There are lots of different ways of making sense of voices, visions and other unusual experiences. You might have some definite ideas about why this is happening to you, or someone you know. But, if you’re feeling confused or would like to hear about the different ideas others have too – we’ve listed some of the most common ones below.
Whatever the root cause, it can be helpful to think about what is triggering the voices/visions (or what’s making them more difficult to cope with). This could include: tiredness, certain emotions (like anger, frustration or sadness), places, situations or times of the day.
If you’re trying to make sense of your experiences, it’s a good idea to talk things over with someone you trust.
- Trauma/difficult life events
- Spiritual experiences
- Individual difference
- Special gift or sensitivity
- Emotional health problems
- Inner speech
- Physical health problems
Trauma/Difficult Life Events
This can include: being bullied, moving schools, breaking up with your boyfriend/girlfriend, abuse, parents arguing a lot or getting divorced, being ill or in hospital, exam stress, being the victim of a crime – anything that makes you feel overwhelmed, frightened or confused.
Events like these can leave their mark on us – changing how we feel about ourselves and other people. It’s this – the difficult thoughts and feelings we carry with us – that can be linked to the voices and visions.
Some people have spiritual or religious experiences where they hear the voices or God or other spiritual beings. For some, this can be a life-changing event that gives them a sense of purpose and meaning. For others, it can be very frightening and overwhelming.
When you feel a voice is God, the devil, angels, demons or other spirits – they can feel very powerful indeed. You might feel as if you need to do whatever the voices tells you to. Different religions and spiritual beliefs have their own ways of working out whether these are true spiritual experiences. They also offer advice on how best to respond to them.
Some people have been hearing voices or seeing things since they were small children. For them, hearing things that no-one else can hear is simply part of life (nothing more weird or scary than that). Some people are left-handed, some people hear voices or see visions. We’re all unique.
Sometimes, when people are stressed out, the things people see and hear can change. This can be a sign that the person needs some extra help and support. When, and how, voices change is really important. It can give real clues about what’s happening in a person’s life and what help they might need.
Special Gift or Sensitivity
There are lots of cultures across the world that believe spirits can talk with humans. Sometimes these might be someone’s ancestors, other times it can be a spiritual guide. Other people believe that they have a talent or sensitivity that helps them to talk with ghosts and spirits.
Different cultures and parts of the world have different names for people with these gifts – including shamans and mediums. Many believe that when people are developing these gifts it can be very frightening and confusing. The resources in the coping section can be helpful in finding ways of dealing with this.
Emotional Health Problems
For some, emotional health problems trigger or cause their voices and visions. For example, someone who feels very anxious might hear voices that are telling them they’re in danger. Someone who is feeling very low might hear voices that tell them they are a bad person or should be punished.
Some people, especially those who have been very confused or stressed out by the things they experience, may be told they have something called psychosis. Psychosis is a state where people become out of touch with the way they usually see and make sense of the world. They may become very paranoid, confused or have some strong beliefs that are difficult to cope with.
Inner speech is a name psychologists give to what happens when we think things to ourselves, talk to ourselves in our own head or have any kind of internal dialogue. Sometimes we try to speak inside our head, but often this happens when we’re not really thinking about it.
One idea about hearing voices is, that for some people, it might be inner speech that they experience as coming from somewhere else. So, it’s possible that someone who feels bad about themselves might hear ‘i’m no good. I should give up’ as their inner speech. For some people this inner speech may change to ‘you’re no good, you should give up’ and be heard as a voice.
Physical Health Problems
The state of our body really is linked to the state of our mind. Going without sleep, being isolated, having a fever, temporal lobe epilepsy, infections, head injury, taking illegal (and some legal) drugs are just some of the physical things that can cause voices and visions.
If you think that there may be something physical going on, have a chat with your doctor. They should be able to check things out for you.
These are only a few of the possible reasons. If you’re confused, a good place to start is looking at what triggers the voices or makes them worse.