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December 26, 2004

BehindTheMedspeak: Children who hear voices


Traditional psychiatric thinking holds that hearing voices is a symptom of schizophrenia and needs to be treated with potent anti-psychotic drugs.

However, one study suggests that children who hear voices may not have psychosis.

One of the investigators, Marius Romme, professor of social psychiatry at the University of Limburg, in Maastricht, Holland, said, "We must accept that the voices exist. We also must accept that we cannot change the voices. They are not curable, just as you cannot cure left-handedness or homosexuality. Human variations are not open to cure, only to coping."

The scientists found that many of the voice-hearing experiences were triggered by stressful circumstances, such as sexual abuse, moving, or bereavement.

They believe that the key to reducing symptoms is having the parents and affected child try to "normalize" the condition rather than making it seem frightening or strange.

Many years ago, I read a difficult, disturbing, yet strangely exhilarating book by Julian Jaynes entitled "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind."


At the heart of this book is the revolutionary idea that human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution, but is a learned process brought into being out of an earlier hallucinatory mentality by cataclysm and catastrophe only 3,000 years ago.

If so, how much of what we call pathology is vestigial mental functioning from the millions of years that preceded consciousness?

The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio is a contemporary writer whose ideas recall those of Jaynes.


Indeed, he seems to think that the evolution of consciousness may have extended into even later times than Jaynes suggests, for he maintains that Plato and Aristotle did not have a concept of consciousness in the way that we do today.

The preoccupation with what we call consciousness is new, he believes, perhaps only three and a half centuries old, and only really came to the fore in the twentieth century.

Or perhaps it hasn't yet happened.


Ray Kurzweil, in his upcoming book, "The Singularity Is Near," targets 2030 as the year we rise from our animal, meat-based selves into an entirely new order of being.

December 26, 2004 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Rikki --

No...it may be because you put him on it in the first place. 6 years old is waaaaay too young to ever have a kid on ritalin regardless of what the quacks tell you. Apparently, he has been on this since he was 5.

Drugs given at this age for ADHD aren't for the child, they are for the parent. I'm not saying this to mean anything against you, its just the health care industry has been trained to treat the parents and forget that they actually have a patent to deal with...one that is actually doing what all kids do.

*ALL* kids are hyper at this age...none pay attention...and if they aren't, something is wrong. Get rid of the playstations, the xboxes and the wiis if you are worried about him not being able to pay attention. These sorts of things are known to change how the neural pathways grow in a child (just as any fast paced, high action activity are...but these sorts of activities don't occur in real life because kids just don't have the energy). Problem is, parents these days are too afraid to let kids do what they normally do...which is play. 30 years ago (when I was still a kid), children would be allowed to travel a mile or more to play...now...we don't even want them playing in our back yard. Funny thing is, we act as if the world is much more dangerous when all statistical proof shows that it is just as safe for kids as it ever was (maybe even more because kids understand that perverts are bad people and we now talk to all our kids about this). Want the kid to be less hyper? Tell him to go outside and play...and tell him he isn't allowed in for the next X hours.

Beyond that, children generally hear voices, and then they go away. I've said this a dozen times in this article, but no one seems to want to believe me. Oh well, it is the same as telling parents their kids are normal when they are running around screaming their bloody heads off. Yeah...makes YOU want to tear your hair out...and it really isn't pleasant, but it eventually goes away and if you do it right, they will be far more well rounded that all the other soccer moms' kids out there.

Congrats about getting him off the meds! Don't listen to the pharms...don't listen to those of us in the mental health industry that want to treat everything with meds BEFORE trying anything else (and even then.........)

Don't worry about the voices...

(Note: as far as you know, I'm just a crank on the internet...do your own research...pick up Driven To Distraction...)

Posted by: clifyt | Dec 27, 2008 12:35:47 AM

My son is 6 and has been on Ritalin for 1 year for his ADHD. I recently took him off because I did not like how he was on the medication. Since then he has told me that he hears voices (not just one several). He told me that the voices tell him to do bad things. Is this a result of him not taking his medication.

Posted by: Rikki Cano | Dec 26, 2008 8:01:57 PM

Starshine --

It isn't that I don't think that anyone has mental issues, I see it every day. It is just drugs are over prescribed and most psychologists / psychiatrists are stuck with the model given to them by the insurance industry. Drugs do not cure ADHD. Cognitive behavioral therapy comes close. Trust me, I was one of those kids with it. I dropped out of high school (or was I kicked out)...I dropped out of several colleges. Working on a graduate degree in psychology now that I figured it out. The drugs work as a short term crutch, but you need to to the behavioral work BEFORE their effectiveness wears off (or the side effects start to kick in). Unfortunately, insurance generally pays between 5 to 10 sessions a year...and you aren't going to get the treatment you need in that (it is sad, but I actually hear of people telling psychologists that they think their kid tried to commit suicide because it will prompt the insurance to authorize almost anything...I DO NOT recommend this because it would be highly inappropriate for me to even suggest this...only pointing out the extent some people go to).

