Today I have been hearing voices, and my mind is still, even after all my research and self-reflection, coming up with theories as to where the voices may be coming from and who may be causing them, in a desperate attempt to find the source of the voices and make them stop. No matter how unrealistic or ridiculous I think the theories I come up with are I still believe them to be true. I have to remind myself that there is no evidence or logical reasoning to back these theories up, and that I am just hearing voices again; that there will eventually be an answer as to why I hear them. This whole cycle of becoming distracted and feeling harassed by voices, then having to reject my mind’s theories as to where they are coming from and just accept that I hear them, every single day, becomes exhausting. I find that sharing my experiences with others, whether it be online on a voice hearing website or with people close to me I can trust, helps me both emotionally and psychologically. I hope that writing this essay, and sharing how I hear voices, helps someone who is going through a similar situation.–“Hearing Voices: What I Experience,” by Tom (excerpt)
Those of us who hear voices often struggle to make sense of the experience. Beyond the fear and confusion we may feel from the voices themselves, it can be difficult to figure out the “right” way of thinking about the experience. Sometimes, we feel torn between competing explanations – or unable to find any satisfactory explanation at all. In this submission, Tom describes his own process of reflection and how he’s forged an understanding of his voices. Tom considers (and dismisses) many different possibilities with care and curiosity, ultimately building a tentative case for the root causes of his experiences. As Tom reminds us in this thorough and insightful essay, having the space to fully explore the personal significance of our experiences is invaluable.
Hearing Voices: What I Experience
I am writing this essay for the purpose of sharing with people what I have been experiencing every day, which is the hearing of voices that others around me do not, in an attempt to help anyone who, like me, struggles with and has to cope with hearing voices. My name is Tom, I’m 29 years old, and I have been hearing voices every day for at least the past six to twelve months. At this point in time, I have had numerous sessions with a mental health counsellor, but I have not yet been able to see a psychiatrist. Therefore, I have not been diagnosed with any type of mental illness. When searching on the internet about hearing voices, I found that many other people seem to deal with the same experiences I do. Reading about others’ experiences did, and does, help me to not feel so alone in the situation, and also has inspired me to write about how I hear voices. Reading about others’ experiences gives me some relief, as I can see that I am not the only one who has to deal with hearing voices every day that no one else can hear, and that I cannot explain rationally. At this point in my life while writing this essay, I am still hearing voices every day, throughout the day, and trying to find ways that will help me to hear the voices less, as well as to eventually not hear them at all, seems overwhelming at times. I truly hope this essay can have a positive impact on anyone who has to endure consistent and/or every day experiences hearing voices.
Understanding what I experience: What the voices say
The first section of this essay deals specifically with what exactly I experience in terms of what I hear the voices say and/or what the voices say to me. I would like to mention that I have pondered many theories as to where I think the voices are coming from, and besides the implication that I may suffer from an undiagnosed mental illness, none of the theories I come up with are consistent or rational in my opinion. Also, the voices I hear suggest many different possibilities and scenarios as to where they are coming from, which causes me to feel progressively frustrated and confused.
In this section, I will explain what I am hearing the voices say in point form. I feel it will be easier for me to describe what I am hearing in this format, as well as easier for the reader in terms of organization and interpretation.
