According to researchers at Manchester University, hearing voices may not be a sign of mental illness, which opposes the traditional belief. A Dutch report reveals that one in 25 people regularly hear voices.
In fact, several people who hear voices do not seek medical help as they feel that the voice has a positive effect on them by calming or inspiring them.
Researcher Aylish Campbell said: "We know that many members of the general population hear voices but have never felt the need to access mental health services. "Some experts even claim that more people hear voices and don't seek psychiatric help than those who do." Some of these people hear somebody calling their name but find nobody to be there. "People also hear voices as if they are thoughts entering the mind from somewhere outside themselves. They will have no idea what the voice might say. It may even engage in conversation, " Ms Campbell said.
The researchers from Manchester wanted to find out why some people take hearing voices positively while the others get disturbed and seek medical help. Ms Campbell said: "It doesn't seem to be hearing voices in itself that causes the problem. "What seems to be more important is how people go on to interpret the voices. External factors, such as a person's life experiences and beliefs, might influence this. "If a person is struggling to overcome a trauma or views themselves as worthless or vulnerable, or other people as aggressive, they may be more likely to interpret their voices as harmful, hostile or powerful. "Conversely, a person who has had more positive life experiences and formed more healthy beliefs about themselves and other people might develop a more positive view of their voices."
Professor Marius Romme, president of Intervoice, a "hearing voices" charity, said: "Because of the fears and misunderstandings in society and within psychiatry about hearing voices, they are generally regarded as a symptom of an illness, something that is negative to be got rid of, and consequently the content and meaning of the voice experience is rarely discussed.
"Our work and research has shown more than 70% of people who hear voices can point to a traumatic life event that triggered their voices; that talking about voices and what they mean is a very effective way to reduce anxiety and isolation; and that even when the voices are overwhelming and seemingly destructive they often have an important message for the hearer."
Paul Corry of the mental health charity Rethink said: "Rethink welcomes this investigation, which we hope will help support our campaign to bring mental health issues into the mainstream."