How to cope with voices

Not everyone hears voices or sounds with psychosis, but it’s not an uncommon experience. Types of auditory experiences vary greatly. Some may be distressing, while others may even be comforting. Some may be temporary, and others lasting.

Radio hearing voicesFor a taste of what it’s like, try reading the rest of this page while listening to this simulation (warning: could be extra distressing for some).

Hearing voices does not automatically mean someone is experiencing psychosis. A large international 2015 study found that roughly 5% of the general population hears voices at some point in their lives. The nature of voice-hearing is an active area of scientific research (some of the latest is here).

Our favorite ways to cope when voices get in the way:

  • Listen to music (especially with earbuds).
  • Go for a walk, especially in nature. Any form of exercise can hit the reset button.
  • Focus on a book, drawing/art, writing in a journal, a puzzle, play an instrument, gardening or any task – even if it’s counting down from 100 – focus on whatever you are doing intently. Find the things/people that foster positive thoughts and feeling about yourself and the world.
  • Mindfulness practice / meditation. If you’re not sure how to get started, check out the Headspace app.
  • Use mantra – say something positive about yourself, 100 times over if you have to, to counteract negative messages.
  • Talk with a supportive friend/loved one.
  • Gain control by engaging with, or even challenging the voices. Ask them to come back at a more convenient time, or dismiss them altogether. For example, when something negative is said, you might respond with, “Prove it!”
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help change the way we think about the voices and reframe them to the positive.

Helpful resources:

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