Coping techniques: Auditory hallucinations

Please note that you should always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, your level of exercise and activity, medication or behaviors related to substance use.

The best way to make use of these techniques is to read through them, select three that stand out to you and practice them. I would be glad to hear from you on your responses.

  1. Go counter to the voices. If their content is derogatory or demeaning, act in ways that disprove that. This might mean honoring your commitments, treating others with compassion and respect, or taking good care of yourself. Consider that you are better than they say you are.
  2. Remind yourself that no one else can hear the voices, that they are a private phenomenon. For this reason it can be useful to think of them as “voice thoughts” rather than actual voices.
  3. Consider giving the voices a brief period each day at the same time—for instance from 3:00 to 3:10 each afternoon– to say what they need to say.
  4. Consider the content of the voices, the things they say to you or about you. What evidence in your life can you find in favor of this content? What evidence in your life can you find that contradicts this content? This simple act of reflection reframes the voices from something that acts on you into something on which you act.
  5. Reality testing can be very helpful. You can practice reality testing with a caregiver, partner, family member or close friend. This consists of telling the other person what the voices are saying, and then talking about how true or untrue that is.
  6. Remind yourself that the voices don’t know as much as they think they do.
  7. For instance, they might be extremely prejudiced in their comments. Or they might be wrong in their assumptions. Or simply making mistakes. Remind yourself that just because they’re talking doesn’t mean they’re right.
  8. Test the voices. Ask them a question whose answer you don’t know, such as an arithmetic problem, or the German word for “swimming pool.” Notice that the voices don’t know anything that you yourself don’t know. Consider cultivating a healthy skepticism about what they say.
  9. Therefore, rather than what they’re saying, consider the possible meaning of the voices themselves. They might mean that you feel sad, or ashamed, or like you don’t matter much, or perhaps that you’re under a lot of pressure these days. If this is the case you might want to review the coping techniques for depression or shame or stress on this website.
  10. Consider keeping a journal of the voices and when you hear them. This will help you get a sense of what might trigger them in your life, so that you can plan for such events. For instance, if the voices are active when you’re under pressure, you can use this information to schedule your tasks so that they are spaced out and not so heavy.
  11. Distract yourself by changing what you’re doing. Consider talking, singing or humming to yourself, because your own voice can be very effective in blocking the voices.  You might consider going for a walk, putting on some music and dancing or exercising or calling up a friend or family member. You can also pray, do a crossword or a jigsaw puzzle, play a computer game or do some light housework. As well you can read something backwards and out loud. Or you could read an inspirational book out loud to yourself, in order to hear an uplifting and comforting message.
  12. Listen to music through headphones. Try this with only one ear at a time—your right ear, if you’re right-handed, or your left if left-handed.
  13. Consider decreasing or even stopping the use of alcohol and recreational drugs, even marijuana, which have been linked to increased intensity of hearing voices.

Consider the possibility of consulting with your doctor about neuroleptic medication. These can be highly effective in decreasing voices, and are comparable in their effectiveness to the way penicillin is in treating pneumonia.