Hearing voices: Auditory hallucinations vary across cultures

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Voices heard by some schizophrenics are strange, angry and threatening. But others hear voices that are familiar, helpful and comforting.

Varying across cultures, these voices tell us something: What we believe shapes what we hear — and how we feel, according to Stanford anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann, whose first-ever cultural comparison found that Bay Area patients experienced more negative voices than patients in India and Ghana.

“The harsh, violent voices so common in the West may not be an inevitable feature of schizophrenia,” Luhrmann said. In modern psychiatry, auditory hallucinations are a sign of severe mental illness. Medication is often used to exorcise the voices.

Luhrmann’s work supports the approach taken by a new and controversial branch of psychiatry, which asserts that these imagined voices should not be banished by medication. Instead, it argues that if people accept their voices and create a relationship with them, their voices could turn more amicable.

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Source: San Jose Mercury News (USA) , 21/07/2015

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