Stigma and Self-Stigma Surrounding Schizoaffective Voices

January 5, 2023 Elizabeth Caudy


I haven’t heard schizoaffective voices in over a year, but when I used to hear them, I encountered a lot of stigma and became reluctant to mention them. Much of it was self-stigma, in that I wouldn’t talk about them to the people around me unless they were people I trusted and who knew already that I heard voices. But, the thing is, I was correct in not revealing, say, at work when I heard voices, as there is both stigma and self-stigma involved.

The reason I was correct is that people are really touchy, to put it mildly, about someone hearing voices. A friend told a classmate at college that she had a friend (me) who heard voices, and the classmate responded, “I would be afraid her voices would tell her to kill me.”

My friend retorted that, actually, my voices told me to protect my little brother. (My voices had once told me that.)

Stigma Around Hearing Schizoaffective Voices at Work

In 2004, I worked at the now out-of-business store Borders. They sold books, music CDs, and DVDs. I worked at the cash register. It would get really stressful, especially when there were a lot of people in line waiting to be checked out. Sometimes I would start to hear voices in the middle of working. I knew I couldn’t tell my co-workers--or, God forbid, my bosses--what was really going on. So I told them I was hypoglycemic and was having a sugar crash. When the voices came on, I needed to get out of there.

That was so long ago. I don’t remember what I did after I got out of work because of my “sugar crash.” All I remember is it didn’t strike me as unfair that I had to lie. I just saw it as my lot in life.

I heard voices at a job much later, too. I didn’t tell anyone there, either, about the symptom when it occurred. It was an evening job, so it was much less stressful, and there weren’t too many people to tell anyway.

People Who Suffer from Schizoaffective Voices Should Not Feel Stigmatized Nor Self-Stigma

I used to chain smoke when I heard voices. Then I quit smoking (I’ve been smoke-free for over 10 years), so I switched coping strategies to drinking decaffeinated coffee (no caffeine because of my anxiety) and then to drinking cold water. I have to say; I’m incredibly proud of myself for quitting smoking when it was my go-to coping technique when I heard voices.

My voices didn’t seem to want me to forget that I’d been a smoker, though. From the time I quit up until I stopped hearing them, they would repeat old favorites like, “Smoking is bad for your weekend” and “We saw you smoking in your room last night.”

It was maddening--but the voices were maddening in general.

Schizoaffective disorder is a very stigmatized illness, and the symptom of hearing voices is especially stigmatized. It’s a relief that I got my medication to a place where I no longer hear them. I hope that by writing this, and by writing for this blog in general, I will help people to see the symptom of hearing voices, in and of itself, is harmless and that people who suffer from it should not be shamed or silenced.

APA Reference
Caudy, E. (2023, January 5). Stigma and Self-Stigma Surrounding Schizoaffective Voices, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Author: Elizabeth Caudy

Elizabeth Caudy was born in 1979 to a writer and a photographer. She has been writing since she was five years old. She has a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Tom. Find Elizabeth on Google+ and on her personal blog.

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