Mental health professionals usually define hearing voices as a symptom of medical illness. Hearing voices can be a very disturbing experience, both for the person who hears voices and family and friends. It can be overwhelming, making it very hard for the voice hearer to manage their life. However, many people who hear voices are able to live with them and may consider them a positive part of their lives, coping with them without psychiatric intervention.
Hearing voices is considered an auditory hallucination and a symptom of conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dementia and psychosis. It is not uncommon for recently bereaved people to hear voices and this may sometimes be the voice of their loved one. There are many different ways to hear voices. It may be one voice or many voices. The voice may talk to you, or about you. Voices can be like dreams – a waking dream that is experienced as real. For voice hearers, the voices might be present all day and prevent them from doing things in their daily lives. Voices may threaten to punish the voice hearer if they don't do what the voice wants them to do. People who hear voices may not feel able to talk about them and may become isolated and withdrawn. To assist voice hearers, mental health professionals need to find out which frames of reference and coping strategies seem to be the most useful to the voice hearer. By doing so, voice hearers can be supported more effectively in their attempts to deal with their experiences.
Read the NHS self-help guide to Hearing Voices