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Tuesday, 10 October, 2000, 00:52 GMT 01:52 UK
Hearing voices 'can be healthy'
Mentally ill patient
Hearing voices can be a symptom of schizophrenia
People who hear voices inside their heads may be perfectly well and do not necessarily need psychiatric help, according to a study.

In a book published this week, to coincide with Mental Health Day on Tuesday, doctors say hearing voices can help individuals to overcome certain problems, such as a bereavement.

They said their study, which found that between 10 and 15% of people hear voices, should encourage psychiatrists to think twice before diagnosing such patients as mentally ill.

The doctors said their findings challenged conventional medical opinion which suggests that people who hear voices suffer from schizophrenia or another mental illness.

It is clear that just because you hear voices does not necessarily mean you should be diagnosed with schizophrenia

Mind spokeswoman

Their findings are based on a study of 15,000 people in Baltimore in the US.

They found that almost 2,000 of these heard voices.

Their study also revealed that one in two people who suffer a bereavement subsequently hear the voices of their loved ones.

The doctors also found that the experiences of voice hearers as children did not necessarily get worse as they grew older.

This, they said, contradicted the general opinion of psychiatrists.

The doctors also examined the techniques used by voice hearers to cope with their condition.

They have since developed these techniques to help those who are disturbed by hearing voices.

Professor Marius Romme, who works in Holland and is one of the authors of the book, said psychiatrists should take individual experiences into account when deciding whether the fact that a patient hears voices is a sign of mental illness.

These theories and techniques have caused controversy among some doctors.

But a spokeswoman for the mental health charity Mind said it supported the findings.

"It is clear that just because you hear voices does not necessarily mean you should be diagnosed with schizophrenia or even that you have a mental health problem.

"A lot of people hear voices that don't have a problem. It is only when it impinges on other peoples lives that it is seen as a problem.

"There are some enlightened psychiatrists who are following this view but we would like to see more psychiatrists take them on board."

The book, Making Sense of Voices, is published by Mind.

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13 Oct 99 | Medical notes
Personality disorder
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