The thing that has worked for me? Meditation...works better than any drug. I will admit, occasionally, I break down and take one when I can't handle it any more...but it is rare these days...the drugs are more for others than myself...I have a feeling most psychologists do not believe this is a real disease and go after the symptoms instead of the cause as well as it is better for those around the patient.


As for hearing voices, we all do...and then we forget. If we didn't forget, we'd stunt our growth. Impossible for most people to actually remember this sort of thing because it happens so gradually that you just accept it. If you ask about images, kids will see images...its just how it works. Parents don't even understand how much they prime their children to believe certain things...if kids are told their voices are bad or wrong or even just made to feel that it is wierd, they WILL fixate on it and not develop properly. The point is, it is a natural part of childhood that we all go through -- just like our imaginary friend that we all 'know' we were just playing when we were a kid (but in reality, you most likely thought your friend was real...the plain voices are a more grown up version of this).

Posted by: clifyt | Nov 18, 2008 3:03:39 PM

I'll give my apologies from my first post as from the way it is stated it appears that his diagnosis came before the hearing and talking to voices stuff began. It actually was a factor in finally taking him to a psychologist, and then through a psych eval from which the ADHD with rage tendencies as well as other possibles came from.

So my bad.


Posted by: starshineowned | Nov 18, 2008 2:26:03 PM

Clifyt..He's taking ADHD meds because without them he is literally un-reachable. Now I could sit here and elaborate on how that plays out but you don't seem the type of person to think that any one can or does have real mental issues. Thats fine. I know my son..you do not.

I don't believe I ever stated that hearing voices wasn't normal nor to the fact that we intended to do anything other than continue to help him take control and understand his manifestations as they present themselves. My only contributional intent was the relation of parents who state their kids hearing voices and being diagnosed with ADHD as well seems to be prevelant enough to warrant merit.

As far as the ADHD inducement..I've already long traveled down that path as a possible as well as any truamatic occurrences that could of contributed to the onset with no link because though he never admitted to the seeing of a figure when he first started hearing the voice..last night he finally did admit that the image had also been there, and this was even before he was diagnosed with ADHD and well before any medication..but thankyou for that mention as some ADHD medications have been linked to children hearing voices.


Posted by: starshineowned | Nov 18, 2008 2:16:43 PM

Glad to know there are people still freaking out about normal and expected childhood development.

See a psychologist and LISTEN to what he or she has to say...not a quack psychologist. Not one that talks about his or her stated religion (in fact, if they talk about religion at all, they are most likely a quack). One that actually passed the boards on the first time. And came from a reputible school...it isn't hard to tell if it is reputable. Then again, things like a 9 year old hearing voices? It isn't within the standard associated age range, but still close enough to be normal (teens? no).

To starshine: If you are giving your child ANY medication at age 9 for ADHD, well...maybe this isn't normal then...most likely substance (amphetamine) induced delirium. Luckily, they probably have a drug for that too. But you'll need the cure for that one in a year. And one for that one too. And another one for that one. The hope is that you aren't...

Voices in children are a normal and natural thing for the most part. We all have them and we all forget about them as we get older because they become our interdialogue and start to speak in our own tongue. Anyhoo...

Posted by: clifyt | Nov 18, 2008 1:50:16 PM

My 9yr old son was diagnosed with ADHD 2yrs ago, and started off talking aloud to himself to the point that anyone would swear he wasn't alone. Sometimes he would talk in such a manner as to give impression that several other people were there, and his own voice would be the voice asking and answering for this other person/s. On occassion we would swear his own voice would change in tone, demeanor. When asked who he was talking to he would say no one. When asked if he saw anyone else he would say no.

Within the past 6 months he's stated he does hear a voice in his head telling him to do bad things like break stuff of mine that he knows I like, and once to drop a painting that was over my head on the wall while I was taking a nap. Still he denied seeing anyone else.

Last night he stated during a semi melt down in the house over school work not getting done that the voice was still there and always strong/persistent that he do or not do something but this time he stated he saw a image associated to this voice. He said the image was in the room were we were..looked directly to this area, and gave a fairly indepth description of this image, and that he shows up when ever (wether my sons having a good time or bad) but mostly shows up when other adults are talking to him or during school.

He doesn't seem afraid of this voice/image but stated that the voice/image doesn't like anyone..not even my son, and that when he does what this voice says to do or not do..that he gets a good feeling inside. He said he can get this good feeling inside also when he's just playing and having fun so we atleast know this voice/image isn't needed completely for him to feel good. (small blessing there somewhere)

Were not sure what to believe with him as he lies alot to us, and his whole life and thought process seems centered on play, however that manifests itself for him. Currently were not trying to make him get rid of the voice/image but rather use his own strong drive to be the best and know everything attitude to best this voice/image and be stronger and better than it is..i.e. control it.


