When Hearing Voices Is a Good Thing

A new study suggests that schizophrenic people in more collectivist societies sometimes think their auditory hallucinations are helpful.

As a child, Joe Holt constantly thought he heard people hurling savage insults at him. When he would confront them, they would deny having said anything, enraging him further. Holt’s angry outbursts eventually cost him dozens of jobs and relationships. Years later, a diagnosis explained the years of pain and paranoia: Holt had schizophrenia.

Holt’s story, reported in a 2011 New York Times article, is typical of the way many Americans experience schizophrenia. Auditory hallucinations are one of the illness’s telltale signs. The imagined voices torment sufferers throughout the day, jeering them or nudging them toward violence.

But a new study suggests that the way schizophrenia sufferers experience those voices depends on their cultural context. Surprisingly, schizophrenic people from certain other countries don’t hear the same vicious, dark voices that Holt and other Americans do. Some of them, in fact, think their hallucinations are good—and sometimes even magical.

Read the full story below:


I remember on the old forum a member from a different nation said that her voices reminded her when to take her meds.

I remember thinking how nice it must be to have helpful voices.


I have a nice supporting voice, Michelle. She’s the only one that has given me a name to the voice.

It also depends on how you were raised. It’s not just culture that depicts what a hallucination reflects. Hallucinations reflect deep unconscious fears and desires, overcoming the looping of negativity almost cured my schizophrenia. My only roadblock is how the system does not promote full recovery from psychosis therefore there is no way for me to ever fully recover within the current psychiatric model. Mine is more like a conversation with ideas, active imagination, or exploring the meanings behind what I think and the way I behave. I found stimulants helpful to keep me from grinding my gears. Mania is not a chemical or biological issue, it’s an issue of synthesizing experiences.

I find some hallucinating helpful. Many years ago, I was driving alone in a blizzard and I hallucinated the smell of someone’s perfume which made me think I had a companion, and I was comforted. Now, I often hear the voices of officers who, in real life, I find difficult to understand. In my hallucination of them, they are normal in conversation.