Have/do you hear voices? Does hearing voices affect your day to day life? Here is some useful information you will find helpful.


What is Hearing Voices?

We might say someone is ‘hearing voices’ if you hear a voice when no-one is present with you, or which other people with you cannot hear.

People have many different experiences of hearing voices. Some people don’t mind their voices while others find them frightening and distracting.

It’s common to think that if you hear voices you must have a mental health problem.

But research shows that lots of people hear voices and most of them are not mentally unwell.

It’s a common human experience.

Some people also see things that others can’t see. Others have touch, smell or taste sensations which they can’t explain in everyday ways.

These experiences are called hallucinations.

This does not make it abnormal – it’s just a word for a perception you may have that is not shared by those around you.

There are lots of different ways we all hear voices. You might:

  • Hear your name called when there is no one with you
  • Hear or see things as you are falling asleep
  • Experience the voices as being in your head
  • Feel voices are coming from outside and heard through your ears like other sounds
  • Feel as if you are hearing other people’s thoughts or as if other people can hear your thoughts
  • Experience nasty or threatening voices that tell you to do dangerous and unacceptable things or try to control you
  • Hear a voice that feels friendly but encourages you to do things that might not be good for you
  • Hear a kind supportive voice or a voice that helps you
  • Hear more than one voice and they may talk or argue with each other

Why do I hear voices?

There are lots of reasons why you might hear voices. Here are some of them:

  • Voices as you fall asleep or wake up– these are to do with your brain being partly in a dreaming state. The voice might call your name or say something brief. You might also see strange things or misinterpret things you can see. These experiences usually stop as soon as you are fully awake.
  • Lack of sleep– this can cause you to hear voices or have other sensory experiences that you can’t explain in everyday ways.
  • Hunger– you may hear voices if you are very hungry or if you haven’t eaten much recently.
  • Physical illness– if you have a high temperature and are delirious you may hear voices or see and say strange things.
  • Drugs– you may hear or see things after taking street drugs or as a side effect of some prescribed drugs. You might also have these experiences when you are coming off drugs.
  • Bereavement – if you have recently lost someone very close you may hear them talking to you or feel that they are with you. This experience is very common and some people find it comforting.
  • Abuse or bullying– you may hear the voice of the person who abused you being unkind or threatening or ordering you to harm yourself or do things that you know are wrong. This is especially so if you experienced the abuse in childhood when you had not learned the coping skills you needed to protect yourself.
  • Other traumatic experiences– you may hear voices as a result of other traumas. You may be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Hearing several different voices may be associated with traumatic experiences and with dissociative disorders.
  • Spiritual experiences– some people hear a voice as part of a spiritual experience. This may be a very special experience and one that you feel helps you make sense of your life. Or you may feel as though you are hearing the voice of an evil spirit.
  • Mental health problems– you may hear voices if you experience psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression.


Who Does It Effect?

Any of us can hear voices or hallucinate at any stage in their life. It does not matter what gender, ethnicity or religion you are, we can all do this. It may be a child; it is most likely to happen to a child when they are suffering from a fever. It is very common to happen just before falling asleep or as they are about to wake up. The hallucination may take the form of sounds, or the person may see things that don’t exist, such as moving objects, or a formed image, such as a person (the person may think they’ve seen a ghost).

Hearing voices and hallucinations also effect the elderly, this most commonly is down to mental health issues but in some cases it is the medication they are on that can cause it. The medication doesn’t only effect the elderly; it can affect anybody who is taking it.

Illegal drugs and alcohol can also make people hallucinate and hear voices. Drugs such as amphetamine, cocaine, LSD or ecstasy can cause this. If suddenly stop taking these drugs or drinking a high level of alcohol you may also start to hallucinate and hear voices.

