When Eleanor Longden began hearing things, she soon found herself drugged, sectioned and labelled schizophrenic. Then a psychiatrist taught her how to talk back
Eleanor Longden, 25, started hearing voices when she was a teenager. But, contrary to the usual perception of inner voices, Longden says hers weren't destructive: "It was rather mundane, simply giving me a narration of some of the day-to-day things I was doing. In many ways, the voice was companionate because it was reminding me that I was carrying on with my responsibilities despite feeling so sad inside. There was something constructive about it."
People like Longden who admit to hearing inner voices can generally expect two outcomes: a diagnosis of insanity, and potent medication. But a group of psychiatrists and psychologists believe it's time we reconsidered labels such as schizophrenia and the drugs used as treatment. In fact, they believe we should get people to listen to, and actually engage with, the voices inside their heads.
The network has a growing professional following, Dillon says. "We get a lot of referrals from psychiatrists nowadays, although there's still a long way to go."
* Studies have found that between four and 10 per cent of Britons hear voices.
* Between 70 and 90 cent of people who hear voices do so following traumatic events.
* Voices can be male, female, without gender, child, adult, human or non-human.
* People may hear one voice or many. Some people report hearing hundreds, although in almost all reported cases, one dominates above the others.
* Voices can be experienced in the head, in the ears, outside the head, in some other part of the body, or in the environment.
* Voices often reflect important aspects of the hearer's emotional state - emotions that are often unexpressed by the hearer.
* The "hearing voices movement" has spread across the world. There are groups in countries as far afield as Australia, Finland, Japan and Palestine.
* Well-known voice hearers include Plato, Sigmund Freud, Beethoven, Byron, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Isaac Newton and Winston Churchill.