- I start hearing the voices almost as soon as I wake up; I stop hearing the voices close to when I’m falling asleep
- The voices are sometimes one person, and sometimes multiple people; the voices can be male or female
- The voices can be someone I know/have known/have never met
- The voices insult me
- The voices criticize me
- The voices mock me
- The voices harass me
- The voices suggest I move out of my house and leave my neighbourhood; leave Canada (country I live in); become homeless; “go to jail”
- The voices threaten me with violence or death
- The voices make comments implying they’re my neighbours
- The voices make comments implying they’re criminals watching/stalking me
- The voices make comments implying they’re ghosts or some sort of supernatural phenomenon
- The voices make comments implying they’re a non-immediate member of my family
- The voices imply that they are a part of an effort by a family/group/organization of people who are committed to ruining my reputation/“out to get me”
- The voices imply it’s my fault that they are harassing me; that they are punishing me for something I’ve done; that retribution is the reasoning behind their efforts
- The voices imply that they are of a greater power; that there is nothing I can do or that I’m not capable of stopping them
- The voices imply that they know everything about my past/personal life
- The voices frequently harass me over embarrassing or negative moments I’ve had in my life
- The voices frequently tell lies and make false accusations/assumptions that aren’t accurate
- The voices make comments insinuating that they are actively stalking me/are consistently watching and studying me
- The voices comment on my current surroundings as if they’re watching me; they make comments as if they want me to know that they’re watching me
- Based on their comments, the voices seem to have conflicting feelings about me sharing my experiences hearing voices with others. Their comments at times will sound confident as if they’re not worried about it, even mocking me about it, but at times they imply they’re annoyed/frustrated/exhausted of the idea
- The voices imply the sharing of my experiences hearing them might get them into trouble; they will also imply that they are not scared of getting into trouble or that they are confident they will not get caught. Ex. “nothing he can do about it”, “no way of proving it”, “nothing you can do about it”, “I don’t care, he can’t prove it”
- The voices comment on my computer usage and what I’m searching on the internet, as well as changes I’ve made to online accounts
- The voices want me to think (most of the time) that they are living, breathing human beings who are actively watching/spying/stalking me, but have also at times responded to my thoughts as if they are psychic
How it feels to experience what I am experiencing
I find it difficult to sum up how exactly hearing voices every day makes me feel, as they can make me feel numerous different emotions. A way in which I can try to describe how they make me feel is that the voices I hear are always negative, therefore causing me to feel negative emotions. Hearing these voices everyday makes me feel helpless, frustrated, confused, sad, depressed, anxious, scared, embarrassed, angry, and at times even vengeful. One theory I have as to where the voices are coming from, which suggests that the people closest to me (family, friends, neighbours, co-workers, etc.) are actually well aware of “who is behind all of this”, leads me to feel like I cannot trust anyone. Whether or not I believe this theory to be true, the insinuation itself makes me feel helpless, sad, and uncomfortable. My theory that some random person/group of people is making me hear these voices as their way of victimizing me, conjures negative feelings that are more aggressive in nature; as if there could eventually be some sort of a dangerous confrontation, and that maybe I will have no choice but to defend myself. Another theory I have, in which an individual I’ve known in the past is doing this to me as some sort of a cyber prank, or that this is their insidious way of taking revenge on me, leaves me feeling anxious and frustrated. What about experiences I have in which the voices seem to be able to read and respond to my thoughts; am I experiencing something supernatural? At this point in time there is no proof anyone is out to harm me, and I personally don’t know if I believe in any supernatural theories. All this theorizing is not enjoyable for me; it just leaves me feeling embarrassed and depressed because it seems that for now, I just don’t have the answers.
Someone I recently contacted in the voice hearing community wisely reminded me that sharing my experiences hearing voices might help another voice hearer to not feel so alone in their own situation, which is what I am hoping to accomplish with this essay, as I believe that feelings of loneliness are ever present when a person hears things that others around them do not.
How I feel about other people knowing I hear voices
Sharing with other people what I am experiencing in terms of hearing voices can be uncomfortable to say the least. I’ve been told that what I’m hearing is actually a misinterpretation of natural or present sounds; that my brain is describing to me “this is what you heard”, when really “what I heard” is the wrong interpretation. For example, I overhear a conversation between two people, and I think I hear them talking about me. When I ask them if they are talking about me, they say that they are not. I do realize that there is always a possibility that the individuals aren’t telling me the truth, but as some voice hearers might agree, it is hard for me to argue that point when I hear voices every day; even, and sometimes especially, when no one else is around me. Why, when I overhear two individuals having a conversation that has nothing to do with me, in which they do not mention me at all, does my brain tell me, “this is what you heard; this is what they said”? Am I just paranoid and as a result making assumptions? In terms of natural or present noise, could I be misinterpreting the sound of voices, for let’s say, the sound of the furnace in my basement? If so, why when I am in the basement where the furnace is situated, and no one else is presently in the house, would my brain misinterpret the noises the furnace makes for verbally abusive comments?
