What is it like to live with voices?
Although your experience of living with voices will be unique to you, this section explores some situations, questions and feelings you might recognise.
Your relationship with your voices
You may have different feelings about your voices at different times in your life – or even at different times of the day or week. You might:
- find your voices comforting, helpful or even funny
- find your voices frightening and want them to stop
- find you hear some voices that you like and other voices that cause you problems
- worry that you are the only one who hears the sort of voices that you hear
- not be sure whether other people have these experiences too.
Often voices are a problem because of your relationship with them rather than just because you hear them. Thinking about your relationship with your voices can help you work out what (if anything) you want to do about them.
See our pages on managing your voices and treatment for more information about the support available.
What if I like my voices?
Some people can find hearing voices a positive experience. Your voices might be friendly and supportive. You may welcome them and miss them if they stopped. They might make you feel better or encourage you during difficult times.
Can my voice be my friend?
It isn’t always easy to work out whether your voices want the best for you or not. They might feel friendly but tell you to do things that make it harder for you to look after yourself or live the life you want. If your voice feels comforting it can be hard to recognise that they might be manipulative or harmful.
“I first started hearing voices when I was developing my anorexia. My voices were my best friend. I thought she just wanted the best for me… she was extremely manipulative and whatever she said I would do.”
Difficult experiences of voices
You might find your experience of hearing voices quite difficult, for different reasons.
My voices are harder to deal with at specific times
- You might only hear voices at certain times. This might be every day (for example, at mealtimes) or at certain times of year (for example, at the anniversary of a particular event or experience).
- You may only hear voices in certain places. For example, you might hear voices when you leave the house or when you go to a place which you associate with stress or trauma.
- You may find your voices are louder and more frequent when you feel stressed.
This may mean you avoid certain places or experiences – or find them very difficult.
I don’t feel able to control my voices
- You may feel that your voices are controlling you or stopping you from doing things that you would really like to do.
- Your voices might interrupt your thoughts and make it very difficult to concentrate or hold a conversation.
“I had an interview .. I left the house and the whispering started, growing steadily louder until I eventually fled home drenched in sweat and absolutely terrified.”
I feel threatened or upset by my voices
Your voices might:
- be unkind to you, and criticise and undermine you
- tell you to do things that are wrong
- demand that you hurt yourself.
These experiences are likely to make you upset, scared or angry. You might feel you deserve to be shouted at and that it’s difficult to stand up to anyone.
Talking to other people
It can be hard to talk about hearing voices. The way other people react can make a big difference to your experience.
You may feel about to cope with your voices, but find that other people’s reactions are more of a problem, or you might feel you need to hide what your voices say or how often you hear them altogether.
“I didn’t want to talk about it because that would somehow make it more real.”
You might find that other people:
- give your voices meanings or assume that your voices mean you are seriously ill
- don’t mind about your voices and accept them as part of who you are
- don’t understand what hearing voices is like, which can be frustrating.
It may be easier to talk about your voices if you choose someone who you trust and feel comfortable with. If you are worried about their reaction you could show them this information.
Unfortunately some people have misconceptions about what it means to hear voices. They might think that hearing voices means you are dangerous or very unwell. This can be really upsetting, especially if the people who feel this way are family, friends or colleagues.
It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone and you don’t have to put up with people treating you badly.