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Auditory hallucinations: a ‘normal’ mental experience?

 Research indicates that the presence of auditory hallucinations is higher in people diagnosed with psychosis, but that they are independently present in the so-called normal population .

As a consequence, auditory hallucinations have been explored as a separate mental experience as opposed to a symptom of schizophrenia. Romme and Esher (1993) in the Netherlands have undertaken what is probably the most illuminating work on auditory hallucinations alone. Their research investigated auditory hallucinations with a view to seeing if people experienced them in different ways. In a nutshell, they found that not all hallucinations were disabling in the manner that is assumed in a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

What was clear in their discussions with people who experienced auditory hallucinations was that some people felt that they had control, or could cope with the experience of hearing voices, and some could not. Those who could cope either experienced the voice in a pleasant way or had found methods to control the hallucinations and not allow it to disturb their lives. Those who were disabled by the hallucinations reported being persecuted by the voice and/or feeling that they had little or no control over the voice. As we shall see, people who are grossly affected by the voice, or experience it along with other positive and negative symptoms are those who will be diagnosed with a psychosis. The experiences and techniques of those people who learn to cope with the auditory hallucination has also been utilized to assist all voice hearers, and has become a standard approach in assisting people with psychosis .

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