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 just such a symptom. 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.
Auditory Hallucinations = Anxiety?
Any type of hallucination deserves a doctor's visit, to rule out more scary disorders. But you may be suffering from a serious anxiety problem instead. Take my anxiety test to find out more about what symptoms are related to your anxiety.
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.
The best way to learn more about these types of anxiety symptoms is with my anxiety test, so take it right now if you haven't yet. 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.
Anxiety is more complex than this, however, and for some people it may cause what is 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 psychologist 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 that stress and anxiety.
Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to learn more. You'll quickly fill out your symptoms and be provided with information about how your anxiety compares to others and what you can do to treat it.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.