Hearing voices

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.

Theexperience 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.

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 .

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018