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Mental Illness Guide: Care, Support, and Education
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How can I deal with voices?

Hearing voices

Many people hear voices in their head. Hearing voices does not automatically mean you are “sick”.  But hearing voices can sometimes upset your life, your ability to work, make friends and reach personal goals.  Remember that you do not have to be a victim to these voices.

Understanding voices

Hearing voices when nobody is around, or when nobody seems to be saying the words you hear, is common for people with serious mental illness.  Sometimes the voices seem to be coming from neighbors, TV, radio, or people who pass you on the street.  Other times they just seem to come out of the air.  They seem to be very real.  They can be very loud.  They may shout at you, or sometimes just whisper.  Sometimes they can say things that are very worrying or threatening.  They may even swear or tell you to do awful things. They may seem to be talking about you, or telling you what you are doing or thinking.  It is hard to understand how they can know such personal things.  They can sound very convincing as if they have the power to make you do things, even when you do not want them to.

Where do voices come from?

Nobody is really sure, but you do not have to listen to them. Voices cannot make you do anything you do not want to do. Often they are thoughts sounding aloud.  That does not mean the voices sound like your own voice.  They may be memories of someone else’s voice or voices you do not recognize.  Just like when you hear people speaking in your dreams, the voices can be thoughts heard out loud. 

Why do some people hear voices?

Voices can be a symptom of mental illness. But certain things may make them worse. Things you do can affect the voices.  Keep track of the kinds of things that cause your voices to be the worse.  Knowing what to ho and not to do will be very helpful to you.

Voices can happen in many situations.  They may happen:

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When you are ready to fall asleep.

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When you need sleep but are unable to.

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When you have used street drugs like speed or cocaine.  If you stop using the drugs, the voices should start to go away.

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When you have a high temperature.

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When you have other physical illnesses.

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When you have used over-the-counter drugs such as caffeine, , or cold medicines.  If you cut back on these items, the voices should start to go away.

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When you are under stress, anxious or upset.  Once the stressful situation goes away, the voices should start to go away.

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When you cut down on your medication or stop taking your medication.

What can you do to limit the voices?

Try some self-help strategies to limit your voices. Some suggestions are listed below.

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Talk with a nurse, doctor or therapist about ways to stop the voices.

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Talk with a doctor about how medication might stop the voices.

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If the voices tell you to do something, explain that they should not tell you such things and you want to control your own life.

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Keep a record in a diary of the time, place, day and what you were doing just before the voices started up.  Show it to your doctor and talk to him about it.  Look for a pattern.  If you notice a pattern, like you usually hear the voices when you are in crowds, you may want to change that pattern.  Switch on the radio.

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Listen to music.  Play your favorite music, instead of playing just any music loudly.

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Take a warm bath.

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Talk to a friend.  Do not keep your voice hearing experience to yourself.

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Go for a walk.

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Read a newspaper.

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Make a cup of tea.

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Try some exercise.

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Just relax.  Use whatever method to unwind that works for you. 

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Hum to yourself.  If your vocal cords are moving, as they don when your humming or talking or singing, that often makes the voices stop.