Published in: The Times, 27 January 2007, By Michelle Kirsch
We have all had the experience of seeing a person walking down the road, talking loudly to what appears to be him or herself. Before the advent of hands-free mobile phones, which gives the scene a “sane” context, we would have thought the person disturbed, speaking to someone who does not exist outside his own head. Now psychologists studying the phenomenon of hearing voices are asking us to consider two other possibilities: one is that people who hear voices may not be disturbed by them, and the other is that a person who appears to be speaking on a mobile phone might be speaking to one of his voices.
Pretending to speak on a mobile phone is just one strategy that makes life more bearable for the estimated 4 per cent of Britons who hear voices. The 4 per cent figure, as cited by the Hearing Voices Network, an educational and self-help registered charity for voice-hearers, is a conservative estimate. The real figure may be much higher, they say, because anyone who admits to hearing voices may be subjected to close, perhaps unwelcome, psychiatric scrutiny