We know that many young people hear voices or sounds that other people can’t hear. The recent My World Survey found that over one in five adolescents have had this experience. This can feel frightening or confusing, particularly with a back drop of movies and tv programmes that portray hearing voices as ‘crazy’. However, there are many explanations for the phenomenon of hearing voices.
What does ‘hearing voices’ mean?
Each experience of hearing voices is unique . There can be one or several voices, and it can occur frequently or infrequently (for some people, it may only happen once). The voice itself may be familiar or not (someone you know or don’t know). For some people, the voice could be a commentator. It can be brought on by a certain experience or feelings in some cases. However, it can be helpful to make the distinction between hearing voices and our inner self-talk or inner critic.
Inner critic vs. hearing voices
The biggest difference between the inner critic and hearing voices is that one is our own thoughts and one is an auditory experience (sounds in our ears). We all have inner ‘self-talk’ when we are thinking things through in our head. We can “talk ourselves” in or out of things, and in many cases describe an internal ‘voice’ that helps us evaluate our choices for example. On the other hand, hearing voices is an auditory experience where the voice could feel like it’s right next to us, or more in the distance.