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It is more common than you think to hear voices in your head, new research shows.

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It is well known that hearing voices in the head is associated with mental illness. Now American and European research shows that this is not always the case. Between 2 and 4 percent of us hear voices that no one else hears, but many of them do not need help. 

Hearing voices that others do not hear is probably more widespread among Norway's population than many believe, says researcher Bodil Kråkvik who has worked with mental health care in Trøndelag for more than 15 years.

Three out of four who hear voices in the head have not been diagnosed with a mental illness, which indicates that there are more healthy than mentally ill people who hear voices, says Kråkvik.

Researcher Aylish Campbell says:

We know that many in the population hear voices, but without experiencing the need to seek help from mental health services. It does not seem that hearing voices leads to problems in itself. What matters most is how people interpret the voices. 

Previous studies have shown that many of those who hear voices have had a traumatic childhood. Researcher Campbell says that 70% of everyone who hears voices can point to a traumatic life event that triggered the voices. At the same time, he says that many people find the voices "useful". For example, talking to voices can reduce anxiety and isolation.


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