Posted by: starshineowned | Nov 18, 2008 11:16:45 AM

My seven - soon to be 8 - year old daughter has begun hearing what she describes as yelling inside her mind - a doll-like voice that stops with a disturbing feeling (those are her words.) She also says that her voice (or our voices) feel magnified. She seems to have these episodes after reading intensely, playing computer games, during an intense conversation or while falling asleep. I can see her body go tense. The episodes typically last between 10 seconds and a minute. Sometimes they are isolated, sometimes they cycle through 3-4 times. This has been going on for about a week. She is extremely bright, happy and socially engaged. No behavior problems. We feel that we have been keeping her too busy - intellectually and otherwise and that perhaps we need to "cool her mind down" by reducing academic expectations and after-school academic activities, while allowing her more time for just being a little kid and doing the things she enjoys. Also, limiting the amount of time she reads and computes. It's worrisome and engenders feelings of helplessness to see her going through this. We are talking to her about the voice and not putting a emphasis on it - just hugging her when it happens and gently encouraging her to talk out her feelings about it. I experienced horrible night terrors as a child - she has had minor versions of them. We will see how this progresses and take some of your suggestions - like having her draw a picture of the voice.

Posted by: wondering | Mar 24, 2008 10:18:08 PM

My son is now 5 1/2. He is a good boy, prone to excessive energy at times. He loves music and cars...and girls. :) When he was about 2 years old or perhaps a little older, he started exhibiting a very strange behavior - licking little girls toes, especially when they were painted. I know. We would explain boundaries...but the behavior continued off and on for a couple of years. When he became old enough to explain things to me, I asked him why he did that. He said the man told him to. I asked, what man? He said their was a man from the 'olden days' who played cards/poker, and said it was fun to lick girls toes. I don't think it was someone he 'saw', but perhaps saw in his mind?? He has also told me for a couple of years, that he hears a voice tell him to do bad things. I'm wondering if maybe this is his consciousness...learning how to make decisions like that previous poster stated? I'd like to think that anyways. But about the toes...it hasn't stopped in 3 years...I am concerned for grade school. Any suggestions or thoughts???

Posted by: Jen | Feb 29, 2008 6:55:27 PM

To all concerned parents:
First of all, I am no psychologist, and if you are truly concerned that these voices are impeding on your childs life, seek help. However, as a child I heard voices. To describe it more effectively, the voice was more than that, but a total body experience. I would feel removed from my body, totally agitated, and time would seem to be in a fast-forward mode, as though everything was moving around me faster than I could keep up. During this time, I would hear this very taunting voice, the words I couldn't always decipher, but the tone was always menacing.

I went to my mother who confided with me that she too had had similar experiences as a child. For her, she had to simply forget fear and when it triggered her, she finally grabbed pencil and pen and began to draw. In minutes, her culprit was there, on paper. She'd drawn her demon. And in doing so, she escaped it. To her it was like an "ah hah! there you are. you're not so scary after all." and that was it.

For me, I had to regain control over it. By talking to my mother and realizing that I wasn't crazy, I was no longer as frightened. The fright was what scared me more than the feeling...the not knowing if I was losing it or something. (and I was around 9 or 10) So, when it would come over me, I would simply tell it, out loud if need be, to "go away. Leave me alone. I am not controlled by you." Once I had regained control of the situtation, the episode became less frequent and less intense. After a time I never suffered from one.

It's been atleast 15 years now and I have yet to suffer from an episode ever again. Sometimes I'll recognize something that used to be a trigger (a certain beat or rhythm in a song for instance) and I immediately gain control and breath deep. Know that you are in control.

Posted by: Erin | Jan 25, 2008 11:10:16 AM

Redefining hearing voices

If it was not for social psychiatrist Professor Marius Romme, visiting professor of the University of Central England, the Hearing Voices Network may never have been founded. He describes why he believes hearing voices – or auditory hallucinations – is not necessarily symptomatic of an illness.

- based on a speech given at the launch of The Hearing Voices Network, in the summer of 2000.


"Hearing voices in itself is not a symptom of an illness, but is apparent in 2 - 3 % of the population. One in three becomes a psychiatric patient - but two in three can cope well and are in no need of psychiatric care and no diagnosis can be given because 2/3 are quite healthy and well functioning.

There are in our society more people hearing voices who never became psychiatric patients than there are people who hear voices and become psychiatric patients.

The difference between patients hearing voices, and non-patients hearing voices, is their relationship with the voices. Those who never became patients accepted their voices and use them as advisers.

In patients, however, voices are not accepted and seen as evil-messengers.

Don’t kill the messenger

They are messengers and they have a message. They are related to sincere problems that occurred in the person’s life and they tell us about those problems. Therefore it is not wise to kill the messenger. Instead of not-listening to the message we should look how to help and sustain the person in solving their problems. (It is like it has been in many wars and conflicts in ancient times already, where the messengers were killed when a message was not welcome).

