The Origins of Voices: Links Between Life History and Voice Hearing in a Survey of 100 Cases

Dirk Corstens and Eleanor Longden, Psychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches, Special Issue: Voices in a Positive Light, 2013, 5, 3.

Abstract: A data synthesis is presented from 100 clinical cases, 80% with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorder, in which Romme and Escher’s “construct” method was used to formulate voice-hearing content and characteristics in relation to life events. Across the sample, most participants heard between two and five voices and the average duration of voice hearing was 18 years. At least one adverse childhood experience was reported by 89% of the sample, including family conflict, neglect, physical/sexual/emotional maltreatment, and bullying. In addition, a broad range of acute, precipitating stressors were associated with the onset of voice hearing itself in both childhood and adulthood. In 94% of cases, it was possible to clearly formulate the underlying emotional conflicts embodied by the voices (e.g., low self-worth, anger, shame and guilt). Representations for voice identity (e.g., disowned aspects of self, a family member, a past abuser) were formulated in 78% of cases. It is proposed that many individuals hear voices that make psychological sense in the context of life events, and that this information can be clinically applied in ways that serve personal recovery.