Health Magazine

Guest Post: Living With Voices

By Rohan @rohanforsale

Today I am proud to welcome back Eve who is guest blogging on The 7 Things today. Eve’s post is about those who experience hearing voices and effective ways to deal with them in a positive and healing manner.

Living with the Voices

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Suddenly starting to hear voices in your head can be a terrifying experience and the immediate thought is likely to be schizophrenia; in actual fact around 5 to 15 per cent of the population will hear voices at some time in their lives and sometimes there may be no other symptoms of mental illness at all. The voices can be friendly or threatening, calm or aggressive and the tone can change over time. Often, but not always, the hearing of voices can start after a traumatic event in the hearer’s life. Although there is sadly still a stigma attached to mental illness, and perhaps in particular to schizophrenia, ideas about how people who hear voices should learn to live with them are beginning to change.

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It would be irresponsible to suggest that someone who begins hearing voices for the first time should not seek medical help. The voices can be a symptom of several mental disorders, including but not limited to schizophrenia. Medication is the most common form of treatment for schizophrenia; it is however a notoriously difficult disease to effectively medicate and it can take some time to find the best treatment for an individual. Once prescribed, the medication should be taken diligently; there is no cure for schizophrenia and the medication will have to be taken for the rest of the patient’s life in order to prevent symptoms returning. It should be remembered though that, although one in three people who hear voices do go on to become psychiatric patients, the remaining two in three do not. These two-thirds of voice hearers find they can function well with their voices and are not diagnosed with any mental illness.

(Note from Rohan: Although what Eve says here is true – that there is no known cure for schizophrenia in the psychiatric realm and that sufferers can look forward to a lifetime of medication if they go down that road – I would urge anyone suffering from mental or emotional issues, including hearing voices and schizophrenia, to look into Somatic Experiencing therapies as a supplement or alternative to traditional, medical psychiatry. I have seen it’s effectiveness in healing trauma (the precipitator of many mental and emotional issues) first hand and can highly recommend it. CBT and the support groups Eve recommends can also be of great help! I also should say that anyone currently taking a course of medication should NOT suddenly stop. If you want to come off them consult your doctor and urge them to wean you off slowly)

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Increasingly the idea of voices, not as a symptom of illness, but as a coping mechanism and therefore a useful and positive thing, is gaining popularity. People often find that, as they learn to deal with the emotions around a past traumatic experience, the voices fade, or at least become less negative. Instead of trying to stop the voices, it may be more worthwhile to look at the reasons behind their arrival. Instead of medication, talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be helpful in helping the voice hearer to understand the underlying reasons for their voices. In the past, psychiatrists usually encouraged voice hearers to ignore their voices, believing that by paying attention to what was considered merely a symptom of illness they were likely to fall deeper into mental ill health. Now, it is more widely believed that, by getting to know the voices and understanding the message they are trying to impart, hearers can gain insight into their underlying emotional needs.

For people who are hearing voices, the idea of actually stopping and listening, instead of trying to ignore them, can be simultaneously liberating and frightening.  In order to prevent the hearer from panicking, it can be helpful to give the voices a time limit and concentrate on listening and understanding for that period. Hearers can find it useful to talk back to the voices, to try and communicate with them, in an effort to find out what message they are trying to convey. Finding other people to talk to about the voices is also helpful; it is not always easy to find someone who understands and can accept the voices.  Intervoice is an international support group for the hearers of voices and can offer advice as well as putting people in touch with local groups.

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For thousands of people worldwide, hearing voices has become a part of everyday life. In some cases they report that the voices are a positive experience, offering comfort and advice. In other cases the voices may be abusive. In either case, the key to coexisting with them seems to be understanding and acceptance rather than indiscriminate medication. Suppressing the voices seems a counterproductive strategy, instead of trying to turn them off we should be attempting to tune in to what they are saying. Sometimes the messages may be painful and perhaps not easy to hear but the voices can offer insight into our emotional well-being. By accepting the voices with curiosity, but without fear, we take away their power to harm us and instead grant ourselves the opportunity to allow them to lead us on the path to emotional healing.

Written by freelance writer Eve Pearce. I wish give Eve a big thanks for taking the time to write this helpful and interesting piece for The 7 Things blog!

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