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What Is It Like to Hear Voices in DID?

January 16, 2020 Becca Hargis

What is it like to hear voices in dissociative identity disorder (DID)? Hearing voices, sometimes known as auditory hallucinations, and having DID does not mean one is psychotic or delusional. Hearing voices is actually common with the disorder, but it is also a complicated topic for which a one-size-fits-all answer does not work. However, we can still understand the phenomenon of hearing voices when we examine how our alters influence us. 

Hearing Voices with DID (and Without It) Is Relatively Common

Hearing voices can be a normal experience. Most of us, whether having a dissociative disorder or not, can say we have heard a voice in our head at some time. For example, perhaps you have said, "There's a voice inside my head that tells me I should [insert activity]." Even entertainer Miley Cyrus talks about a voice in her head in her song "The Climb."

Probably neither Miley Cyrus nor you were referring to a separate voice spoken outside your head, but rather a thought you were experiencing. The same is true for those of us with DID. We do not necessarily hear real voices in our head, but experience more like vivid thoughts. The manner in which we experience these thoughts depends on how severely we are dissociated from our "self." As a result, we with DID who hear voices are actually hearing dissociated thoughts.

Hearing Voices Due to Passive Alter Influence

There are two ways in which we can view how we hear voices with DID. One way is through passive alter influence. Hearing voices through passive influence can sound as if we are experiencing our own thoughts and as if they are coming from our own mind, but it really is our alters influencing our thinking. With passive influence, one is completely disconnected from the awareness that an alter is present because the thoughts are more subtle, covert, and harder to notice.

Passive influence can manifest in random ways as well. I might be thinking of eating an apple and, seemingly out of nowhere and without conscious effort, I get the thought I want an orange instead. While it sounds as if I simply changed my mind, this is an example of an alter having passive influence over me -- I didn't consciously think to myself that I wanted the orange.

Hearing Voices Due to Intrusive Alter Thoughts

Contrastingly, thoughts that are distinctly different from the sound of our own voice can be viewed as being based on intrusive thoughts from alters that are able to break through to our awareness. These are the auditory hallucinations previously mentioned and can be voices that very clearly and distinctly do not sound like our own thoughts or in our own natural voice. They can be heard both inside and outside our heads and can be experienced as being out of one's control.

I remember an occasion when I was in therapy and I heard a little girl responding to my therapist. I had no control over what this child-like voice was saying or how she was saying it. She was speaking very excitedly and in such a silly tone that was completely unlike me. This sweet voice of a child was manifesting itself as an auditory intrusive thought.

On another occasion, I experienced an intrusive thought as a separate and distinct voice inside my head. I was berating myself out loud for making a mistake, and I heard a voice in my head that sounded more youthful and joyful than me. This thought, or voice, was trying to cheer me into better spirits by encouraging me to try the task again. I had no name for this inner voice, or alter, but I knew the sound was not coming directly from me because it did not physically sound like my voice and the tone was different. This younger voice also came from outside my awareness and control by inserting itself into my thoughts.

Listening to the Voices You Hear

In this post, we've taken a simple look at what is ultimately a complicated topic: hearing voices. It is important to recognize that people's experiences are different, and they tolerate hearing voices and thoughts uniquely. I, generally, like to hear my alters' voices because usually, it is comforting and reassuring. Other people find hearing voices scary and experience it as crazymaking and irritating.

However you relate to hearing voices, I recommend leaning into what your alters are saying, even trying to engage in a conversation when you hear them. Do not be afraid. These passive and intrusive thoughts, or voices, can tell you a world of information about your alters and your system as a whole. It's another form of engaging in communication, which is essential in understanding yourselves and moving forward along the path of healing.

APA Reference
Hargis, B. (2020, January 16). What Is It Like to Hear Voices in DID?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, August 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2020/1/what-is-it-like-to-hear-voices-in-did



Author: Becca Hargis

Becca is a mental health advocate who is passionate about ending the stigma against mental illness. She is currently writing a book on her experiences with dissociative identity disorder. You can connect with her on her personal blog, TwitterFacebook and on Instagram.