I find myself feeling anxious and embarrassed that people know I hear strange voices that seemingly come out of nowhere; voices that make aggressive and demeaning comments towards me that no one else hears. When those around me do not hear these voices, and they live and work in the same environments as I do, what are they supposed to think of me? Would some people not assume I’ve gone crazy; that maybe I have serious psychological problems? Does anyone believe that I hear voices? Does anyone around me feel they can trust me? Should I not question whether I can trust them? All these questions leave me feeling not only anxious and embarrassed, but scared. What are other people, especially those close to me, going to assume about me? Will I lose, or never gain, their respect? Will people who know I hear voices avoid or ostracize me? Will I miss out on fulfilling opportunities in life because other people don’t trust me?
In my opinion, the negative impact that hearing voices can have on a voice hearer’s social and personal life is not one that should be ignored by someone studying the subject. Logically, a person living with hearing voices everyday can find ways to cope, and can work towards overcoming the stress that comes along with it; maybe even find a way to stop hearing the voices for good. In my experiences so far, I find that hearing voices everyday has been emotionally and psychologically overwhelming. I find it difficult to open up to anyone outside of my immediate family about how I hear voices, let alone what I hear the voices say, and I worry that I may be judged or harassed in certain environments (social gatherings, work, my neighbourhood, etc.) if people find out that I hear voices they cannot. Hearing voices every day has negatively affected my social and personal life, and what I worry about just as much as my psychological and emotional health is what others might assume about me in terms of who I am as a person.
My perception of the voices I hear and what they’re saying
For me personally, the voices I hear are always negative in terms of what they are saying and how they say it. I come up with theories as to what or who I think the voices are, as well as how I am able to even hear them, but as I’ve mentioned none of my theories seem rational or practical. I will theorize that maybe an angry person from my past is hacking into my internet server and is manipulating the speakers in the computer or TV for the purpose of tormenting me, or even to cause me psychological harm. I will theorize that maybe the voices exist because of some supernatural phenomenon that I don’t understand. I will also theorize that the voices come from outside of my home, leaving me to believe that it must be a neighbour or someone driving by. Regardless of how unlikely any of my theories sound, I’m constantly trying to find out how to locate the source of the voices because I want to stop hearing them. Some voice hearers claim what they hear can be positive, but I find I have a different perception of the voices I hear, based on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.
Right now as I am writing this essay, the only goal I perceive the voices of having in terms of the way they speak to me, is to frustrate and annoy me; to make me feel uncomfortable. Yes there are times I hear the voices threaten me, but I find based on the majority of what I hear them say that their goal is more to constantly torment me. The voices I hear seem to have nothing better to do every day, all day long, than to harass me; to try to scare me and to make me distrust my surroundings. I have made attempts before to confront the voices, in which I will be alone in my house and I will ask for/demand an explanation for why they are talking to me in such a way. I will ask for the reasoning behind their negativity. In doing so, I get no response. It seems that when I am feeling confident, and I am addressing them out loud, ready to confront, they’re not present with a response. I perceive the voices almost as a “school yard bully”; they are ready to harass me when I’m feeling weak or scared, but when I stand up for myself with confidence, they don’t seem to be interested. The voices I hear seem to feed off of my fears and any paranoid thoughts I have, as well as any negative emotions I am feeling. I realize that they only cause me to feel negative emotions, and I look for ways to try to take control of the situation:
- The voices I hear “don’t care”, so I don’t want to care about anything they say. If they don’t care about me, I shouldn’t care what they think
- The voices I hear threaten me, so I want to realize that although this can make me feel afraid, they can’t hurt me; only I can hurt me
- The voices I hear harass me over my past, so I want to realize that I can’t change anything that has already happened
- The voices I hear lie to me and make false accusations, so I don’t want to believe anything they say
- The voices I hear imply they can see me and that they watch me, but after hearing these voices for a long period of time, there is no proof anyone is spying on me
- The voices I hear insult and criticize me, but they are not a real person, so their judgment does not mean anything real
I’m hoping that exploring my perceptions and opinions of the voices I hear can help me to eventually understand why I’m having these experiences. Psychosis and schizophrenia are examples of mental illnesses in which experiencing audible hallucinations (hearing fictitious voices/sounds) is a symptom. Is it possible I am suffering from a mental illness that I have not yet been diagnosed? I will further explore hearing voices in terms of mental illness, but in this upcoming section, I would like to address what I hope to accomplish with this essay in terms of sharing my experiences hearing voices.
