Hearing talking voices that others can’t hear, or hearing voices when no one else is around, is called an auditory verbal hallucination (paracusia). It occurs when your mind perceives one or more speaking voices without having received any auditory stimulus.
It can be distressing and even frightening to realize that the voices you’re hearing exist only in your mind. It may also leave you feeling isolated, but you’re definitely not alone: It’s estimated that up to 28% of people experience an auditory hallucination at some point in their lives.
Read on as our team of mental health experts at EXIS Recovery Inc. explores what it means to “hear voices,” reviews the potential medical causes of auditory hallucinations, and explains why it’s important to seek professional help if it happens to you.
The term hallucination refers to the experience of hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, or tasting something that appears to be real, but only exists in your mind. Often, hallucinations can be just as intense — and feel as genuine — as real sensory perceptions.
Hallucinations can include:
The most prevalent type of hallucination is auditory. While this can include any sound or noise, ranging from musical notes and phone alerts to animal vocalizations and baby cries, the most common auditory hallucination is hearing talking voices.
Auditory verbal hallucinations are highly individual, meaning different people experience them in different ways. In other words, from one person to the next, hearing voices can mean vastly different things.
Some auditory verbal hallucinations happen once or only rarely, while others occur with some frequency. How the voice sounds, what it says, and whether it’s familiar or unfamiliar can vary from one person to the next and can change as time goes on.
Voices may talk about personal matters, say hurtful or frightening things, make specific commands, or express more neutral or positive words. While many people perceive voices as coming from somewhere around them, in external space, others may hear voices that seem to come from within their own mind.
It’s a common misconception that hearing voices is a hallmark sign of a mental health concern. Although hearing voices can be a symptom of a mental health disorder, auditory verbal hallucinations can stem from many different medical conditions that affect the senses or influence perception.
Hearing voices may be a product of:
Auditory verbal hallucinations can also be a side effect of certain prescription medications, or an unexpected byproduct of substance abuse.
Temporary auditory hallucinations can occur during a migraine or when you have a high fever; they can also occur when you’re in the process of falling asleep or waking up.
If you’re experiencing command-type hallucinations that tell you to harm yourself or others, talk to your doctor immediately or call 911.
Even if the voices you hear aren’t threatening, it’s still important to talk with your primary care provider. They can check for any physical conditions that may be causing your auditory verbal hallucinations and move forward from there.
If your doctor suspects your voices are the result of a mental health condition, our team at EXIS Recovery Inc. can help. Auditory verbal hallucinations are most common in people who experience psychosis, affecting 75% of people who have schizophrenia, up to 50% of adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and about 40% of individuals with PTSD.
Getting to the underlying cause of your auditory hallucination is the first step toward finding the treatment that will help you put those voices to rest.
Call 424-244-3513 to reach our West Los Angeles office today, or use the easy online booking feature to schedule a visit with one of our seasoned mental health experts any time.