Hearing Voices: Schizophrenia and DID

Today I have a special treat for you.  An amazing TED talk:

The Voices in My Head by Eleanor Longden

First, I want to clarify–I understand that schizophrenia and DID are different disorders.  But I could really relate to what Eleanor said.

I love this video because Eleanor, who is now a psychologist, shares ideas about mental illness that really resonate with me.  Also her message is one of hope–hope about our ability to overcome even something as debilitating as mental illness.

One of my favorite parts is when she says she remembers everyone who has hurt her, but more importantly she remembers those who helped her–helped her by empowering her to save herself.  Then she says something else that really resonated with me because I feel the same is true of DID–

“My voices were a meaningful response to traumatic life events, particularly childhood events, and as such were not my enemies but a source of insights into solvable emotional problems.”

People with DID sometimes hear voices as well.  Our voices (or alters) can also be menacing and direct us to self-harm as Eleanor experienced.  I don’t usually hear voices, but there was one memorable time that I did.

I was sitting in church, and I had a sudden urge, a very powerful urge to cut myself–elbow to wrist–long and deep.  I had never self-harmed before and had no idea why I suddenly had such strong craving to do it.  A battle began in my mind.  Part of me thinking of the pocket knife I had outside in the car and wondering if it would be sharp enough.  Another part of me resisting and crying out, “But why?  That would hurt.”  Then I heard the voice.

“Because you need to be punished.”

That scared me deeply.  I started sobbing and immediately got up and left the chapel, horrified.  To further complicate matters, in my church (I’m Mormon), we believe that the Holy Ghost can speak to you in a voice.  I knew this wasn’t the Holy Ghost.  But I had no idea what it WAS.

Looking back, I realize that as Eleanor said it was a source of insight. I think the voice was my own recreation of a similar voice that I heard as a child.  Punishment and cruelty was the only form of attention I received from this person that I desperately wanted to love me, so I understood that as love.  When I was hurting and needing love, my mind reached into the past and recreated that for me.   Understanding helped me to begin to heal that wound.

I have a growing concern about treating mental disorders and illness with medication only.  I’m not against medication, but I worry about people receiving medication without also receiving therapy.  It sort of reminds me of the old children’s joke.

Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I hit my head like this.

Doctor: Then stop hitting your head.

Taking medication, without ALSO going to therapy seems like taking an aspirin for pain while someone is still hitting you.  I have talked to friends who have used a combination of therapy and medication and found it very helpful.  So my concern is not with the medication, but the assumption that things like anxiety, depression (even schizophrenia) are simply biological.  Anxiety seems to be a genetic problem in my family, which leads me to think perhaps there is a biological tendency for certain disorders, but I still think that therapy along with medication would be the best option.

I’m not a medical expert of any sort so my opinion is just that my opinion.  But Eleanor Longden has experienced both sides.  She has experienced mental illness and she is now a psychologist.  That gives her ideas particular weight for me.

If you are interested in further reading on this subject, check out the TED blog where you will find some recommended reading.

Eleanor mentioned InterVoice and Hearing Voices.  You can learn more about that at Hearing Voices Network

Finally, I’d like to thank fellow blogger mm172001 for sharing this TED talk.  That is how I discovered it.

Thanks to Eleanor Longden and all who share their story in order to help others.  Together we can heal.


  1. Just saw your blog for the first time today. So sorry about your DID. I have a friend with Schizophrenia and so I know how debilitating these things can be. Didn’t have time to watch the video but am glad you found it helpful.

  2. Thanks for the reference on your post. You put into words a lot of what I was thinking after hearing this TED talk. It knocked me on my knees so much though I wasn’t able to articulate it other than the short “Another view on voices, I’m just getting so confused what all my different voices mean and how to fix them. This may help someone so, I am posting it.” that was posted with it.

  3. Hi my daughter is special needs and has starting hearing voices 2 yrs ago. We have found that if she has a sugar overload, tired, frustrated or gets angry she will have a bad episode with voices and she starts shouting out at them. She is seeing a mental health doctor and is on 20 ml of Olanzapine, she was on 60 ml we cut her injection down to 20 ml as she was getting worse and not better.
    We would like to keep her on a low dose and are trying some alternative ideas. We have been giving her some Vege Juice, Chromium Sugar Balance, Woman’s Multi (Energy & Vitality) and Hi Strength Fish Oil. she has been on it for two weeks now we thought it was working then she went to her mothers and had coke a cola, muffins, ice cream, milo, and god knows what else and we feel like we are back at step one again.

    Some things i have noticed.
    *Spends a lot of time in her room some times quiet other times not.
    *Gets board really quickly.
    *When she gets really up set and throws things, slams doors and then i growl her she settles down for about an hour, comes out and watches TV then will get up and storm off to her bed room in a mood.
    *Sugar or sweet food, with in half an hour her mood changes and sets of the voices.
    *When traveling in the car she will steer down at her hands (zone out) and when we reach our destination she is in a real mood with voices. If i ask her to look out the window she will for 5 min only.
    *listening to her music helps for about half an hour.
    *When i go and sit on her bed with her for half an hour no voices as soon as i go out of the room voices come back.
    *Playing on her tablet helps for half an hour
    *Teaching her how to spell will work for an hour.

    It seams she gets board quickly and needs constant attention to keep her mind active.
    We are going to get a Nutritionist on board, don’t know how a therapist will work as she has learning disabilities and finds it hard to under stand what people mean but worth a try.

    Don’t know if we are on the right track, any things is worth a try

    • Greg, I can’t imagine what it must be like to try and help a child through this. It sounds like you are doing an incredible job!

      You know my husband always said that child birth was hard for him because he would rather go through it himself, than see me suffer. I never really believed him until I read your post. Now I get it. I would much rather go through this than see my child do it. Hang in there, it sounds like you a a great dad.

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