What It's Like to Hear Voices

June 26, 2017 Becky Oberg

What's it like to hear voices? Recovering From Mental Illness blogger Becky Oberg discusses what it's like to hear voices and gives advice on how to fight back.Have you ever wondered what it's like to hear voices? Hearing voices is a classic symptom of schizophrenia. The bad news is, they're sheer torture. The good news is, medication can help--I haven't heard voices in several years. But for those of you who wonder, here's what it's like to hear voices.

Hearing Voices Is Like Hearing a Critic Who Hates You

Imagine hearing a harsh, critical voice saying that you're worthless, constantly giving a running commentary on everything you do. That's one type of voice some people with schizophrenia hear. This voice watches what you do and makes negative comments. For example, during a job interview, it might tell you you'll never get hired, you're too stupid to do the job, the interviewer doesn't like you, and so on. You can do no right in the eyes of this voice.

While medication can be powerful in helping to mute this voice, some people must learn to talk back to it. If you fall into this category, talk back to it by telling it you're a capable individual and list things you've done right. Tell it what your friends like about you (it helps to keep a nice notes file full of nice notes people have written). Tell it that you are a good person with hopes and dreams and that you deserve a chance to chase.

This voice is a liar. Don't trust it.

Hearing Voices Is Like Hearing a Demon

When I was still hearing voices, I called this one Legion Legate because I was convinced that's what the literal (to me) demon's name was. This is the voice that tells you to do bad things such as, "Pick up a knife and stab that person!" and, "Kill yourself right now!"

This voice has nothing positive to say and can be quite demanding. You feel distressed simply from hearing this voice---and with what it has to say, no wonder. The demon voice is full of darkness, hatred, and violence. If a person with schizophrenia is going to get violent, this is the voice he or she are hearing.

If you're hearing this voice, my advice is to get to a hospital as soon as you possibly can to keep yourself and others safe. You can only talk back to this voice for so long before you start thinking it's controlling you. In the meantime, remind yourself that you don't have to do what it says. It may help to argue consequences with this voice. Do whatever it takes not to listen to this voice--it offers nothing positive and a whole world of negativity.

Hearing Voices Is Like Hearing The Divine

Not all voices are negative. Some voices seem to be God or angels. These voices tell you things like, "It's time to be a warrior!" or to do great things, or that you're a great person. This voice is not as distressing as the critic and the demon but is just as disabling (Mental Illness and the Stigma of the Spiritual Experience).

You might think it's good to hear what this voice has to say, but it can make you grandiose. For example, I used to have a neighbor who thought he was the Oilers quarterback, a race car driver, and the World Wrestling Entertainment heavyweight champion. This voice can also cause you to take on too much. The Divine makes you feel like a god, and it's important to remember you're a human and have the same weaknesses--for example, getting hit by a car will hurt. It's important to check this voice against reality, perhaps by asking a friend or talking to a therapist.

Remember, this voice is a liar, even if it comes to you as everything you ever wanted.

So that's what it's like to hear voices. Sometimes it's possible to hear more than one at the same time or for the voices to argue with each other. It's pure torture, but the good news is treatment exists and you don't have to do what they say. You can stop hearing voices or at the very least learn to argue with them--you just have to seek and comply with treatment.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2017, June 26). What It's Like to Hear Voices, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Becky Oberg

June, 2 2020 at 6:19 pm

What a great article. I have always wondered this, and you did a great job describing it!

June, 4 2020 at 7:48 am

I'm so glad it could be useful for your Morgan! I know I'm not the original author, but as the current main author of the Recovering from Mental Illness blog, I just wanted to reach out and say I'm so glad you enjoy our little blog!

June, 29 2017 at 4:16 am

Many patients who get psychotic symptoms such as the hallucinations usually have no insight and identify with the voices, rarely seeking help for them, and are mostly presented for care by someone else..... After treatment they acknowledge the voices are gone and that it's a good thing. However, they may stop their meds, and again identify with the voices should they recur, not seeking help immediately. You talk about some of the voices being very distressing, and would expect one to seek help immediately they occur. I always wonder why they don't seek help immediately

June, 28 2017 at 7:50 pm

A lot of what the Author wrote is what I've experienced. Thanks Becky for writing this article.

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