Hearing voices

Find out about the stigma that some people who hear voices can face.

 Content Editor

​Hearing voices in the mind is the most common type of hallucination in people with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia. The voices can be critical, complimentary or neutral, and may make potentially harmful commands or engage the person in conversation. They may give a running commentary on the person's actions.

Hearing voices is a well-recognised symptom of schizophrenia, dementia or bipolar disorder, but can be unrelated to mental illness.

The experience is usually very distressing, but it's not always negative. Some people who hear voices are able to live with them and get used to them, or may consider them a part of their life. 

It's not uncommon for recently bereaved people to hear voices, and this may sometimes be the voice of their loved one.

How can I deal with stigma?
Unfortunately, not everyone understands mental health problems. Some people may have misconceptions about what certain diagnoses mean. They may also use language you find dismissive, offensive or hurtful. This can be very upsetting – especially if someone who feels this way is a family member, colleague or a healthcare professional.

But it's important to remember that you aren't alone, and you don’t have to put up with people treating you badly. Here are some options for you to think about:

  • Show people reliable information to help them understand more about what your diagnosis really means. You can find reliable information on Mind's website on types of mental health problems.
  • Get more involved in your treatment
  • Talk about your experience. Sharing your story can help improve people's understanding and change their attitudes, get in touch with us: communications@nwbh.nhs.uk
  • Get involved in our campaign which was set up to end stigma and discrimination towards mental health problems.
Practical advice
If you're hearing voices, discuss any concerns you have with your GP. If necessary, they'll refer you to a psychiatrist. This is important in determining whether you have a serious mental illness.

There's no shame in seeing a psychiatrist, and it's important to be thoroughly assessed and treated early. If your voices are due to schizophrenia, the earlier your treatment is started, the better the outcome.
You may also find the following advice helpful:
  • talk to other voice hearers – the Hearing Voices Network is a UK-based charity that can give you help and support, and put you in touch with other people in a similar situation to you
  • be open to discussing your voices
  • try to understand where the voices come from, why and what triggers them
The Mental Health Foundation has more information and practical advice about how to deal with hearing voices.