Why I am writing this essay
I began keeping a journal of what I am going through in terms of hearing voices after going online and reading about other people’s experiences with hearing voices, many being similar to my own. Some people write about how their hearing of voices is a more positive experience, and some, like me, write about how it is a more negative experience. Once I realized that I am not the only one, that other people hear voices too, I became determined to share what I am going through psychologically and emotionally. What I hope to accomplish by writing this essay is that it will help somebody; somebody who is feeling overwhelmed and desperate because of hearing voices; somebody whose life has been negatively impacted by hearing voices; somebody who feels like they are alone in the situation and that nobody around them understands how, or believes that, they hear voices. A person who doesn’t hear verbally abusive voices all the time, that seemingly come from out of nowhere, understandably can’t relate to what it feels like emotionally; what the individuals mind has to endure; what it does to the individuals perception of the world around them.
Today I have been hearing voices, and my mind is still, even after all my research and self-reflection, coming up with theories as to where the voices may be coming from and who may be causing them, in a desperate attempt to find the source of the voices and make them stop. No matter how unrealistic or ridiculous I think the theories I come up with are I still believe them to be true. I have to remind myself that there is no evidence or logical reasoning to back these theories up, and that I am just hearing voices again; that there will eventually be an answer as to why I hear them. This whole cycle of becoming distracted and feeling harassed by voices, then having to reject my mind’s theories as to where they are coming from and just accept that I hear them, every single day, becomes exhausting. I find that sharing my experiences with others, whether it be online on a voice hearing website or with people close to me I can trust, helps me both emotionally and psychologically. I hope that writing this essay, and sharing how I hear voices, helps someone who is going through a similar situation.
Hearing voices and mental illness
Does my brain need some sort of an “intervention”? Do I need to find a way to fix and heal the wound that causes me to hear voices, like a physical injury that won’t heal and will only get worse without a physician’s care? If I don’t fix and heal my brain, will I hear voices permanently? These are some of the questions I have been pondering since I started hearing voices every day. I didn’t hear voices when I was a child. I didn’t hear voices when I was a teenager. I don’t remember ever taking a drug and experiencing an “audible hallucination”. Why did I start hearing voices in my late 20’s? What has happened, or progressed, that has gone unnoticed and/or has resulted in me hearing harassing and negative voices every day? Is someone trying to psychologically torture me and they’re just really good at hiding it, as I at times have unfortunately suspected? There are times the voices I hear respond to my thoughts as if they are psychic; is this some sort of a supernatural phenomenon? I have explored many theories as to why I might hear voices, but in doing so I also want to explore what health care professionals suggest; that symptoms of hearing voices could be the result of a mental illness.
While researching this subject I have read that not everyone who experiences hearing voices suffers from a particular mental illness, but that for some individuals, mental illness could be the cause. A number of illnesses such as schizophrenia, psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, and bipolar disorder, are said to include symptoms of hearing voices or “audible hallucinations”. Is one of these disorders the reason as to why someone is hearing voices, or could these diagnoses possibly interfere with an individual’s discovery of an alternate explanation; almost acting as a “barrier to healing”? I personally contacted my doctor and discussed what my experiences were in terms of hearing voices. I am now waiting to see a psychiatrist, and if it is determined that my voices are a result of a mental health condition, there are a few remedies that may be offered to help. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy might help me to find out what triggers the voices and how I can manage them, while medication such as an antipsychotic drug may be given to me to help stop the voices, or at least make them quieter/less noticeable.
I find myself wondering about how long I will have to go through therapy and/or take medication, if my voices are in fact a result of a mental health condition. If I am diagnosed with a mental illness, is it for life? Will I have to take medication and go through therapy for the rest of my life in order to help manage the voices? Will medication and therapy help to slow down and eventually stop the voices, and at some point in the future I won’t need them? Will I eventually not meet the criteria for a certain diagnosis? I believe a lot of people who hear negative voices like me wonder one thing the most; will I ever be able to not have to hear these voices?
How big of a role does paranoia play in terms of hearing voices?