Facts & Statistics

  • 3 and 10% of the general population hear voices at some point in their lives.
  • Beavan et al (2010) put this figure as high as 13.7%.
  • Studies have found that between four and 10 per cent of people across the world hear voices.
  • Between 70 and 90 cent of people who hear voices do so following traumatic events.
  • Voices can be male, female, without gender, child, adult, human or non-human.
  • People may hear one voice or many. Some people report hearing hundreds, although in almost all reported cases, one dominates above the others.
  • Voices can be experienced in the head, in the ears, outside the head, in some other part of the body, or in the environment.
  • Voices often reflect important aspects of the hearer’s emotional state – emotions that are often unexpressed by the hearer.
  • Voice hearing is often seen as a prime symptom of psychosis (American Psychiatric Association 1994). Hearing voices (auditory hallucinations) is considered a first rank symptom of the specific psychosis of schizophrenia (Schneider, 1959). There are three main psychiatric categories of patients that hear voices; schizophrenia (around 50%); affective psychosis (around 25%) and dissociative disorders (around 80%) (Honig et al., 1998).
  • However, hearing voices in itself is not a symptom of an illness, but is apparent in 2 – 4 % of the population, some research gives higher estimates and even more people (about 8%) have so called “peculiar personal convictions”, that are sometimes called “delusions”, and do so without being ill. Many people who hear voices find them helpful or benevolent (Romme & Escher, 1993). In a large study of 15,000 people it was found that there was a prevalence of 2.3% who had heard voices frequently and this contrasts with the 1% prevalence of schizophrenia (Tien, 1991).
  • Bentall and Slade (1985) found that as many as 15.4% of a population of 150 male students were prepared to endorse the statement ‘In the past I have had the experience of hearing a person’s voice and then found that no one was there’. They add: no less that 17.5% of the [subjects] were prepared to score the item “I often hear a voice speaking my thoughts aloud” as “Certainly Applies”. This latter item is usually regarded as a first-rank symptom of schizophrenia …’
  • Whilst one in three people who hear voices become a psychiatric patient – two in three people can cope well and are in no need of psychiatric care. No diagnosis can be given because these 2 out of 3 people who hear voices are quite healthy and function well. It is very significant that in our society there are more people who hear voices who have never been psychiatric patients than there are people who hear voices and become psychiatric patients. (Romme & Escher, 2001). Green and McCreery (1975) found that 14% of their 1800 self-selected subjects reported a purely auditory hallucination, and of these nearly half involved the hearing of articulate or inarticulate human speech sounds. An example of the former would be the case of an engineer facing a difficult professional decision, who, while sitting in a cinema, heard a voice saying, ‘loudly and distinctly’: ‘You can’t do it you know’. He adds: ‘It was so clear and resonant that I turned and looked at my companion who was gazing placidly at the screen […] I was amazed and somewhat relieved when it became apparent that I was the only person who had heard anything.’
  • This case would be an example of what Posey and Losch (1983) call ‘hearing a comforting or advising voice that is not perceived as being one’s own thoughts’. They estimated that approximately 10% of their population of 375 American college students had had this type of experience.
  • Brain imaging has confirmed that voice hearers do experience a sound as if there were a real person talking to them (Shergill, Brammer, Williams, Murray, & McGuire, 2000).
  • In a study by Honig and others (1998), of the differences between non-patient and patients hearing voices, it was not in form but content. In other words, the non-patients heard voices both inside and outside their head as did the patients but either the content was positive or the hearer had a positive view of the voice and felt in control of it. By contrast the patient group were more frightened of the voices and the voices were more critical (malevolent) and they felt less control over them (Honig et al, 1998).
  • Psychiatry in our western culture unjustly identifies hearing voices with schizophrenia. Going to a psychiatrist with hearing voices gives you an 80% chance of getting a diagnosis of schizophrenia (Romme & Escher 2001).
  • Conventional approaches in psychiatry to the problem of voice hearing have been to ignore the meaning of the experience for the voice hearer and concentrate on removing the symptoms (audio hallucinations) by the use of physical means such as medication (Romme & Escher, 1989). Although antipsychotic medication is helpful to some sufferers of psychosis (Fleischhaker, 2002), there is a significant proportion (30 per cent) that still experience the ‘symptoms’ such as hearing voices despite very high doses of injected antipsychotic (Curson, Barnes, Bamber, & Weral, 1985).
  • Further anti-psychotic medication prevents the emotional processing and therefore healing, of the meaning of the voices (Romme & Escher, 2000).
  • Traditional practice in behavioural psychology concentrated on either distracting the patient or ignoring references by the patient to the voice hearing experience, with the hope that the patient would concentrate on ‘real’ experiences, which would then be positively reinforced (the assumption being that the voice hearing was a delusional belief). The effect of this approach is to discourage the discussion about the voice hearing experience but without eradicating it (P.D.J. Chadwick, Birchwood, & Trower, 1996).
  • In research concerning people who hear voices it was found that 77% of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia the hearing of voices was related to traumatic experiences. These traumatic experiences varied from being sexually abused, physically abused, being extremely belittled over long periods from young age, being neglected during long periods as a youngster, being very aggressively treated in marriage, not being able to accept one’s sexual identity, etc (Romme & Escher 2006)
  • Hearing voices in itself is not related to the illness of schizophrenia. In population research only 16% of the whole group of voice hearers can be diagnosed with schizophrenia. (Romme & Escher 2001)
  • The prognosis of hearing voices is more positive than generally is perceived. In Sandra Escher’s research with children hearing voices she followed 82 children over a period of four years. In that period 64% of the children’s voices disappeared congruently with learning to cope with emotions and becoming less stressed. In children with whom the voices were psychiatrised and made a part of an illness and not given proper attention, voices did not vanish, but became worse, the development of those children was delayed. (Romme & Escher 2006)

