Fifth of children hear voices in their head

Just because a person hears voices does not necessarily mean they are ill.

Many people hear voices  – research shows about ten percent of us between hear voices on a regular basis and even as many as 70% will do so at least once, commonly  around key life events like significant loss.

Hearing voices is also a  symptomatic feature in as many as fifty diagnoses of mental illness – to say nothing of at least a couple of dozen medical conditions – all of which ought to be ruled out before a diagnosis of schizophrenia is even thought of.

Some people begin hearing voices only after they have begun taking psychiatric medications.

Most people who hear will voices never go anywhere near a psychiatrist [and no wonder!] and most will never think to tell a doctor – because they don’t feel the need since they find the experience is not distressing – many find it helpful or comforting . Yet for some, the experience can be frightening and, because they fear what kind of response they might expect if they were they to talk about it, will try to cope alone and may become very ill indeed.

For those who are distressed by their voices, the only help typically offered is medications – which can reduce the sense of overwhelming emotional distress but medications do not turn off voices except for very few. Most people still hear their voices and often report how they feel “trapped” and  “like a zombie”.  Medications also do not address the complex environmental, relationship and emotional factors that the voices themselves may offer some insight or clues about and that a person mat benefit from support with working to come to terms with.

A couple of weeks ago we brought you a report about how around 50% of people in long term marriages hear, feel , or otherwise sense their spouse after they have died.  Here is a piece in UK’s daily  Telegraph newspaper about research showing how a fifth of young people hear voices- and how for most, it goes away in time.

Daily Telegraph 2 April 2012

Fifth of children hear voices in their head

A fifth of schoolchildren children aged 11 to 13 may hear voices in their head, a psychiatric study has found.

Depression, sad teenager, deppressed, mental health

Just 7% of older adolescents aged 13 to 16 reported hearing voices and almost 80% of those who did had a diagnosable psychological problem Photo: ALAMY

In most cases, the auditory hallucinations stop with time, the findings show. But children who continue to hear voices could be at risk of mental illness or behavioural disorders.

Researchers carried out psychiatric assessments of almost 2,500 children aged between 11 and 16 in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. They discovered that 21%-23% of younger adolescents, aged 11 to 13, had experienced auditory hallucinations.

Of this group, just over half were found to have a non-psychotic psychiatric disorder such as depression.

Just 7% of older adolescents aged 13 to 16 reported hearing voices – but almost 80% of those who did had a diagnosable psychological problem.

Lead researcher Dr Ian Kelleher, from the Department of Psychiatry at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RSCI), said: ”We found that auditory hallucinations were common even in children as young as 11 years old. Auditory hallucinations can vary from hearing an isolated sentence now and then, to hearing ‘conversations’ between two or more people lasting for a several minutes.

”It may present itself like screaming or shouting, and other times it could sound like whispers or murmurs. It varies greatly from child to child, and frequency can be once a month to once every day.

”For many children, these experiences appear to represent a ‘blip’ on the radar that does not turn out to signify any underlying or undiagnosed problem. However, for the other children, these symptoms turned out to be a warning sign of serious underlying psychiatric illness, including clinical depression and behavioural disorders, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

”Some older children with auditory hallucinations had two or more disorders. This finding is important because if a child reports auditory hallucinations it should prompt their treating doctor to consider that the child may have more than one diagnosis.”

The findings are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Co-author Professor Mary Cannon, also from the RSCI’s Department of Psychiatry, said: ”Our study suggests that hearing voices seems to be more common in children than was previously thought. In most cases these experiences resolve with time. However in some children these experiences persist into older adolescence and this seems to be an indicator that they may have a complex mental health issue and require more in-depth assessment.”

original piece at The Daily Telegraph

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