Research shows also that hearing voices in itself is not related to the illness of schizophrenia. In population research only 16% of the whole group of voice hearers can be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Also, therefore, it is not right to identify hearing voices as an illness. Psychiatry in our western culture, however, tends unjustly to identify hearing voices with schizophrenia. Going to a psychiatrist with hearing voices gives you an 80% chance of getting a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

However, when you identify hearing voices with illness and try to kill the voices with neuroleptic medication, you just miss the personal problems that lay at the roots of hearing voices - and you will not help the person solving those problems. You just make a chronic patient.


Many patients rightly realize that their experience of hearing voices is wrongly interpreted as a symptom of an illness of schizophrenia. Many patients also rightly feel that it is a handicap that they are not allowed to talk about their voices in psychiatry on fully unjustified grounds.

Many patients also are unjustly treated with high doses of neuroleptics which becomes a drawback to their development and their possibility to take their lives in their own hands.

Therefore many voice hearers are glad that there is an opportunity created by the National Hearing Voices Network, where their experience is recognized and accepted as real. Where the possibilities are available to talk about this experience and be appreciated for it.


In these groups of voice hearers people can learn form each-other about coping with their voices and they can support each other in their battle to stop being discriminated against. I do not deny that there exists a pattern of behaviour and experience that can be categorized as "schizophrenia.

The question, however, is how this pattern of behaviour and experience has developed in the diagnosed individual. We know quite a few people who, when they first heard voices, were not able to cope with their voices and developed a range of secondary reactions that mimic the whole range of schizophrenic behaviour and therefore were diagnosed as such.

But when they started to listen to their voices and recognise their problems and were able to learn to cope with their problems they were also able to cope with their voices and the full range of reactions diminished or vanished.


Therefore everyone who hears voices and has troubles with them, should be given the opportunity to assess the relationship of the voices. Their life experiences should be assessed for the reasons for hearing voices, before they become diagnosed and are treated for an illness instead of being helped with their problems.

The negative attitude of our society and our psychiatric services towards hearing voices and schizophrenia should be scrutinized. As long as that is not the case HVN offers a unique opportunity for voice hearers to scrutinize their own victim status and help each other to overcome the negative attitude of the society the consequences of discrimination related to it.


The prognosis of hearing voices is more positive than generally is perceived. In Sandra Escher's research with children hearing voices she followed 82 children over a period of four years. In that period 64% of the children’s voices disappeared congruently with learning to cope with emotions and becoming less stressed.

In children with whom the voices were psychiatrised and made a part of an illness and not given proper attention, voices did not vanish, but became worse, the development of those children was delayed.

Normalising the experience within the family was of help to children and parents who became able to support the child with existing problems. While the illness concept estranges parents and children, makes them afraid and introduces a fatal outlook on the future of a life-time illness.

Therefore the HVN is of such importance and should expand its activities in training professionals to react differently with voices and voice hearers to support each-other instead of deny their experience and try to kill it. To develop actions that will end the social taboo.

As long as there exist a social taboo against voices psychiatry will keep up his role as custodian of this taboo. Because that is what psychiatry is set up for, to watch over societies interests in mental health affairs. In itself this is an adequate role when it is done rightly and effectively, which is at the moment not the case as far as voice hearing is concerned.

Democratic force

The social taboo however will change if the uniting of people hearing voices becomes strong enough as a democratic force to realize that change, as has been the case with the gay movement. Therefore it is good that there are not only national networks, but that there will be more international co-operation's between the different countries in which the movement is developing.

It started with a National Network for voice hearers in Holland in 1987. While people came together at the first conference of voice hearers in the city of Utrecht. Voice hearers decided to start an association. At that time we all did not know much about hearing voices. Research was practically only done from a point of view of illness and only at the patient hood level.

Thereafter England was the first country, and Manchester the first city to pick up this idea and got best organized and most active. Therefore an international stimulating role would fit the UK well. In the years that have passed there has been a gradual development of hearing voices networks over Europe. First in Finland, thereafter in Italy, Portugal, Sweden and Germany ,and . Also outside of Europe it started in Japan, Australia, the USA and even Malaysia.

When we look at the different countries it shows that good developments like in England need a paid professional co-ordinator to support and organize the network. This is the case in Finland and Sweden. In other countries development is slow because not enough human and financial resources are invested."


Julie Downs, co-ordinator of the Hearing Voices Network (HVN), offers a brief history of the organisation, and outlines what it represents.

Aims and purpose of HVN

Part of the overall aim of HVN is to promote positive explanations of voice hearing experiences and give people a framework for developing their own ways of coping. In order to cope with their experiences people need to take control of their voices and regain some power over their lives.

