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Hearing voices is often thought of as a symptom of a serious mental illness. But research on the experiences of the general population shows that lots of people hear voices and the majority of them are not mentally unwell. It is a common human experience.
Hearing a voice when no-one is present with you, or which other people cannot hear, is considered to be a hallucination. This does not make it abnormal - it’s just a word for a perception you may have that is not shared by those around you. You may also see things that others can’t see. You may experience touch, smell or taste sensations which you cannot account for in usual everyday ways. Some people may not realise that may other people do not have such experiences.
People have many different experiences of hearing voices. Here are some examples:
It is still very common for people to assume that if you hear voices you must have schizophrenia. If you hear unpleasant and disturbing voices and see a doctor about them you are quite likely to be given a diagnosis of psychosis. Sometimes these are the reasons but there are many other explanations for voices too.