Shut the hell up!- coping with voices
By: Heryani Jamaludin
What are auditory hallucinations?
This article explains why people hears voices and how to cope. People generally do not hear voices. People who suffer from schizophrenia or psychosis hearing human voices is not unusual. The state of hearing voices is called auditory hallucinations and is usually a symptom or one of the symptoms of a psychiatric condition. These symptoms are also called positive symptoms in the sense that it is something “extra” that the person is experiencing. If a person suffers from schizophrenia and hears voices one would say that he has positive symptoms. If he withdraws and becomes mute then one would say he has negative symptoms.
They come when I’m stressed at work. I would take an extra pill and go to sleep. When I wake up , I feel better.
The nature of auditory hallucinations
Voices may come anytime during the day, the voices may come from inside the head or outside as if someone is speaking to that person. It can be a man, woman or even a child’s voice; the sufferer may know or not know the owner of the voices. It may be one person talking or a few persons talking to the person with mental illness or talking to each other about that person.
Some voices say funny things and can make the sufferer laugh. Some voices praise the person with the mental illness or say good things. Yet some voices will say random things or even say rude words and make the person feel uncomfortable.
Voices that talk to each other may make derogatory remarks about or to the person with mental illness. The voice or voices may also tell the sufferer to do bad things for example: kill himself or kill others. Auditory hallucination can be entertaining but at other times it can cause a lot of distress to the sufferer.
The effects of auditory hallucinations
A person who hears voices can usually manage his symptoms but constant hearing of voices can be distracting and renders the person who suffers from this symptom unable to concentrate and complete tasks. Constant rude comments or outrageous instructions can make the person be self conscious to the point of being paranoid or have low self esteem.
Sometimes the person with mental illness responds to the voices by talking to it- especially when the voices say nice things, crack jokes or are just funny. To the casual observer that person is seen talking or laughing to himself. At the best of times this behaviour when seen in public may seem odd but to some it can be unsettling.
Measuring auditory hallucinations
From a therapist’s perspective helping your client talk about his voices will help you understand your client’s symptoms and inform you of future interventions. Make notes of the following: the onset (what time of day ), trigger, frequency, duration, intensity ( loud or soft, how many people) and the content ( what is being said). It is also important to explore how your client feels about the voices, what do the voices mean to him and how does it impact his lifestyle if at all.
Managing auditory hallucinations
Some antipsychotics prescribed by a doctor for example, risperidone can expunge or reduce the auditory hallucinations and enable the person to live a relatively “peaceful” life. But some medication have side effects and not everyone is willing to take medication. Below is a list of actions that can be taken to manage hearing voices:
- Set aside a specific time of day for you to listen to your voices
- Tell the voices : “ Not now . I will listen to you later”
- Engage in calming activities: painting, drawing, yoga or reading ( if you can concentrate)
- Talk to someone about your voices and what it means to you
- Write down what the voices say
- Respond to the voices ( best you do this in private )- Please do not act on the nasty commands
- Share your coping strategies with others
- Practice meditation or mindfulness
- Take your prescribed medication and discuss with your doctor of its effectiveness
- Listen to calming music especially if you want to rest
Auditory hallucinations or hearing voices is a symptom of a psychiatric condition. It is a common symptom and many people are managing it well. Many people who hears voices have got it down to fine art in terms of management either with or without medication. If you are hearing voices talk to a health professional to explore your personal coping strategy.