If the numbers don’t make it clear, let’s make this point obvious: every person who hears voices is not “crazy.” There are many different reasons people can hear voices in their head. And for those seeking treatment, It’s not always one-size-fits-all when it comes to diagnosis or help, and there are millions of people out there who are affected.
Did you know that 5 to 28% of the population believes they hear voices other people don’t hear? Included in those numbers are most likely people suffering from psychosis, which manifests in conditions like bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. It’s projected that 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia; 2.6% of adults live with bipolar disorder; and 6.9% of adults (about 16 million) have had one or more major depressive episode in the past year.
Those are very large numbers, and it means that there are people in our own lives today that are affected by these conditions, and quite possibly suffering from what is now diagnosed as “auditory hallucinations,” or hearing voices. However, this number isn’t limited to victims of psychosis. It’s also expected that 18.1% of adults in the U.S. have anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), obsessive-compulsive disorder or phobias that can also manifest in auditory hallucinations.
Basically, millions of people in the US and across the world hear voices – it’s not uncommon, but it is still stigmatized.
It’s anticipated that about 5% of men and about 7% of women will report a “psychotic experience,” such as hearing voices, which means that there can be millions more people out there who never report it. But given the high number of people who have reported hearing something other people do not, researchers and psychiatrists are also starting to change the way they look at the phenomenon.
Instead of saying, resolutely and without a doubt, that a person who hears voices is “psychotic” by textbook definition, researchers are starting to explore other possibilities. In some cases, people may have had a traumatic experience that results in auditory hallucinations.
About 8% of all Americans are experiencing PTSD at any given time, which amounts to about 24 million people. Once that traumatic response is resolved, the voices may go away.
Auditory hallucinations also happen in drug and alcohol addictions, especially when the detox process is in full swing. Drug and alcohol addiction occurs in approximately 23 million people in the US, making it a huge contributor to the auditory hallucination count. Auditory hallucinations can also unfortunately occur as people age and their brains begin to develop signs of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease.
About 5.4 million people are diagnosed with these conditions, bringing the total “treatment count” up to 52.4 million people in the US who could, for any variety of reasons, be experiencing auditory hallucinations.
Finding Individual Cures
If the numbers don’t make it clear, let’s make this point obvious: each person experiencing auditory hallucinations is not “crazy.” There is obviously something going on that has disconnected that person from the reality around them, and the key is to find out what it is and how to help them. It’s not always one-size-fits-all when it comes to diagnosis or treatment, and it’s pretty obvious that there are millions of people out there who are affected.