Another question I believe a lot of people who are experiencing what I’m experiencing might ask themselves is, am I just paranoid? Have I become so paranoid that I am now hearing voices? Have I been too paranoid for too long and now I am hearing voices as a result? If I can overcome paranoia and/or just not be paranoid, would my experiences hearing voices go away? When I talk about how I hear voices with people close to me, the one thing I keep getting asked is “what exactly are the voices saying?”, and I feel that when I start seeing a psychiatrist, they will want to discuss with me exactly that. Will exploring what exactly the voices are saying in terms of harassing, mocking, upsetting, and threatening comments expose the real reasons why I actually hear these voices? If I hear a voice saying “you’re going to get attacked”, does that mean that subconsciously I feel that I have done something that would warrant somebody or someone to want to attack me? If I hear the voices say someone’s name that I’ve known, or comment on an event in my life, does that mean I am guilt-ridden over some unresolved issue? If the voices are commenting on my surroundings, does that imply I assume someone is watching me for whatever reason? If the voices are trying to convince me that they are a neighbour or some sort of cyber-criminal, is that only because I can’t determine where the voices are coming from?
Some people might agree that I am paranoid for some particular reason or reasons, and that the comments I hear the voices making hold the answers as to why. I know that I suffer from paranoia because I hear voices every day that seem to watch me and follow me around, but would I stop hearing them if I stopped believing that someone was actually stalking me? I once performed an experiment in which I used the video recorder on my cell phone as a recording device. I placed my phone beside my PC speakers, and another time beside my SmartTV, and pressed record on the video recorder. I sat in silence with all other devices in my house turned off, and I checked outside to see that there were no neighbours or people outside of my house/travelling down the road. After several minutes of sitting quietly, and continuing to hear voices, I then stopped the recording on my phone and played it back to myself to listen to what I had recorded. Even though I was hearing voices for the duration of the recording, the phone did not pick up any voices or human sounds, only non-human background noise.
An experiment like this leads me to conclude that it is highly likely the voices are a result of a psychological “malfunction”, or that I am overhearing natural sounds occurring around me and misinterpreting them as these harassing voices. If I am operating a lawn mower in my yard and I think I hear the neighbours, who I cannot see due to trees, verbally harassing me, how come when I turn off the lawn mower I stop hearing these voices, or hear them barely at all? If I can hear the voices when the lawn mower is running, why can I not hear them when the machine is turned off? I mentioned in a previous section of this essay that the voices will make comments towards me about how “it is my fault they are doing this” and how “I have no choice”. Is it possible, that the reason I hear these voices making these specific comments, is because in my mind, the only reason I think some person/group would be doing this to me, is if they felt I put them in some sort of a situation in which they have no choice but to stalk me? That I did something that made someone so emotional that they are obsessively harassing me?
If computer hackers are behind the voices, my family and I have noticed that no money has been stolen from any online accounts; no one has attacked us or invaded our home; none of us are celebrities; and we don’t have any important or sensitive information that anyone would aspire to get. Does my mind manufacture voices saying “it’s your fault we’re doing this”, as a way of trying to explain why I hear voices; to try to justify the theory that someone, or anyone, other than myself, is behind the fact that I hear voices? And if I’m under the impression that other people are behind all of this, how do the voices I hear sometimes respond to my thoughts as if they are psychic? Some might say that paranoia plays a huge factor in the reason a person may hear voices every day.
Is the conscience to blame for hearing voices?
If I am paranoid of/about certain things, why do I not just think about them or feel about them? Why audible hallucinations? Has my conscience become too overwhelming/powerful, leading to my experiences hearing voices? I once saw a movie involving a person whose life was falling apart due to the experiencing of confusing and eventually disturbing visual hallucinations. Towards the end of the movie, a flashback into the man’s past is shown, in which he had committed a crime. The movie ends with the man turning himself into the police, giving the viewer a sense of relief and closure. If the voices I or an individual hears are the result of paranoia, and not an undiagnosed mental health condition, then the question of “why the paranoia?” could be asked. Can the conscience of an individual become so overwhelmed with guilt and/or paranoia, that they start to suffer from audible hallucinations?
One of the mental illnesses in which symptoms can include hearing voices is post-traumatic stress disorder. Could hearing voices be a coping mechanism the mind creates in order to try to deal with unresolved feelings and memories connected to a traumatic event or events? If I hear voices that are abusive in nature; that mock, insult, criticize, demean, and threaten me, is it possible my mind has become overwhelmed by an event or events that were traumatic, and audible hallucinations is now the result as the feelings and memories remain unresolved? I know that I have experienced anxiety and depression in my life, but never hearing voices until recently. Personally, I believe it’s possible that one of the reasons I may hear voices every day could be because since I started hearing the voices and up until today, I have been psychologically “carrying around” unresolved and traumatic experiences. If this is true, then in terms of my case specifically, could my conscience be trying to remind me of these unresolved and traumatic experiences by inducing audible hallucinations?
