The Phenomenology of Auditory Verbal Hallucinations in Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Stephanie Wallis, Peter Denno, Jonathan Ives, Pavan Mallikarjun, Stephen J Wood, Femi Oyebode, Matthew Broome, Rachel Upthegrove*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

Objective: To explore the phenomenology of auditory verbal hallucinations in a clinical sample of young people who have a ‘non-psychotic’ diagnosis.

Method: Ten participants aged 17- 31 with presentation of emotionally unstable personality disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder and frequent auditory verbal hallucinations were recruited and participated in a qualitative study exploring their subjective experience of hearing voices. Photo-elicitation and ethnographic diaries were used to stimulate discussion in an otherwise unstructured walking interview.

Results: ‘Non-psychotic’ voices comprised auditory qualities such as volume and clarity. Participants commonly personified their voices, viewing them as distinct characters with which they could interact and form relationships. There appeared to be an intimate and unstable relationship between participant and voice, whereby voices changed according to the participants’ mood, insecurities, distress and circumstance. Equally, participants reacted to provocation by the voice, leading to changes in mood and circumstance through emotional and physical disturbances. In contrast to our previous qualitative work in psychosis, voice hearing was not experienced with a sense of imposition or control.

Conclusion: This phenomenological research yielded in-depth and novel accounts of ‘non-psychotic’ voices which were intimately linked to emotional experience. In contrast to standard reports of voices in disorders such as schizophrenia, participants described a complex and bi-directional relationship with their voices. Many other features were in common with voice-hearing in psychosis. Knowledge of the phenomenology of hallucinations in non-psychotic disorders has the potential to inform future more successful management strategies. This report gives preliminary evidence for future research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIrish Journal of Psychological Medicine
Early online date6 Aug 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Aug 2020

Keywords

  • auditory hallucination
  • voice
  • personality disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • interview

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