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Person with schizophrenia having auditory hallucinations

Auditory Hallucinations: Schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia is a complex mental health condition that is characterized by impairments in a person’s ability to perceive their environment and communicate with others. For many people who have this condition, one of the more disruptive symptoms are auditory hallucinations.

About the Auditory Hallucination Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is associated with five distinct kinds of symptoms:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech
  • Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior
  • Negative symptoms

To be accurately diagnosed with schizophrenia, a person must have two of the five symptoms listed above, one of which must be delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech.

Hallucinations involve seeing, hearing, or otherwise perceiving things that do not actually exist. Humans have five senses, which means they can experience five types of hallucinations:

  • Visual (sight-based)
  • Auditory (sound)
  • Tactile (touch
  • Gustatory (taste)
  • Olfactory (smell)

Auditory hallucinations (which are also called paracusias) are the most common type, affecting about 75% of people who have schizophrenia. Experts estimate that as many as 40% of people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 20%-50% of people with bipolar disorder, and 10% of people with major depressive disorder may also have auditory hallucinations.

Here are a few examples of what it can feel like to have an auditory hallucination:

  • Hearing music or other types of sounds (such as animal noises) that no one else can hear
  • Hearing voices that sound like they are coming from another person, but that no one else can perceive
  • Hearing voices that you believe are coming from inside your head (but that you know are separate from your own thoughts)

When auditory hallucinations include voices, they are sometimes referred to as auditory verbal hallucinations, or AVH.

Can Auditory Hallucinations be Dangerous?

Auditory hallucinations can be both distressing and dangerous.

If a person also has delusions (rigidly held beliefs that have no basis in reality), certain auditory hallucinations may reinforce these delusions. Depending on what type of delusions a person has been having, this can put the individual in danger.

For example, if someone believes that another individual or groups is spying on them or plotting against them, auditory hallucinations that reinforce this delusion could prompt the person to act in a manner that is harmful to themselves or others.

Auditory hallucinations may pose the greatest danger when they involve voices that tell a person to hurt themselves or otherwise act in a destructive manner. Depending on what the voices are saying, auditory verbal hallucinations can lead to property damage, physical injuries, arrests, or even death.

How to Stop Auditory Hallucinations

Stopping auditory hallucinations may require medication and therapy.

Many people who have schizophrenia are treated with a category of medications called neuroleptics or antipsychotics. Meds in this category include:

  • Amisulpride (Barhemsys)
  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Clozapine (Clozaril)
  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • Risperidone (Risperdal)
  • Ziprasidone (Zeldox)

Deciding which medication and which dosage level are best for a patient can involve a thorough assessment of several factors, including what other types of symptoms they have been experiencing, if they are taking other medications, and if they develop side effects.

There are also a variety of therapeutic options for people who have been living with auditory hallucinations as a result of schizophrenia, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Hallucination-focused integrative treatment (HIT)
  • Metacognitive therapy 
  • Attention training technique (ATT)

CBT is generally considered to be the most effective modality for addressing schizophrenia and auditory hallucinations, but not everyone responds to this type of treatment. This underscores the importance of seeking help from a professional or treatment center that offers a variety of therapeutic options. 

Treatment Options for Auditory Hallucinations

Auditory hallucinations are almost always symptoms. So to treat the hallucination, you need to address the root cause. 

If a person has been experiencing auditory hallucinations as a result of schizophrenia, it’s important for them to find a provider who will assess the full scope of their needs and develop a comprehensive, personalized plan to help them achieve improved health.

One of the first decisions about treatment for schizophrenia usually involves level of care. Depending on the nature and severity of a person’s symptoms, they may be best served in:

Some people may need to spend time at multiple levels. For example, they may start in an inpatient program, then step down to a less restrictive level for additional support. Others may enter and exit treatment at the same level. 

Within the various levels of care, treatment for auditory hallucinations and other symptoms of schizophrenia may involve both medication and therapy (as we discussed in the previous section).

Remember: There is no single medication, type of therapy, or level of care that is perfect for everyone who has schizophrenia. What is most important is finding the systems and services that are best for you, or for your loved one. 

Contact Montare Behavioral Health to Treat the Symptoms of Schizophrenia

If you or someone in your life has been experiencing auditory hallucinations or other symptoms of schizophrenia, please know that help is available – and it may be much closer than you realize.

Montare Behavioral Health offers a full continuum of customized mental health services at several locations throughout southern California. 

When you choose one of our centers, you will have the opportunity to work with a team of experienced professionals who will treat you with the respect that you deserve. We celebrate the inherent value of each person who turns to us in their time of need, and we are committed to providing the personalized solutions that will help you achieve a healthier and more hopeful future. 

To learn more about how we can help you or your loved one, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call us today.