Who Hears Voices?

Hearing voices or seeing visions is much more common than most people think. Around 8% of children and young people hear voices that others don’t.

Some research in South London (Laurens et al, 2007) even found that around 30% of 9-12 year olds have had at least one experience of hearing or seeing something that other people don’t!

All kinds of people hear voices – there is no single type. Whilst many of the young people we meet at Voice Collective have felt isolated, been bullied or had a difficult time – this isn’t always the case. Anyone can hear voices at some point in their lives – whether they’re rich, poor, popular, lonely, sporty, clever, creative or shy.

Check out our animation, made by young people who hear voices (aged 13-18) to hear more about this:

Famous people who hear (or have heard) voices

If you, or someone you know, hears voices or sees visions – you’re in good company.

photo_fruscianteJohn Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

“I had just so many mental problems. It wasn’t until I was 28 that my brain actually felt like a spacious place. When I was 18, 19, 22, my brain was just clogged all the time – non-stop voices. I couldn’t figure out what was going on.

There was a lot of confusion inside me, this flood of voices, often contradicting each other, often telling me stuff that would happen in the future, and then it would happen, voices insulting me, telling me what to do”

Lady GagaLady Gaga

Lady Gaga appeared in the news talking about her experiences of hearing voices in childhood:

“It’s how I deal with my insanity. From when I was young I had voices in my head, and for the longest time I was drinking and doing a lot of drugs, and it was the clothing and the artistry that saved me. I get sheer joy out of creativity”.

Like many people in our network, it seems she used creativity as a real way of coping with distressing experiences.

Danny MacnamaraDanny McNamara (Vocalist, Embrace)

Between the ages of 19 and 22 I suffered from a horrendous condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder … for the best part of three years I was in a living hell. It felt like the rest of the world was at the other side of translucent bullet proof ice. I couldn’t even cope with basic functions. I was having up to fifteen panic attacks a day. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating …I’d spend all day fighting my thoughts, and all night running from imaginary demons and voices.

Once I locked myself in the bathroom because all I could hear in my head were these awful voices telling me to hurt and kill. I didn’t want to hurt anyone …. the voices just got louder and more horrific and more confident and started laughing and saying I deserved it repeatedly over and over …. It wasn’t living and it wasn’t pretty, and so that’s as much as I want to say about it for now.

Aged 22, I picked up a guitar for the first time and learned some chords. The illness took a while to lift, but as it did, the demons that kept me up all night just enabled me to spend more time writing. So I sat there with my acoustic guitar and I wrote and wrote and wrote.

And as I got better, I wrote even more. The illness that had smashed me to pieces, the horror that had me fighting for air, isolated and trapped behind an ice wall now enabled me to see the world with growing clarity as the ice melted. Colours burned brighter, orchestras played in my head. I felt so alive. Songs poured out of me. As my health came back, I was able to help my dad on the building site by day and then write songs all night. I wasn’t sleeping very much at that time but it felt like I’d wasted the last three years as a walking zombie and I didn’t know how long this new alive feeling was going to last. Well not only did it last, it continued and still continues to enhance every aspect of my life to this day.

Anthony HopkinsAnthony Hopkins

A famous actor that has stared in movies and plays galore. In a 1993 interview in the News of the World, Anthony talked about a voice in his head that pulled him down when he was younger and less sure of himself.

“I’ve always had a little voice in my head, particularly when I was younger and less assured …. While onstage, during classical theatre the voice would suddenly say, “Oh, you think you can do Shakespeare, do you?”

“My school days were not always happy and I wanted to get away from Wales and be someone else. I was stupid at school, I just didn’t know what was going on. I thought I was on Mars, I didn’t know what they were talking about”.

Zoe WannamakerZoe Wannamaker (Actress)

Zoe is an English actress, famous for her work with the Royal Shakespear Company, TV show ‘My Family’ and her role in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

“It’s like a little person sitting on your shoulder saying “No that’s wrong. Don’t do this. Don’t do that…

It’s got in the way when I was working, because my concentration would be tripped by this voice in the back of my head. You think you’re concentrating, but the voices were also saying “your not concentrating”.

“I know it sounds like Joan of Arc, but it was a sort of chatter that would be going on while I was on stage”.

When asked if the voices had gone she said “They come back occasionally and have a good chat”.

GandhiGandhi

Known as ‘Mahatma’ (great soul). Ghandi led the Indian nationalist movement against British Rule.

“For me the Voice of God, of Conscience, of Truth, or the Inner Voice or ‘the Still Small Voice’ mean one and the same thing. I saw no form. I have never tried, for I have always believed God to be without form. But what I did hear was like a Voice from afar and yet quite near. It was as unmistakable as some human voice definitely speaking to me, and irresistible. I was not dreaming at the time I heard the Voice.

The hearing of the Voice was preceded by a terrific struggle within me. Suddenly the Voice came upon me. I listened, made certain it was the Voice, and the struggle ceased. I was calm”.

Toward the end of his life the voice said:

“You are on the right track, move neither to your left, nor right, but keep to the straight and narrow”

Vinne JonesVinnie Jones (English Footballer & Actor)

Jones says his biggest role model was his grandfather. He is convinced that Arthur Jones, a decorator who died in 1977, has continued to offer guidance from ‘the other side’.

“I talk to him all time,’ he says. ‘So many spooky things have happened over the years. When I was a groundsman I would talk to my grandad all day long and say, “Just give me one chance to play in the fourth division, anything. Four years later, I won the FA Cup.”

St Joan of ArcSaint Joan of Arc

When Joan was 12, she began to see visions of saints and angels. These visions talked with her, and she was also able to touch them. At first they told her to be good and go to church regularly. Later, they told her to lead the French Army to drive the English out of France.

St Joan led the French Army to some important victories, but was later captured by the English and conviced of ‘heresy’. Twenty Five years after her death, she was declared innocent. In 1920, Joan of Arc was cannonised as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

FreudSigmund Freud (The founder of psychoanalysis)

“During the days when I was living alone in a foreign city … I quite often heard my name suddenly called by an unmistakable and beloved voice;

I then noted down the exact moment of the hallucination and made anxious enquiries if those at home about what had happened at that time. Nothing had happened.”

Carl JungCarl Jung (Swiss psychiatrist)

Jung wrote about experiencing lots of different visions and voices. He thought some of these were parts of his subconscious, but believed that others were supernatural.

One of the voices he heard (Philemon) appeared to him when he needed advice or guidance.

“At times he seemed almost physically real. I walked up and down the garden with him, and he was to me what Indians call a guru”