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[Perspectives] Voices, identity, and meaning-making

A person comes in to your clinic—any clinic—and says “I am a voice-hearer”. What do they mean? Auditory verbal hallucinations have been clinically defined as auditory perceptions in the absence of an appropriate external stimulus. This definition seems fairly neutral, even benign: it is simply hearing a sound when no sound is present, hearing a voice when there is no-one speaking. However, far more powerful, and at times pernicious, is the idea that hearing voices is first and foremost a feature of severe mental illness, and therefore that it must necessarily involve hearing loud commanding, abusive, or commentating voices.

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