voices

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.

Your stories

Laura: My voices and me

Laura talks about hearing voices and the journey that led her to help others.


Posted on 10/05/2017

He/ She/ They/ It

In the first part of Lilith's blog, they share their experience of gender identity and hearing voices.

Lilith
Posted on 20/07/2015

Schizoaffective disorder and Me

Charlotte talks about her journey with Schizoaffective disorder from when she was 14 years old.


Posted on 24/05/2017

What treatments are available?

If your voices are a problem, for example if they are causing you distress or affecting your day to day life, you might want to seek medical treatment. This page covers:

How can I access treatment?

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 or psychiatrist may see your voices as a result of an illness and prescribe medication and other treatment.

Your GP should always check to that there are no physical reasons why you are hearing voices before you are prescribed medication or referred 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 sort 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.

Talking therapies

There are different types of talking therapies but they are all designed to give you space to explore difficult feelings and experiences with a trained professional.

See our pages on talking therapies for more information on how they work and how to access them.

Type of talking treatment How it might help with voices
Psychotherapy

A psychotherapist may be able to help you:

  • identify why the voices say what they say
  • think about what makes you hear voices
  • find better ways of coping with them
  • learn to control your voices.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Can help you deal with how the voices make you feel and think about yourself without always going into the underlying reasons for them. CBT may help you:

  • reduce your anxiety about the voices
  • help you stand up to them
  • help you gain control over your voices.

See our pages on CBT for more information.

You may be offered a type of CBT for psychosis call CBTp - although this is not usually used to treat hearing voices specifically. CBTp helps you to think about the beliefs you have about your voices and how these beliefs affect your experience of hearing voices.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

MBCT is a type of therapy that combines mindfulness and CBT. It may help you:

  • focus on what is happening around you when your voices are distracting you
  • help you manage how you feel about your voices and what has happened to you in the past.

See our pages on mindfulness for more information.

You may also be offered other treatments including arts and creative therapies.

For more information on treatments for specific mental health problems, see our pages on treatments for psychosis, schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder.

Talking therapies work well for me and are essential for improving my coping mechanisms.

Medication

If your voices are very troubling and you have been referred to a psychiatrist, they are likely to prescribe an antipsychotic drug. These drugs may:

  • stop the voices or make them less frightening for you
  • make you feel indifferent to the voices, even though you can still hear them
  • make the voices quieter and less intrusive, so you feel calmer and less upset by them.

Medication may be something you need only in the short term, allowing you to learn other ways of coping with the voices so that you then no longer need drugs.

See our pages on antipsychotics for general information about this type of medication, and details about specific drugs.

Before deciding to take any drug, it's important to make sure you have all the facts you need to make an informed choice.

See our pages on things to consider before taking medication and your right to refuse medication. Our pages on coming off medication also give guidance on how to come off medication safely.

 

Watch David talk about his experience of getting help for hearing voices.

 


This information was published in October 2018. We will revise it in 2021.


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