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Volunteers sought for research on hearing voices

02 Apr 2007

Participants aged 16 and over with a recent history of hearing voices required for psychological study

Psychologists are seeking more volunteers for their research into hearing voices, and why some people consider it a positive experience while others find it distressing.

The investigation follows Dutch findings that as many as 4% of the population regularly hear voices, and researcher Aylish Campbell is keen for people to come forward in confidence.

"We know that many members of the general population hear voices but never feel the need to access mental health services; perhaps a far greater number than those who do," she explained. "Many describe their voices as being a positive influence in their lives, and we're keen to investigate why some people respond in this way while others are distressed and seek outside help."

So far Aylish has interviewed 35 people who hear voices, and have had very different experiences. Some have found them extremely distressing, received diagnoses such as schizophrenia and/or been admitted to psychiatric hospitals, whilst others have lived ordinary lives without accessing psychiatric help.

"Some people have described very negative voices, which threaten or insult them or encourage them to harm themselves," she says. "But others have commented that their voices give them advice about decisions or problems, warn them about dangers or have supported them through difficult periods.

"People being treated for hearing voices are usually given medication in an attempt to eliminate the problem, but by investigating the factors influencing how voices are experienced we hope to contribute to the development of psychological therapies to help people better understand and cope with their voices."

The team would like to hear from people aged 16 and over who have heard a voice in the last two weeks and have been hearing voices for at least six months, particularly those who have never accessed mental health services. A one-off meeting will be carried out at a location to suit the volunteer in complete privacy. Participants will also be asked to complete questionnaires about their experiences. Participation in the study will take about an hour-and-a-half and travel expenses will be reimbursed.

People interested in participating should contact: