People with schizophrenia often have a hard time explaining what it’s like to hear voices. “There’s a huge range of voice hearing experiences,” says Nev Jones, postdoctoral fellow in anthropology at Stanford University who was treated for her psychotic symptoms in 2007.
There can be “voices that are more thought-like,” says Jones, “voices that sound like non-human entities, voices that are perceived as the direct communication of a message, rather than something you’re actually hearing.” Voices aren’t always voices, either. They can sound more like a murmur, a rustle or a beeping. But when a voice is a recognizable voice, more than often, it’s not very nice. “It’s not like wearing an iPod”, says the Stanford anthropologist Tanya Luhrman. “It’s like being surrounded by a gang of bullies.”
Here are a few of the people I’ve met over the last few months I’ve spent reporting on young people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, or experienced symptoms that seemed, possibly, pre-schizophrenic.
Efrain Pacheco is 21 and lives in San Diego. He can’t remember exactly when the voices began, in part because he thought everyone heard them.
Today he takes an anti-psychotic drug, Risperdal, which has mostly quieted them. Sometimes he misses them, he says.