Everyone’s different, so what we hear see or sense is very individual too. These experiences can happen through each of our 5 senses and include:
Hearing | Seeing | Smelling | Tasting | Feeling (touch)
Some people hear voices talking when no-one is there. These voices may sound like people they know (neighbours, friends, relatives etc) or they may be strangers.
Some people hear just one voice, others hear lots of different ones. They can be male, female, young or old – they might not even sound human. People can hear other sounds too – music, whistling, crying, knocking or banging.
I hear four different voices. A group of three men who talk about me all the time and a girl that doesn’t talk much (but sometimes screams).
Voices can be friendly and supportive. Some hear voices that inspire them to create. Others hear voices that help them remember to do things, or just tell them that things will work out ok. It can be like having someone looking out for you.
Sometimes the voices people hear make less sense. They might repeat words or phrases, or play with words. They can get in the way of schoolwork, giving out the wrong answers or making it hard to focus. Some people hear voices that repeat everything they think, say or do.
For some, hearing voices that other people don’t can be a scary and frightening experience. They might hear voices that criticise, threaten or give them orders. These voices can seem very strong and powerful. They might say that they can do things or that they have special powers.
No matter how scary, powerful or confusing the voices can be – it’s good to know that people can (and do) find ways of dealing with them. Check out the personal stories and coping sections for some ideas.
Some people see things that other people don’t seem to. For some, these visions are crystal clear and seem very real.
They might see a person sitting in the corner of the room (but find that no-one else believes that they are there).
They may see people or objects change in front of them, and be confused that no-one else seems to notice.
I sometimes see people’s faces change. One minute they look normal, and the next they’re like stone.
For others, the visions feel a little more strange. They might be in black and white, instead of colour. For some, they may seem more like shadows or shapes that are a bit fuzzy or unclear. Some people see things out of the corner of their eye, only to find that when they turn around nothing is there.
The things people see can feel funny, comforting, weird, scary or just plain strange. It’s all individual. Some people see the same kinds of things each time (snakes, spiders, birds, people etc). Other people see lots of different things. This can get really confusing.
Smell and memory are linked, so people may smell something that reminds them of something good from their past. This might be the smell of home-cooked food or the perfume/aftershave of someone they care about.
For those that have been through some difficult times, the smells can remind them of the nasty things that have happened to them too.
One night I was making myself a drink and I started to smell something horrible. I thought the house was being gassed. I started to panic and called my parents. They couldn’t smell anything.
People can smell things that worry them. They might smell smoke, but be unable to find any sign of fire. They might smell gas or something very toxic and worry that they’re in danger. Some people smell things rotting, which can make it difficult to eat food.
It’s hard to know if we’re tasting something that other people can’t – if we’re eating something which tastes funny we don’t tend to offer it to someone else. We might just put it in the bin and assume that it just tastes ‘off’.
Still, some people realise that the things that they taste in their food don’t seem to make much sense. Their food may taste more bitter than usual, or mouldy or metallic – but, when they check, no-one else tastes it in the same way.
There are times when my tastebuds go a bit strange. I try and eat things, but everything tastes like its gone off.
Some people who get a very bitter and strong taste when they eat or drink and start to worry that they’re being poisoned. People can have tastes in their mouth when they’re not eating or drinking anything. Sweet, bitter, metallic, sour, salty, smoky … the list is endless.
Feeling things (touch)?
This one is all about sense number 5 – touch. Sometimes people can feel things on their skin when there doesn’t seem to be anything touching them. They might feel something holding them, crawling on them, tickling them or pushing them.
I get worried that there’s something in the back of my neck. The more I think about it, the more I can feel it.
Some people can feel things underneath their skin. This can be pretty scary and make people worry that something bad is happening inside them.
For more info on how people deal with these experiences, and what they are like, check out the Personal Stories and Coping sections.