Friday, January 22, 2016

Hearing the Unheard: An Interdisciplinary, Mixed Methodology Study of Women’s Experiences of Hearing Voices (Auditory Verbal Hallucinations)

This paper explores the experiences of women who “hear voices” (auditory verbal hallucinations). We begin by examining historical understandings of women hearing voices, showing these have been driven by androcentric theories of how women’s bodies functioned leading to women being viewed as requiring their voices be interpreted by men. 

We show the twentieth century was associated with recognition that the mental violation of women’s minds (represented by some voice-hearing) was often a consequence of the physical violation of women’s bodies. 

We next report the results of a qualitative study into voice-hearing women’s experiences (n = 8). This found similarities between women’s relationships with their voices and their relationships with others and the wider social context. 

Finally, we present results from a quantitative study comparing voice-hearing in women (n = 65) and men (n = 132) in a psychiatric setting. Women were more likely than men to have certain forms of voice-hearing (voices conversing) and to have antecedent events of trauma, physical illness, and relationship problems. Voices identified as female may have more positive affect than male voices. 

We conclude that women voice-hearers have and continue to face specific challenges necessitating research and activism, and hope this paper will act as a stimulus to such work.

Properties of voices.
VariableMen (n = 132)Women (n = 65)
Positive voice affect5.78 (4.72)4.78 (4.57)
Negative voice affect15.70 (7.80)16.65 (7.77)
Properties of voice(s)
Form of addressb
 First person24%36%
 Second person68%81%
 Third person62%72%
 Does not address30%25%
Voices conversinga
Interpretation of voices
Voices reflect own thoughts
Antecedent eventsc
Friendship/relationship problem55%78%
Family problems54%64%
Physical illness15%38%
Medication/recreational drugs39%22%
Major trauma32%47%
Change job/finance/location57%57%
Death of significant other30%36%
aMissing data for one male participant.
bMissing data for three male participants and one female participant.
cMissing data for men ranged from 12 to 31 participants, depending on the question, and from 5 to 12 female participants.

Full article at:

1Department of Psychiatry, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
2Department of Cognitive Science, ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and Its Disorders, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia
3School of Psychology, University of East London, London, UK
4Independent Scholar, Dublin, Ireland
5Department of English, Utah State University, Logan, UT, USA
6Hill Centre for Women, McLean Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
7Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
8Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmith’s College, London, UK
Edited by: Gretchen Hermes, Yale University, USA
Reviewed by: Bernhard J. Mitterauer, Volitronics-Institute for Basic Research Psychopathology and Brain Philosophy, Austria; Thomas Whitford, University of New South Wales, Australia
*Correspondence: Simon McCarthy-Jones,  moc.liamg@senojyhtraccm.s

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