One of the first things you realize when you have anxiety is that anxiety itself is not nearly as simple as the nervousness you experience before a test. Anxiety is a complete disorder, with physical and mental symptoms so severe, that they mimic far more serious disorders.
Auditory hallucinations are an example of a symptom that may lead many to fear a more serious disorder. While anxiety doesn't cause these hallucinations on the same level as schizophrenia, it can cause what's known as "simple" auditory hallucinations that some people find extremely frightening.
What Are Simple Auditory Hallucinations?
An auditory hallucination is anything you hear that isn't actually there. For those with severe schizophrenia, you may be hearing voices that are so real you may convince yourself that a special voice is talking to you. For those with anxiety, it tends to not be that severe.
In general, anxiety doesn't cause you to hear a steady flow of voices. Instead, common types of auditory hallucinations include:
- High pitched noise
- Random noise
- Unclear Noise
The reason they're called "simple" is because the noise itself doesn't have a meaning or clear purpose like hearing voices does. Generally, it's simply a noise like any other.
For some people with anxiety a simple auditory hallucination may be perceived as more complex auditory hallucinations - like hearing voices.
Anxiety Hallucinations Are Different
The difference is that for someone with anxiety, the person isn't hallucinating voices per se. Rather, they're constantly on edge and attentive to everything around them, but also distracted by their own anxiety to the point where they struggle to focus. This causes them to hear some type of noise while distracted, and then immediately think they've heard voices because their brain translates the sound into a voice. The brain is unable to process the noise correctly, giving the impression that you heard a voice when you didn't.
Another issue may be rapid thinking. Rapid thinking can in some ways cause the mind to daydream. Because the thoughts occur so quickly, one thought may be hearing a noise or zoning out to the idea of someone saying something, and suddenly it may feel like you heard it. This is less common but can happen to those with severe panic attacks.
Finally, it's simply not uncommon in life to mishear something. Before you had anxiety, you probably remember saying to your friends "did you say something?" or "did you hear that?" and thought nothing else of it. Anxiety has a tendency to cause people to fear the worst, even when they're suffering from things that are completely normal.
How to Tell Your Auditory Hallucinations Are Not More Serious
The question on everyone's mind is how to tell your hallucinations are not a sign of you going crazy. The first thing to realize is that your ability to ask yourself that question is a strong indicator. Those that hallucinate because of more serious mental illness lose touch with reality, and often have little to no idea that their hallucinations are hallucinations at all.
Only a psychiatrist can truly diagnose your hallucinations. Those that have serious concerns should contact one immediately. But rest assured if you have other anxiety symptoms and your auditory hallucinations are something you notice as out of the ordinary, there is a strong chance you simply have anxiety.
Preventing Auditory Hallucinations
Simple auditory hallucinations do not have a clear cause, other than the way that your body is responding to significant stress. While some anxiety symptoms can be addressed individually, auditory hallucinations can only be prevented by reducing the severity of your overall stress and anxiety.
Anxiety doesn’t necessarily cause auditory hallucinations in the traditional sense, as the sounds a person hears are not necessarily imagined. However, anxiety does cause an extremely heightened awareness of noise, and can also – due to the same anxiety – cause you to misinterpret what you’re hearing. Anxiety may also cause symptoms that lead to different noises.