The aims of the network are

· To raise awareness of voice hearing, visions, tactile sensations and other sensory experiences

· To give men women and children who have these experiences an opportunity to talk freely about this together.

· To support anyone with these experiences seeking to understand, learn and grow from them in their own way.

We try to achieve our aims through these objectives:

Promoting, developing and supporting self-help groups
Organising and delivering training sessions for health workers and the general public
Making available a telephone line that gives information and help to people who experience hearing voices, seeing visions and tactile sensations
To give men, women and children who have these experiences an opportunity to talk freely about them
Produce four newsletters a year

How the Hearing Voices Network started.

The Hearing Voices Network has developed from a handful of groups to become part of a national and international network. The groups started as many voluntary groups do out of necessity, with the impetus coming from a voice hearer. It was based on the revolutionary research of Professor Marius Romme and Sandra Escher. Their research proposed that the way to cope with hearing voices was to talk about them, to get people who heard voices to get together to talk to each other about their experiences.

Whist this may not sound very revolutionary it nevertheless was. At the time of the research (1987), classical psychiatry regarded hearing voices as a delusion, a psychotic symptom, a symptom of schizophrenia. To talk to the person hearing voices was to collude with their delusion. The treatment was to ignore the voices and give the person medication to get rid of them, if this did not work the dosage was increased.

Often the voices would not go away and the people suffered severe side effects that sometimes ruined their quality of life and destroyed relationships. Though I write in the past tense and ideas and psychiatric practices have, and continue to change in relation to hearing voices, much of this practice is still carried out today. Sadly some people still do not get the help they feel they want and this is where hearing voices groups fill a need.

The first group

The first UK hearing voices group was formed in 1988, it began as a small planning group originating in Manchester, inspired by the pioneering work of Romme and Escher and the Dutch self help group, Foundation Resonance which was established through Romme and Escher’s work.

One of Romme’s patients, Patsy Hague, had persistently heard voices, her quality of life was all but destroyed and she was becoming increasingly suicidal. Patsy had developed a theory based on a book by Julian Jaynes, ‘The Origins of ‘Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind’ (1976). She found it reassuring to read that hearing voices had been regarded as a normal way of making decisions until about 1300 BC. According to Jaynes, the experience of hearing voices has almost disappeared and been replaced with what we now call consciousness. Patsy Hague shared this information with Romme.

After thinking through what Patsy had talked about, Romme eventually decided to set up meetings between Patsy and other people who heard voices. Romme listened with interest and amazement as they talked to each other, he was struck by the way in which they communicated and understood each other. These meetings continued and every session between people who heard voices produced a great deal of recognition of each others plight. However they also revealed what Romme described as, ‘’a huge void of powerlessness, in my experience none of these patients were able to cope with their voices’’

Romme and Esher decided that in order to help people who were not coping well with their voices they must find people who were. Consequently, Romme and Patsy appeared on a popular Dutch television programme. Patsy and Romme talked about her experience of hearing voices and invited people to contact them after the programme. The response was surprising, seven hundred people contacted Romme. Three hundred of these said that they were not coping well, 150 said they had found ways to manage their voices.

The response of the people who were coping led Romme to organise contact between people to exchange information and discuss their experiences, eventually going on to organise a conference to gather more information. This was the beginning of hearing voices self-help groups, Romme and Escher went on to carry out more research on voices, the Hearing Voices Network had begun.

Foundation Resonance

The conference, led to establishing ‘Foundation Resonance’, whose aim was to break down the social taboos surrounding voice hearing. Foundation Resonance is a network of people who hear voices whether these are associated with psychiatric illness or not. Families and professionals also form part of the membership. Similar to the UK network, It has a telephone link and puts people in touch with each other and has self help groups throughout Holland.

The UK experience

In 1988, Paul Baker, a community development worker from Manchester

attended a conference in Trieste. This was called ’The Question of Psychiatry’ and was sponsored by the World Health Organisation. Baker was there in a search for non-medical solutions to mental health problems and It was here that he met Romme and Escher who were presenting information of their work on hearing voices.

For mixed reasons Baker found this fascinating, having a close relative who experienced voice hearing and as a community development worker he was keen to promote and develop initiatives that supported people in maintaining their own autonomy in the face of distressing symptoms. He left Trieste with his interest aroused and later that year, in November, Romme invited him to attend a conference in Maastricht, this was called simply, ‘People who hear voices’.

