When we talk about hearing voices, we mean someone who is hearing something others are not. These experiences can include all the senses, i.e. hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch.
We’re all unique, so it’s not surprising that voices and visions can be equally individual in terms of their identity, content, interpretation and impact.
For some, these experiences can be comforting. Someone who’s lonely may value a voice that becomes a trusted confidant, for example. However, for others it can be extremely confusing, upsetting and distressing.
Statistics vary, but it’s generally accepted that between 3 and 10% of the population hear voices that other people don’t.
If you include one-off experiences (like hearing someone call your name when you’re out shopping), this figure goes up to 75%. So, having at least one experience of hearing or seeing something is incredibly common.
Those who’ve never had this experience are in the minority.
There are lots of different theories and ideas to explain why people hear voices or see visions.
People may hear voices when they have a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. Psychotic symptoms can also occur with other mental health disorders, such as mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder).
People who use illicit drugs may also develop psychotic symptoms.
If you’re worried about your son or daughter hearing voices or having visions that others cannot hear or see, try to find a good time to discuss it properly with them.
Sometimes young people describe “voices” inside their head, which may be a misinterpretation of their own thoughts.
Between you and your son or daughter, it might be possible to figure out why they are having that experience. Together you can find a way of dealing with the experience that makes sense to you and your son or daughter.
You should have your son or daughter assessed by your GP to make sure an underlying physical illness is not causing these experiences. They may refer them for further physical investigations if necessary.
Content adapted from the Hearing Voices Network