Ex­pe­ri­ence com­mon to many peo­ple

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Street Watch -

CON­SUMER aca­demic and Curtin Univer­sity lec­turer Lyn Mah­boub says hear­ing voices is a com­mon hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence that is not al­ways linked to a men­tal health dis­or­der.

“The first bit of re­search done by Pro­fes­sor Mar­ius Romme found there was a range of peo­ple (who heard voices) who lived well in the com­mu­nity and didn’t have any dis­tress­ing or men­tal health ex­pe­ri­ences,” she said.

“But they had a very strong frame­work of un­der­stand­ing why they heard the voices.

“For ex­am­ple, they may come from a long line of seers (psychics) in their fam­ily, so they can at­tribute the voices to some­thing and set lim­its on them so they are less dom­i­nant and they are gen­er­ally more pos­i­tive.

“The voices may also be a cul­tural or spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence where a per­son hears an an­ces­tor or a lost rel­a­tive fol­low­ing be­reave­ment.”

Ms Mah­boub said voices that pre­sented them­selves in a star­tling or neg­a­tive man­ner were of­ten the re­sult of a past trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence or ad­verse life events, in­clud­ing be­reave­ment, bul­ly­ing, di­vorce, phys­i­cal or sex­ual abuse.

For ex­am­ple, a per­son may have in­ter­nalised the voice of their bully or abuser and it is ex­pressed through a neg­a­tive voice.

Other voice-hear­ers have found voices take the shape of dif­fer­ent emo­tions if they have not learned how to ex­press how they feel.

Emo­tions such as guilt, shame and low self-worth can also be rep­re­sented by voices con­vey­ing neg­a­tive mes­sages to an in­di­vid­ual.

Ms Mah­boub, who is part of the se­nior man­age­ment team at Rich­mond Well­be­ing and li­ai­son to the Hear­ing Voices Net­work Aus­tralia, said voices of­ten be­came dis­tress­ing if an in­di­vid­ual could not make sense of them.

“The Hear­ing Voices Net­work helps peo­ple to ex­plore the mean­ing of dis­tress­ing voices in­stead of say­ing they are sim­ply and only a symp­tom of a psy­chi­atric dis­or­der such as schizophre­nia,” she said.

“His­tor­i­cally we were taught not to talk to peo­ple about the con­tent of their voices’ ex­pe­ri­ences, be­cause it was thought to do so was to buy into their delu­sions.

“But we now know that it is im­por­tant to sup­port peo­ple to be able to de­brief about these ex­pe­ri­ences and de­velop tech­niques in how to cope with the voices, oth­er­wise one can feel even more alone”

An in­ter­na­tional study led by the Univer­sity of Queens­land found one in 20 peo­ple had heard voices in their head.

The study was pub­lished in the JAMA Psy­chi­a­try Jour­nal.

Lyn Mah­boub

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