is marriage a leading cause of serious “mental illness” ?

no marryStill think people hear voices because they have a broken brain/ serious “mental illness”?

Maybe they’re just married and their spouse has died.

Try this…
From research …

  • Almost half of married people experience some form of seeing, hearing or otherwise sensing their spouse after they have passed [ie died]. 
  • The longer the marriage then the more likely that the surviving spouse will have these kinds of experiences.
  • The overwhelming majority  68% of people reported the experience was helpful – only 8% reported it as unpleasant.

…and even if the rest of the world has known this since, well forever, even the profession of Medicine has known it for almost as long as the Maple Leafs leafs have been not winning the Stanley Cup – so, again,  since forever.


So, why don’t you hear about this in our society ?
Well that’s simple -because most people don’t talk about it:  because they fear ridicule, think you are not interested, don’t want to upset you – and because you didn’t ask.  

It seems to me there are two ways to interpret this:

  • hearing voices, seeing visions, etc is – in the “automatic thinking” of biomedical psychiatry- a positive and defining symptom of “schizophrenia” [whatever that is]. And so, at least in Wales, marriage must clearly be counted as a leading cause of serious mental illness.

or, simply… 

  • hearing voices, seeing visions and otherwise experiencing  others who are “not there” is a normal and often helpful human experience.

I’ll leave it to you to decide which view of the world makes more sense to you.


Meanwhile, just for fun, you may like to speculate for yourself on

  • is it more common to see, hear or sense the presence of a spouse in marriages in which one spouse has died than it is in marriages where both are still alive  
  • it’s not even going to be in DSM5, but is getting married itself a “symptom” of  “serious mental illness”? and when will NYC begin rounding up people profiled with mental illness to prevent them getting married?

Clearly, and as it is tradition to say: “more research is required”.










Data Source

In 1971 BMJ Published a paper by Dr W Dewi Rees reporting findings of a study into

experiences of widows and widowers in Wales.  

Brief summary

Population 227 widows and 66 widowers, representing 80.7 % of all widowed people in the area.

  • Almost half those married people interviewed  heard, saw, or or otherwise sensed the presence of their deceased spouse. 
  • The proportion of men and women who reported these experiences was similar.
    • Women were more likely to talk about the experince to someone else.
    • Men were more likely to talk to the vision, or voice, etc.
  • The longer the marriage, the more likely it was that the surviving spouse would have these experiences.
  • The experiences often lasted many years but were most common during the first 10 years of widowhood.

“These hallucinations are considered to be normal and
helpful accompaniments of widowhood.”

Talking with others about the experience

  • Most widowed people do not disclose their experience – 28% did.
  • Only one in five had reported to more than one person.  
  • Women were almost three times more likely than men to talk about the experience with others. 
  • widows        32% 
  • widowers    12%
  • None had informed a doctor, only one had informed a clergyman.
  • From those who offered an explanation for not talking about it, the most common reasons for not talking about the experience were…
  • fear of ridicule
  • too personal 
  • no one asked
  • people would not be interested
  • would upset relatives if they knew
  • bring ill luck

Help from the voice, vision etc

Most participants reported they were helped by their hallucinations.                                                                    

experience of deceased spouse…                      reporting helpful experience

  • vision                                                                       78%
  • voice                                                                        26%
  • sensed as a presence                                               73%  
  • spoke to                                                                   82%
  • overall                                                                     68%

Only 6% reported their experience was unpleasant.


Hallucinations of Widowhood. W Dewi Rees.  

Published BMJ . 2 Oct 1971

About recoverynetwork:Toronto

We believe people can and do recover from "mental illness" - because we are living it. We believe in the power of supporting each other: learning from and with each other. You are welcome to join us..
This entry was posted in family, hearing voices, The Mad Ones and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to is marriage a leading cause of serious “mental illness” ?

  1. Good one about getting married – a symptom of mental illness!!!


Comments are closed.