Romme explained to Baker that the decision to hold a conference was not his, but that of Foundation Resonance, the patients felt that professional mental health workers were not accepting the reality of their voices. For this reason greater numbers of professional mental health workers than voice hearers had been invited to the conference. The people who heard voices wanted to demonstrate that normal healthy people hear voices without being psychotic. The conference fulfilled the hope that the professionals would listen to the explanations and experiences of the people who heard voices. Baker was impressed with the conference, describing it as fascinating and extremely useful,... ‘‘ Fundamental to the approach adopted by Romme and Escher and Resonance, has been its emphasis on partnership between voice hearers themselves and professionals who followed this lead; this was a refreshing change from most of the approaches I had come across before, which rarely - if ever, gave such importance to the views of those who had actually experienced the mental health difficulties under consideration.’’ (Baker 1989)

Following the conference Baker came back with these words from Romme in his mind, ‘‘I ask you to do the same in England. Groups need to be established in each country, where people can talk about hearing voices ...it takes groups of people with the same experience to change attitudes… in America and England at the moment, psychiatrists are conducting themselves as parents. My goal is not to change psychiatry, not to change the parents but to offer the hearers of voices an organization through which they can emancipate themselves’ ( Romme in Baker 1990)

Baker proceeded to interest other people in this idea and in 1989 Romme and Escher and a member of foundation resonance visited Britain. Before the visit Baker had set up a series of public meetings in Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool. The meetings were well attended by voice hearers, their relatives, members of the public and mental health workers. Other meetings followed, eventually groups were set up in London and Manchester, these were the first UK hearing voices groups.

What are Hearing Voices groups?

Hearing Voices groups are typically, a number of people who share the experience of hearing voices, coming together to help and support each other, they exchange information and learn from each other share the same problems and may have similiar life situations. Sometimes the group may include relatives and carers of people who hear voices.

The purpose of hearing voices groups is to offer a safe haven where people feel accepted and comfortable. They also have an aim of offering an opportunity to for people to accept and ’live with their voices’, in a way that gives some control and helps them to regain some power over their lives. However, these are broad aims and not all group members will use the group for this purpose

Many people feel who hear voices feel completely powerless and say that their lives have been taken over by the voices. Most have never had an opportunity to talk to anyone until they attend a group and all members say that talking helps them. Members will use the group in different ways, at different times of their lives. This is why it is not very useful to think of groups in terms of measurable outcomes. When it comes to reviewing the group, (a useful exercise to check if members are getting what they want from the group), evaluation should be creative.

It is of little value to think of success in terms of numbers of members, these are bound to fluctuate according to need, most groups are fluid and members will move in and out of them as changes occur in their lives. Some people take great comfort from just knowing the group is there, and although it may be a resource they use infrequently, they nevertheless are glad of, and find comfort from its existence.

Campbell goes on to make the important point that, ’’central to the argument is the proposition that people with a mental illness diagnosis can be providers as well as recipients of care’’.

An important and fundamental part of self-help groups is that they validate an individual’s experience. They can make an astonishing difference to, and can be a turning point in peoples lives. Ron Coleman (1999) (describes how his first visit to a hearing voices self-help group affected him. ’’ Anne Walton, a fellow voice hearer who, at my very first hearing voices group asked me if I heard voices. When I replied that I did, she told me that they were real. This does not sound like much but that one sentence has been a compass for me showing me the direction I needed to travel and underpinning my belief in the recovery process.’’

Coleman’s story is well documented elsewhere, so briefly I will just say that he eventually became the National Co-ordinator of HVN. Ten years on he is the director of several companies that provide publications, training and organise conferences on mental health issues. But his ability to cope with hearing voices developed from the crucial point of admitting he heard voices and having his experience accepted by other people. This admission and acceptance were the beginning of coming to terms with coping with his voices.

Other groups also use the analogy of travel, the journey back to taking control of your life is hard work, but it can be done with the a good map of the terrain. Self-help groups can provide this.

See also:
Raising Our Voices - An Account of the Hearing Voices Movement - by Adam James

Copyright Psychminded, 2001

Posted by: Heather | Sep 17, 2007 8:20:28 AM

clifyt you are a jack ass! i hope you are sterile!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: jimi | Sep 6, 2007 11:38:27 PM

You know I keep seeing this page referenced and always laugh.

Kids ALWAYS hear voices. In fact, most developmental psychologists believe that this is essential for growth. Until later in adolescence, pretend and reality are generally the same thing -- and it HAS to be this way so that the kid can go over hypothetical situations with the full impact of reality (or at least what they believe to be) without any long lasting harm. It is the last step before they realize how to think on their own.

Of course, there is a new breed of psychologists and psychiatrists that don't seem to believe anything past what manufacturers want others to hear. It is easier this way, less likely to run into problems with insurance, and less likely to run afoul of malpractice when an intensive therapy doesn't work -- because they can then blame the drug and avoid any repercussions themselves (even if the problem may be far deeper than can be treated with EITHER).

All in all, the whole belief that voices are bad is bullshit. MAH KID ACTS DIFFRUNT THAN THEM THAIR OTHER KIDS, AH NEEDS TI GIT HIM HELP. Bullshit. Its normal. If anyone needs psychology, its the parents who simply need to learn to talk to their kids. They are looking to YOU to help them and get them to rationalize the voices, to figure out the scenarios in their head, to get them to the next level.

