Dealing with Scary Voices

Whilst some people hear things that are helpful, comforting or funny – others hear voices that frighten them. They might:

  • Threaten you (or the people you love)
  • Say nasty or hurtful things to you
  • Say things that make you worry other people are going to hurt you
  • Tell you to do things that you don’t want to do
  • Tell you not to do things that you want to do
  • Say other things that make you feel stressed out, paranoid, helpless or frightened

Even if the things you hear are usually ok, sometimes they can be harder to deal with (especially if other things are stressing you out too).

The good news is that there are lots of ways of coping with voices that are giving you trouble. Below are 6 things we find the most helpful. Check out other pages in the coping and recovery section and Feeling Overwhelmedpages for more ideas.

Download: Dealing with Scary Voices

  1. Say no, or not yet
  2. Challenge them
  3. Ignore them
  4. Use your imagination
  5. Listen with kindness
  6. Express yourself

1. Say no, or ‘not yet’

Clenched fist imageSome people hear voices that tell them to hurt themselves, hurt people they care about or do other things that they don’t want to do. This can be really frightening – especially if you see your voices as being really powerful or nasty.

No matter what the voices may say, you are in control of your own body. You get to decide what you want to, and don’t want to, do.

This isn’t always as easy – especially at first. The voices might get louder or say things that are nasty. It can help to think of them as small children who are stamping their feet when they don’t get their own way. If this happens, stay strong. Try using some of the ideas in the coping strategies section (the distraction and chilling out can be really helpful here).

If saying ‘no’ feels too much, some people find it helpful to say ‘I’ve just got to do this first’ to put some space between what the voices say and what you decide to do about it.

2. Challenge them

If someone in your life was saying nasty things about you, or a friend of yours, you’d probably want to tell them that they’re being mean. You might want to tell them that they’re wrong or challenge them about it. You can deal with voices in the same way.

So, if your voices are being nasty or making you feel paranoid – why not try:

a) Writing a mantra:

A mantra is simply a sentence or two that says something that comforts you and helps you remember what you really think (not what the voices think).

For example: If I was hearing a voice that said my mum hates me and is going to poison me, my mantra could be: “I know my mum loves me. I trust her and know that she would never try to hurt me”.

b) Talking back:

If your voices say something that you wouldn’t usually accept from someone in your life – tell them that. Tell them, as calmly as possible, that you don’t agree with them and that they’re being nasty.

c) Get a second opinion:

If you’re not sure what to say back to the voices, it can help to talk it over with someone you trust. Sometimes writing down some of the things the voices say most often can help. You can think together about some replies and write them down too.

3. Ignore them

HeadphonesSometimes challenging your voices can feel too hard and scary. At times like these, it can be helpful to work on ignoring them. This can take a lot of effort at first, especially if they are very loud or are saying things that are making your worry. Working out some ways of distracting yourself and chilling out can really help with this.

As well as trying to take your mind off them, you can try sending them away for a time. Say something like ‘I want to watch TV now, I’ll speak to you in half an hour’. If the voices try and speak to you it’s important to ignore them until the time you’ve said. When that time arrives, talk to the voices as agreed. This can take a bit of time to master, but it can really work!

4. Use your imagination

IdeasWe each have very powerful imaginations. Some people are good at imagining sounds, others at dreaming up images. If you have this skill, why not try using it to make the voices seem less scary.

If you can image what the voices look like, how could you make them seem less frightening? You could think up a funny hat, change their face or give them a comedy walk. You can try changing their sound too.

Some people find drawing the voice (or the things they see) can help. They either change the drawing (and keep it as a reminder) or erase it/colour over it. Experiment and find something that works for you.

For some inspiration, you might want to take a look at how Harry and his friends deal with the Boggart in Harry Potter ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’. In this clip they use their imagination to turn their worst fears into something much less scary. Sometimes they could do this on their own, but sometimes they needed the teacher to step in and given them a hand.


5. Listen with kindness

This one might sound a bit strange, but if the voices are being nasty you could trying treating them with kindness.

This doesn’t mean agreeing with them, or accepting what they say, but saying something like ‘someone must have really hurt you to make you say such horrible things. I’m sorry you feel so bad’.

For some it can help to think of nasty voices as bullies – bullies have often been through bad times themselves. It doesn’t mean that bullying you is OK, but taking the moral high ground can help you feel more in control of the situation. It can make the voices feel less powerful.

6. Express yourself

Painting imageIf your voices sound really angry, hurt or distressed you might have some feelings that you need to let out. These feelings can both trigger the voices and result from them.

Creativity can really help here – especially if you’re not sure what you’re feeling. Why not try drawing, painting, writing or making something. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and see what happens. Go with what you’re feeling.

If you know what the feeling is you need to express, check out what’s the problem? It has some common feelings and some ways of dealing with them.