What treatments are available?
If your voices are a problem, for example if they are causing you distress or affecting your day to day life, you might want to seek medical treatment.
How can I access treatment?
The first place to go is normally your GP. They may refer you to a psychiatrist who may give you a diagnosis and treatment. Your GP or psychiatrist may see your voices as a result of an illness and prescribe medication and other treatment.
Your GP should always check that there are no physical reasons why you are hearing voices before you are prescribed medication or referred to a psychiatrist. For example, they should check:
- that you don’t have a high temperature and you’re not delirious
- if it’s a side effect of any medication you’re taking.
Different doctors may have different approaches. Our page on seeking help in Hong Kong has information on what to expect when speaking to different mental health professionals.
You might find getting a diagnosis is a positive experience because:
- you find that a diagnosis helps you make sense of your experiences
- you feel like you have support in place to help you when things are difficult.
However, you may find this sort of support more challenging because:
- seeing your voices as something to be ‘treated’ may make you feel powerless to control or manage your voices yourself
- being diagnosed with a mental health problem may make you feel worried, as though you can never recover.
There are different types of talking therapies but they are all designed to give you space to explore difficult feelings and experiences with a trained professional.
See our pages on talking therapies for more information on how they work and how to access them.
|Type of talking treatment||How it might help with voices|
|Psychotherapy||A psychotherapist may be able to help you:
|Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)||
Can help you deal with how the voices make you feel and think about yourself without always going into the underlying reasons for them.
CBT may help you:
See our pages on CBT for more information.
You may be offered a type of CBT for psychosis called CBTp – although this is not usually used to treat hearing voices specifically. CBTp helps you to think about the beliefs you have about your voices and how these beliefs affect your experience of hearing voices.
|Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)||MBCT is a type of therapy that combines mindfulness and CBT. It may help you:
See our pages on mindfulness for more information.
You may also be offered other treatments including arts and creative therapies.
“Talking therapies work well for me and are essential for improving my coping mechanisms.”
If your voices are very troubling and you have been referred to a psychiatrist, they are likely to prescribe an antipsychotic drug. These drugs may:
- stop the voices or make them less frightening for you
- make you feel indifferent to the voices, even though you can still hear them
- make the voices quieter and less intrusive, so you feel calmer and less upset by them.
Medication may be something you need only in the short term, allowing you to learn other ways of coping with the voices so that you then no longer need drugs.
See our pages on antipsychotics for general information about this type of medication, and details about specific drugs.
Before deciding to take any drug, it’s important to make sure you have all the facts you need to make an informed choice.
See our pages on things to consider before taking medication and your right to refuse medication. Our pages on coming off medication also give guidance on how to come off medication safely.
How can other people help?
This section is for family or friends who want to support someone who is hearing voices.
If someone you care about hears voices you might find it hard to understand what they are experiencing. You might not know how to help. But there are lots of positive things you can do to support them.
- Accept that their experience of the voices is real. Everyone will have a unique experience of hearing voices and will think about their voices in different ways. You can help by accepting their experience as real – even if you find it hard to understand.
- Try not to make judgments about what hearing voices means for them. Some people don’t talk about their voices because they are worried their friends and family won’t understand or will assume they are seriously ill.
- Learn their triggers. Learn more about whether there are particular situations or experiences that trigger their voices.
- Remember they are still the same person. Hearing voices doesn’t change who they are.
“My family and friends didn’t judge me which I think made it a lot easier for me to deal with.”
- Ask them what would help. Avoid making assumptions about what they find difficult. Different people want different support at different times. Sometimes the best thing to do can be to ask them what, if anything, you can do to help.
- Reassure them that they are not alone. Lots of people who hear voices don’t realise that other people do too. It can also help to reassure them that hearing voices does not necessarily mean that they are ill. There are lots of reasons why people hear voices.
- Encourage them to talk about their experience. They may want to talk to you or to a doctor, support worker or other people who hear voices.
“Eventually I did confide in one of my closest friends. He told me without any drama that it was a fairly normal reaction to a highly stressful situation.”
- Learn more about the experience of hearing voices and help challenge stigma. Our pages why do I hear voices and what it’s like to live with voices might be a good place to start.
- Help them seek treatment and support if they want it. See our page on how to support someone to seek help for more information. But remember that not everyone who hears voices will want or need, to seek treatment or support.
Take care of yourself. Your mental health is important too and looking after someone else could put a strain on your wellbeing. You can find out more about looking after yourself in our pages on coping while supporting someone else, managing stress and maintaining your wellbeing.