But that doesn't work with modern psychology as practiced in an insurance dependent, litigation friendly, medication-can-fix-all society.

I'm just glad my parents encouraged an active imagination and helped shape it as opposed to sending me to doctors. Parents need to simple work with the children and leave it at that.

Posted by: clifyt | Sep 4, 2007 8:56:44 AM

my almost 6 year old son just told me that he is hearing a scary laugh in his ears. he thinks maybe it's because he watched scooby doo today. he was recently diagnosed with adhd. i am trying to avoid using ritalin. we are on our third day of caffeine therapy and dietary changes. could this be related to the caffeine intake? my e-mail is jimilei@q.com if anyone has any comments or suggestions.

Posted by: jimi | Sep 4, 2007 1:29:17 AM

I have been having problems with my now 9 year old son for about 3 years. At first I blamed it on my divorce, but it seems like each year he gets harder to deal with and he does worse in school. His father and I get along very well now and do things with our children together, so I started thinking that may not be the problem. He day dreams a lot and cries for no reason (that's what it seems), he's defiant, and very mean to his sister at times. At other times he's very loving and nuturing, it's almost like he's 2 people. Recently he started waking the house with a terrifying scream night after night. Every night he would tell me a man was in his room yelling at him. I assumed he just had a "bad dream" and invited him to come sleep with me.
About 3 weeks ago his father and I decided to take him to the mental health department at Kaiser (they are wonderful), he sees a psycologist and a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist got him to tell her more about the "man", he told her he comes around when he is alone in his room, but he talks to him even when people are there and that he scares him. Last night he was pulling is hair and crying, "Mommy please make them go away, tell them to stop talking to me".
This is so much different from his imaginary friend he had when he was was younger, he never made him cry.
I'm worried about my baby and what his life may become...

Posted by: Mar | Aug 14, 2007 1:19:16 PM

My almost 6 year old son told me the other day that he hears voices calling his name all the time. Sometimes men, sometimes woman. He is a bright child who is always happy and very involved in many different things. I am extremely worried about him and would like to know if I have reason for concern.

Posted by: Minnie | Jul 22, 2007 10:27:42 PM

when i was about 7 or 8 i used to hear voices calling my name at night as i tried to fall asleep. then i started using sound machines and music to help me fall asleep and didnt hear them anymore. recently ive stopped putting music on at night and i think im starting to hear them again. theyre not as loud now (once a long time ago i heard someone actually scream my name. it was horrible) but they are definatly coming back. whats wrong with me??

Posted by: mallory | Jul 18, 2007 10:38:32 PM

Anyone have any answers to the voices question? My 8 year old told me for the first time tonite that she can't concentrate because the two voices are frustrating her too much. She said this is the second time she has heard them. Also, she has had a lot of headaches over the years; yells in her sleep; easily frustrated; but very smart and articulate. Any help greatly appreciated

Posted by: kimberly | Jul 2, 2007 10:31:24 PM

My 6..almost 7 ..year old son started telling me about three weeks ago that he heard voices and saw people. I figured it was his active imagination fueled by a recent interest in Harry Potter. I have significant family history of mental illnes so I made him an appointment. We had the first appointment today. The Dr said he was too young to diagnose with any major psycosis....I'm not sure I agree. We have set up weekly apointments. He is no ADHD...almost the polar opposite actually. What is this though???? Anyone with more info is welcome to share jteccampbell@msn.com

Posted by: Tonja | Jun 11, 2007 9:34:13 PM

My son aged 7 nearly 8 has just told me not for the first time that he hears voices. He is generally a happy bright boy with lots of friends and he has an older brother. I am worried and would be grateful of any advice that I can get.

Posted by: christina | Jun 10, 2007 3:06:26 PM

My 8 year old daughter just told me she has been hearing voices and it has me totally freaked out. The first thing I thought of was her having a mental problem. Is this a developmental thing or have they tied it to something having to do with ADHD? My daughter does not even seem to be close to have ADD/ADHD. But she has said that she has heard these voices before and it is enough now that they are freaking her out and she doesn't want to go to bed. Any advice?

Posted by: TMD | Apr 16, 2007 2:56:45 PM

My 6 year old said that she couldn't concentrate as she was hearing too much talking going on in her head. She is having a particular hard time with reading at the moment and doesn't find it easy to pick the words up even though it had been repeated several times on the page. She said it was a boy telling her to stop reading.

Posted by: Lynn Doyle | Mar 15, 2007 12:56:03 PM

My 12 yr. old just admitted to me that she hears voices that call out her name. In the night and also at school. She has ADHD , and has a aggressive behavior. Does this have anything to do with the ADHD? Or is it deeper.?

