6 Coping Strategies for Hearing Voices

Patient Expert

Hearing voices is a common experience for people who have schizophrenia. Yet not everyone who has this illness hears voices and others who do not have schizophrenia might hear voices. Changes in the brain linked to the auditory thalamus might cause voices, according to recent research.

No matter how or why you hear voices, here are six strategies for coping with those whispers:

1.) Talk with other voice-hearers to get ideas about what's going on and how you can cope.

Upwards of three-quarters of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia hear voices. There can be power in a union of people coming together to tackle their mutual problem.

Some voices are kind and benevolent and others are harmful. Command voices often tell an individual to do something, like self-harm, and can keep up a running commentary about the person's faults, like "You're no good; you must die."

Other voice-hearers could have helpful techniques they can give you about what might work to quell the intensity of the experience of hearing voices. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is also a useful adjunct to medication.

2.) Understand the context in which you hear voices.

Understanding voices can be like understanding and coping with delusions, which I wrote about at HealthCentral years ago. One woman taught her voices English when they spoke to her in Spanish.

3.) Impose a structure on the relationship with the voices to help minimize feelings of powerlessness, as a UK mental health agency suggests.

Hiding in your room isn't always healthy when you hear voices. When a guy I know first got out of the hospital he was so eager to get a job that he took a job even though he was symptomatic. Eventually it got to be too much. Yet the point is that powering through while counter-intuitive can have benefits unlike staying at home watching TV all day, every day.

4.) Boost confidence by getting credentials in an activity, like a hobby, sport, or job. Boost mood with self-esteem tactics.

5.) Listen to an iPod or MP3 player at home or outside to drown out the voices. You can use a cell phone to pretend to be talking to another person when you talk back to the voices.

6.) The mainstay of treatment for most people is often taking medication. People who have heard voices for 10 years have stopped hearing voices because their doctors tried every new drug that came on the market until they found the one that was effective.

In tandem with this, the goal is to not settle for less than the best possible outcome for your treatment. One guy's parents paraded him through numerous shrinks' offices until they found the best doctor who prescribed a new drug that halted his voices. For some of us, the voices stop as soon as we're placed on the initial medication.

As with any aspect of having a chronic illness, acting empowered and becoming proactive will help you weather any storm. Next month I will talk about strategies for coping with anxiety.

Related strategies for coping with hearing voices:
Talking with a supportive mentor or acting as a mentor with others
Minimizing symptoms with early intervention
Overcoming isolation to manage symptoms while out in public
[Creating your own "treatments"](http://www.healthcentral.com/schizophrenia/c/120/149018/schizophrenia "Creating your own "treatments"") to use along with traditional mental health services