A theory: Why I have begun hearing abusive voices every day, and why they continue
I analyze what my voices say, how they say it, and how hearing these voices make me feel. I explore opinions involving paranoia, mental illness, and the possible conscience efforts my mind might make to remind itself of trauma or fear. I have many theories as to where the voices I hear originate from; some I find are unrealistic and unreasonable, while others are scientific and more widely accepted.
I want to purpose a theory as to why I have begun to hear harassing and verbally abusive voices every day, and why they continue. Is it possible the part of my brain that controls sensatory perception is looking for answers as to what is going on with me, and therefore deciding, “I want to believe this theory, so here’s how”? Is my parietal lobe (the part of the brain that decodes the messages received from the five senses of sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste, i.e. what comes from inside the body and what comes from outside the body) telling me “You’re hearing voices: this is what they’re saying, this is who’s doing it, and this is how they’re doing it”?
Why hearing voices and not some other type of hallucination? Does the fact that I hear voices, instead of being overwhelmed with memories of a certain past event, uncomfortable in a certain environment, or experiencing some type of visual hallucination, act as a clue as to the origins behind all of this? Could one assume that I am living in fear of being the possible victim of a verbal attack, and therefore, the hearing of verbally abusive voices? In terms of “this is who’s doing it”, why would the voices want me to believe that they are these specific people? Could one assume “these specific people” are in fact people I am afraid of, or people whom I feel I have some sort of an unresolved issue with? Could “this is how they’re doing it” be the result of my mind coming up with the most logical or reasonable explanation as to how someone would, in a way, make me hear these voices?
This theory I suggest, that my parietal lobe is behind the experiences I have hearing voices, does not disprove the theory that I hear voices due to a mental illness; I could possibly suffer from a mental health condition for which I have not yet been diagnosed. The theory that the voices are an effort by my conscience to remind me of feelings/thoughts relating to guilt and/or fear, as well as the theory that the voices are strictly the result of my mind becoming overwhelmed with paranoia, also cannot be disproved. I believe the process in which my parietal lobe receives, and then sends messages, could be corrupted due to said sub-theories involving paranoia, the conscience, and/or mental health issues. I believe this theory is the most logical explanation for what I experience in terms of hearing voices every day.
This essay consists of my experiences hearing verbally abusive and psychologically confusing voices, including my theories and opinions as to why I might hear them, more so than critical analysis of audible hallucinations. This essay has helped me to organize and self-reflect on my thoughts and experiences, but the main purpose of my writing is to share what I am going through with others.
My life has changed for the worse in many ways because of hearing voices. Holding down a job is nearly impossible because of the emotional and psychological interference hearing voices has on my ability to work in a team environment, maintain focus, and ensure that I keep myself and others safe. My relationships with roommates, landlords, neighbours, friends, and even family members, are negatively affected due to my inability to fully explain what I go through psychologically and emotionally every day, as well as their inability to understand my mental state in terms of how I hear voices that they do not. My perception of the world around me is affected, as I at times want to believe that I am the victim of some sort of a supernatural phenomenon, or even an organized cyberattack in which I am being stalked and psychologically harassed for the sake of someone’s amusement or vengeance.
I hope this essay can help show others that if they are going through the same situations and experiences as I do, that they are not alone. There are examples of mental health conditions in which an individual hears voices that others around them do not, and it is possible a combination of paranoia and fear due to traumatizing experiences can affect the brain in diverse ways. What I would like other voice hearers to know is that there are other people who have experiences similar to theirs, and that talking about it and sharing these experiences is a positive way to confront what is going on. I know how it feels to want to blame the people around me or believe in some conspiracy theory when I consistently hear unrelenting and demeaning voices. The right thing for me to do is to explore all the possibilities and share with others what I am going through. I do hear voices every day; for me that has not always been my usual mental state, and it can be overwhelming. I hope others can become inspired the way I did when I went searching for help.