Examples of People Who Hear Voices

“Barrie’s recovery from paranoid schizophrenia”Barrie’s Story



“How I learned to control and silence my aggressive voice”Stuart Cox’s Story



“I talk back to the voices in my head”Dean Smith’s Story



“Communicating with voices”Rachel Waddingham’s Story


All of the above stories were shared from – http://www.hearing-voices.org/voices-visions/personal-experiences/


How Can it be Treated?

The AOC can help you if you hear voices. We are HCPC (Health & Care Professions Council) registered and also members of BACP (The British Association of Dramatherapists). We have a team of highly skilled, professional counsellors and associate therapists to help you through with the use of creative art therapies.


Creative art therapies involve using arts in a therapeutic environment with a trained therapist. You do not need to have any artistic skill or previous experience of dance, drama, music or visual art to find arts therapies helpful. The aim isn’t to produce a great work of art, but to use what you create to understand yourself better. In arts therapy, your therapist helps you to create something — such as a piece of music, a drawing, a play or a dance routine — as a way of expressing your feelings, often without using words.


Creative art therapies can be offered in group sessions, one-to-one or with family therapy depending on your own preference. We will match you to our best suited therapist/counsellor to help you with any of your issues. All our counselling is strictly confidential and nothing said in the therapy space will leave the room.


There are many different modalities in which creative arts can be offered to you ranging from the following;


Offers profound reflection on who we are and the roles we play. These art forms are also centrally concerned with how people change people, for better or worse, and the sort of connections they make with each other, e.g. superficial, conflictual, brutal, deadened or deeply enriching. Drama and puppetry can also offer vital insights into ‘situation’: how past situations are still colouring those in the present. Working with puppets is ideal for circumventing a reluctance to speak about feelings.

Sculpture offers a person the power to speak through touch. Its power lies more in the emotional resonance of substance. Sculpture invites a sensual engagement with the world. Clay expresses qualities and forms of feeling, directly, plainly, free of the clutter of any associations of the everyday.

Literal words can misrepresent, underplay, hide rather than reveal and frequently offering only approximations to any recalled experience. In poetry as a multi-sensorial form, ‘amplifies the music of what happens’ (Seamus Heaney). ‘A poetic basis of mind’ (Hillman) can lead to a far more profound experience of life.

Clients choose from a whole world of miniature people, animals and buildings and arrange them in the controlled space of the ‘theatre of the sandbox’. This theatre then offers a profound overview of important life issues. Once feelings are organised and externalised in sandplay, they can be contemplated from a distance, and then assimilated.

The dynamic forms in music are recognisable as vital forms of felt life: the rises and falls, the surges and flooding’s, the tensions and intensities, the changes in tempo, the dissonances, harmonies and resolutions. We know these forms intimately in our emotional experiencing. Music can convey the full qualitative and energetic aspects of an important relationship, atmosphere crucial event, or ongoing situation.

Forms encapture the complex inter-relations between time, weight, space, flow. We know these forms intimately in our emotional experiencing, so much so that both movement and still pose can provoke all manner of resonance. It is also possible to work with what the body is already communicating symbolically, whether through posture, gesture and gait, or through illness and injury. Movement is integral to the very process of change.