Tallulah Nunez
May, 14 2020 at 4:45 pm

Hi Becca
So happy to of found your blog. I was recently diagnosed with DID and was feeling pretty freaked out about it but your writing has been a real help in my adjustment and understanding. Thank you 😊

Lou
February, 25 2020 at 6:48 pm

I've really been struggling with this. I eventually got referred to mental health assessment team due to the onset of multiple voices (internal and external) constantly talking and shouting with some relentlessly saying horrible threatening or abusive or destructive /coercive stuff.
The psychiatrist decided on a working diagnosis of unspecified dissociative disorder and referred for further assessment but said she thought it probably is DID. I'm on a waiting list now.
Apart from the occasional break when chatting with other outside people or drowning out with headphones, it is every waking moment with many voices and nasty comments. It becomes almost unbearable quite regularly and crisis states. Too overwhelming and constant.
I'm at a loss as to how to cope with it. Setting limits doesn't work because the main one knows he can just keep doing it and doesn't seem to care. Trying to reassure him or understand or have compassion doesn't make any difference either (or he then twists and misuses)
He is adamant that it isn't Dissociative disorder and only view of being understood is if I would agree with him that it isn't dissociative but borderline and that borderline is wholly a behavioural problem!
He's so against it that he said the psychiatrist letter is "doctored" and I should burn the letter.
It's really hard to cope with and he's also dead against getting treatment/therapy or talking to professionals which can be problematic to say the least!
He says the only solution is to kill ourselves. I don't want that nor do other ones, but his influence sometimes gets intense and either I end up flooded and blended (or possibly switch to self harming hopeless part) or too exhausted and can't keep thinking straight.
As we are on a waiting list I pretty much have to deal with these voices by myself.
It's challenging, as they say.

Anjali Malloch
February, 2 2020 at 10:44 pm

Hey Thearah, At first I thought I had writtent that paragraph above, but I have 17 diaries and none have a name like that (not that I have any knowledge of at any rate ;).
Disassociation from violent abuse as a baby/ earlychildhood is absolutely consistent with the memory issues, amnesia, I used to lose 5 to 10mins, these days due a trumatic event just over a year ago, I find myself with barely a month's memory of te past year. It took me abiut 15 years (48) of emotional, physical & cellular healing with some pretty special people all over the world until I felt anything. I alway burned myself in showers, baths with hot water bottles, that's how numbed out I was. I lose days, weeks, regularly. There are ways to make it less obvious. Don;t pushbyourself, if you want to hide away and that option is somehow available, to get quiet and hermit with a book or whatever makes you feel peaceful...music, yoga etc. I found running gets rid of my excess energy in the evenings. Warm regards Anjali M in NZ

Tihearah
January, 26 2020 at 8:41 am

I was diagnose with DID last year. Since I was a child I’ve been missed diagnosed with everything from severe depression, severe anxiety, severe ptsd, they even diagnosed me with bipolar. I’m now 55yrs old and most days I feel like a child at some point in the day. I loose time, sometimes days. I use to be afraid that I was crazy. Since I was seven, I’ve have the ability not to feel physical pain at the time it’s being inflicted on me. I never cry out when someone is hurting me, physically or sexually. I’m not being hurt today but part of me won’t or can’t let go of prior abuse. I know now that my entities have their own story. I get bits and pieces until it becomes to emotional for my entities and then they regress back to their cubbyhole. I sometimes go by by myself, especially when I’m overwhelmed or afraid. I go to a quiet place, that’s where my toddler is. She is our beginning and always protected and never alone. She sits in the middle of the room playing with her hands. She is not afraid but she never looks up, always playing with her hands. She knows she’s not alone. I can’t help but wonder what the drunk mother did to her for her to go by by and start creating us. we have a ways to go before we can become whole. the answer is no, I do not, nor will I kill any of my girls because without them there would be no us. I don’t think I want to be singular. I love the fact that I’m never alone. I have one entity, that does nothing at all, but she knows all. We call her the record keeper. My juvenile delinquent want out, she’s giving me a headache , she likes to read to the young entities, I let her. Have a blessed day

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