Posted by: Robin | Mar 11, 2007 10:00:45 PM

I have a 9 year old son. He can be very defiant and blatant about it. If I ask him not to do something, as soon as I leave the room he goes and does what I asked him not to. He has been like this for several years. He has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, currently taking Prozac. Today I asked him why he does these things that he knows will get him into trouble and he told me he hears the devil telling him to do it. I don't know if I believe him or not. What if he is telling the truth? He lies and steals all the time so I don't know what to believe. I have two other children that are perfectly fine. Any advice out there?? beckrah3@yahoo.com

Posted by: Shannan | Feb 24, 2007 6:06:33 PM

I ressently spent a night at my 20year old cousin's house. In the midle of the night, she began to speak on her cell phone and was repeating over and over " just come over, just come over". She then proceeded by telling this "person" on the phone who I was and who was sleeping in the room next to us in a way that was not telling him but answering his questions as if this person was watching her appartment and knew we were there. I asked her about this the next day and she told me he was a young boy, 4 years old that has out of body experienses and connects to her through her phone line. She is sure that all of this is real. Is this normal?

Posted by: Mel | Feb 13, 2007 2:21:15 PM

My 10 year old daughter has ADHD sympotms that she manages pretty well with a lot of exercise and sleep with help of melatonin (she has a lot of trouble falling asleep). She started telling me about voices whenshe was around 8. She said she had always heard them and I thought she was kidding. So I did a lot of research that said as long as they are not telling you bad things or talking so much/so loudly that it interferes with everyday activities, not to worry. I still keep a close eye on it. She has also heard a dog barking. I didn't realize it was so common to hear things with kids with ADHD symptoms, though.

Posted by: kb | Feb 4, 2007 2:43:14 PM

Hi, I have a 10 year old son and he also hears voices. He tells me that he hears a mans voice very deep telling him things. Some things are not so good. One time he told me that the voice was telling me to kill. He said it didn't say who to kill the voice was just saying kill in his head. That scared me so much. His doctors say he has ADHD. I'm still taking my son to other doctors to have him tested for other things. I've told all his doctors and therapist about the voices in his head. I'm still looking for an answer to all of this. I'm worried also because it seems my sons problems get worse everyday. Good luck to all of you with the same problems.

Posted by: danielle | Jan 24, 2007 9:35:34 AM

I have a grandson, age 5, who also has symptoms likened to ADHD and he has been doing very strange things to the kids in kindergarten and at home is completely out of control. When we ask him why, he says there is a man in his head telling him to do bad things. He even has a name for this man that I cannot pronounce. Has anyone heard of this before and know what we can do?

Posted by: Julia | Dec 21, 2006 3:20:38 PM

My daughter is 8 and recently told me she hears voices calling her name. She also "zones out" at times during the day. Where do I turn for help? She had been seeing a psychologist, but it did not seem to help.

Posted by: Holly | Dec 18, 2006 10:24:48 PM

My 8 year old son told me that the ringing in my ears (tinnitis) could be just like the voices that he sometimes hears in his head...which really scared me. He says that he has always heard the voice, that it is a voice he doesn't know and that it scares him, although he doesn't know what it says. He is a happy, smart, and outgoing child with many friends, although he does play on him gameboy and gamecube too much for my liking. I don't really know what to do.

Posted by: lisa | Nov 29, 2006 9:26:41 AM

has anyone done any research on there own to see what this actually means.
my daughter who is age 10, and is ADHD, has just told me the same thing, she hears a voice telling her to do bad things. This is scaring me.

Posted by: Denise | Jul 25, 2006 2:16:04 PM

My 7 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with having ADHD in May 2005. My daughter also told me that she was hearing voices that would tell her to do bad things. I thought at that time she was just using this as an excuse because she had done something she wasn't suppose to and she was going to get into trouble. Just the other day she had mentioned that she still keeps hearing the voice. She says that it is a girl and that her name is Shayna. My husband and I were starting to think that she may have 2 personalities. It is really starting to worry us. I don't know if this is normal or maybe it has something to do with the ADHD. Should I take her to a Psychiatrist to be evaluated. If someone could give me some advise on this, it would be greatly appreciated. My e-mail address is listed as daisymaelouiejack@Yahoo.com.

Thank you

Posted by: Rusti | Nov 21, 2005 4:41:52 PM

My son has come to me the past 2 nights hearing voices. The first night he said he hear a little girl laughing. The second night it sounded like a radio was on. He went to find out where the radio was on and realized that their wasn't one on and the ncame running into our room scared. Should I be at all worried.

Posted by: kathy | Nov 9, 2005 10:31:16 PM

I heard voices throughout childhood & adolescence--as a very young person, I'd make the dolls and stuffed animals (stuffies) repeat what I heard.

What I remember in adolescence is that there were people carrying on conversations just a little too far away to hear.

The only time I hear them now is if I am falling asleep....it is like falling asleep in a train station, conversations not quite understandable with occasional loud but gibberish announcements.

I didn't realize it was abnormal to hear voices until I was in college and took psychology.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 26, 2004 11:59:17 PM

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