If you would like to receive counselling from The AOC please fill out on of our online referral forms and send to support@theaoc.org.uk You will have a choice of 3 different types of referral forms;

  1. For individuals or couples
  2. Family referral form
  3. Group referral form

Please select the referral form most suited to you i.e. if you would like group therapy, fill out the group referral form.

Simply click the following link to find out more information and complete one of our referral forms:


We provide our clients with high-quality, evidence based expertise in the form of personal therapy and counselling. To help anyone suffering with any type of eating disorder.

Here is an example of a creative art therapy from The AOC in more detail;


Dramatherapy is a form of psychological therapy/psychotherapy in which all of the performance arts are utilised within the therapeutic relationship. Dramatherapy addresses a wide range of personal and emotional difficulties. Clients who are referred to a dramatherapist do not need to have previous experience or skill in acting, theatre or drama. Dramatherapists are trained to enable clients to find the most suitable medium for them to engage in group or individual therapy to address and resolve, or make troubling issues more bearable. Dramatherapists work in a wide variety of settings with people of all ages:

  • in schools
  • in mental health
  • in general health and social care settings
  • in prisons
  • in hospices
  • in the voluntary sector
  • in private practice

Dramatherapists are both artists and clinicians and draw on their trainings in theatre, drama and therapy to create methods to engage clients in effecting psychological, emotional and social changes.  The therapy gives equal validity to body and mind within the dramatic context; stories, myths, play-texts, puppetry, masks and improvisation are examples of the range of artistic interventions a dramatherapist may employ.  These will enable the client to explore difficult and painful life experiences through a creative-expressive approach. Dramatherapists are trained in both psychological and arts-specific assessment and evaluation techniques. They are committed to generating practice-based evidence and deliver sound evidence-based practice.

The British Association of Dramatherapists (BADth)


We can also offer our clients integrative counselling;

Integrative Counselling

Integrative therapy, or integrative counselling is a combined approach to psychotherapy that brings together different elements of specific therapies. Integrative therapists take the view that there is no single approach that can treat each client in all situations. Each person needs to be considered as a whole and counselling techniques must be tailored to their individual needs and personal circumstances. 

Integrative counselling maintains the idea that there are many ways in which human psychology can be explored and understood – no one theory holds the answer. All theories are considered to have value, even if their foundational principles contradict each other – hence the need to integrate them. 

The integrative approach also refers to the infusion of a person’s personality and needs – integrating the affective, behavioural, cognitive, and physiological systems within one person, as well as addressing social and spiritual aspects. Essentially, integrative counsellors are not only concerned with what works, but why it works – tailoring therapy to their clients and not the client to the therapy.

Top Health Tips

  1. Get Creative – Writing about, drawing or sculpting what you see and hear can be helpful to get a handle on your experiences. It can also help distract you away from the voices. You can develop your creative potential and gain a sense of achievement. It can also be very relaxing.
  2. Music – This is a popular coping strategy. Different styles of music can be helpful or unhelpful to different individuals. Learn what you find the most therapeutic. Some people have found that listening to music whilst wearing headphones can be a useful distraction from voices.
  3. Reward & Celebrate – Reward yourself with some helpful treat each time you take control. When voices become less frequent people can find they are left with a void to fill. When this happens you can become anxious. The anxiety can invite the voices back. Be aware of these times, think positively, stay in control and use your social supports.
  4. Use Stepping Stones – Set small goals to start with, such as getting out for a certain amount of time each day. Remember to reward yourself for your progress.
  5. Take Care of Yourself – Taking a regular bath or shower can be very therapeutic. This can be a challenge for some people when they are feeling low but it can be a great way to pamper yourself. Try playing relaxing music when in the bath.
  6. Don’t Listen to What They Tell You – If negative this can be difficult and takes a lot of determination, but you don’t have to believe or do what the voices tell you. Be aware that sometimes the voices become nastier and more persistent when you stand up to them. This can be a sign they know their days are numbered.
  7. Contact us – The AOC can help your overcome and put a stop to the sexual abuse you may be experiencing/experienced. Call or email us: 01384 211 168 / support@theaoc.org.uk