Hearing voices is an incredibly difficult experience. And it’s one of those experiences that can’t be explained if you’ve never experienced it. Although there are some tools to use that can mimic what it’s like for those who want to know what it feels like, the great difficulty of the experience can never be fully understood unless you know it yourself.
However, in an effort to describe it, hearing a voice can be similar to the way that most people might hear a voice externally, as though someone were calling you. However, the difference is that it is happening within. The voice has no physical source. Interestingly, although most people haven’t had the experience of hearing voices, it’s common for some who hear their name being called but then look and discover that in fact no one was calling them. Perhaps this might be a close example for the experiences of hearing voices.
There are many ways to hear voices. It might happen as a “voice thought”, engaging you in a conversation. Voices can feel as though they are coming from inside the head, such as a thought or they might feel as though they are coming from within the body. Voices might be talking to you or they might be talking about you. Other voices might be entirely non-verbal, such as images, visions, and even smells, but related to a particular inner spontaneous experience.
Voices can also be experienced like a dream, such as having an experience that feels real but isn’t. Often, when people fall asleep on the job, for instance, and perhaps have a day dream, there might be an experience of reality to it, making it feel like a waking dream.
Sadly, hearing voices can continue to happen all day long, without ever stopping. It could be similar to a song that is replaying over and over again in your mind. You did not ever make the decision to play that song in your mind, but perhaps you heard it recently, it is making its appearance. The disruption to your thinking that the song creates can be similar to the discomfort that voices can have.
In fact, hearing voices can become so severe that it can lead to drinking or drug use. It can lead to the need to escape from one’s own mind, and as a response, drug use is a common answer. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, those who have schizophrenia are much more likely to have a substance abuse addiction than the general population. Yet, at times it can be difficult to tell the difference between those with schizophrenia and those who are affected by alcohol or drugs because those who abuse drugs can show similar symptoms to those who have schizophrenia.
However, instead of using drugs or trying to drown voices away by drinking, the following are some helpful tips, provided by the Mental Health Foundation, on how to manage the voices you might be hearing:
- Talk to others who hear voices for support.
- Participate in a self-help group with others who hear voices.
- Talk about your voices with others you trust. This gives you an opportunity to learn the games and tricks that your voices might have.
- Although it is a difficult step to take, try to accept the voices as a part of who you are. This can be the beginning to feel more in control rather than having the voices control you.
- If you have a voice that is malicious, be sure to connect with others who hear voices so that you’re not alone. You can discover ways to structure the voices so that they do not feel as invasive. More importantly, learning how to manage negative voices can keep you safe and away from engaging in risky behavior that the voice might prompt you do engage in.
- Continue to talk with family and friends that you trust. As they come to accept the fact that hearing voices is a part of an illness, they can be supportive versus judgmental. Sharing what you learn about hearing voices with them can also earn their trust and support.
Drinking and drug use isn’t going to make your internal experience any better. In fact, it might only worsen the negative feelings and thoughts you have. The above are tips to use to manage any voices you hear safely and effectively.
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