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The relationship between trauma and beliefs about hearing voices: a study of psychiatric and non-psychiatric voice hearers

  • E. M. Andrew (a1) (a2), N. S. Gray (a2) (a3) and R. J. Snowden (a2)



Cognitive models suggest that distress associated with auditory hallucinations is best understood in terms of beliefs about voices. What is less clear is what factors govern such beliefs. This study aimed to explore the way in which traumatic life events contribute towards beliefs about voices and any associated distress.


The difference in the nature and prevalence of traumatic life events and associated psychological sequelae was compared in two groups of voice hearers: psychiatric voice hearers with predominantly negative beliefs about voices (PVH) and non-psychiatric voice hearers with predominantly positive beliefs about voices (NPVH). The data from the two groups were then combined in order to examine which factors could significantly account for the variance in beliefs about voices and therefore levels of distress.


Both groups reported a high prevalence of traumatic life events although significantly more PVH reported trauma symptoms sufficient for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Furthermore, significantly more PVH reported experiencing childhood sexual abuse. Current trauma symptoms (re-experiencing, avoidance and hyperarousal) were found to be a significant predictor of beliefs about voices. Trauma variables accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in anxiety and depression.


The results suggest that beliefs about voices may be at least partially understood in the context of traumatic life events.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr E. M. Andrew, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, Wales, UK. (Email:


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