A team from Yale University enlisted help from psychics in an effort to find out why it is that individuals who suffer with psychosis suffer with internal voices. They chose psychics, as well as others who hear voices, because they are able to continue living their lives without being diagnosed as mentally ill.
What they discovered is that the voices psychics hear are very similar in a lot of ways to the voices reported by individuals who suffer with schizophrenia but there were some pretty big differences. According to a new study on the subject published on September 28th of this year in the journal Schizophrenia Bulleting, schizophrenics fear the voices they hear and those internal voices are usually negative for them, whereas psychics are more likely to regard the voices as helpful and positive, and they also see them as an experience that they are able to control.
“We have known for some time that people in the general population can have the experience of hearing voices- sometimes frequently- without the need for psychiatric intervention,” said psychiatry fellow and lead author in the study Albert Powers.
It is known that at any given time, as many as one in 25 individuals hear voices and up to 40 percent of the population report hearing a voice at least once in their lives. Most of these individuals do not meet the criteria for mental illness but locating healthy people who hear voices so that they can be studied has been a difficult task for researchers.
“Studying psychics through the lens of voice-hearing may give us important insights into why they are able to function so well without the need for psychiatric care,” said Powers.
Powers worked with Yale neuroscience graduate student Megan Kelley and assistant professor of psychiatry and senior author on the paper Phillip Corlett to study a group of people called clairaudient psychics. These are people who report receiving daily audio messages. These individuals who reported hearing voices on a regular basis were given tests from forensic psychiatry designed to be able to recognize people who falsely claim to be hearing voices so that they could avoid criminal prosecution. After being tested, it was determined that both the psychosis patients and the psychics scored similarly on the tests meant to detect fake claims of hearing voices. It was noted that the ones with schizophrenia were much more likely to report negative experiences when they heard voices or when they discussed the voices they heard with others.
When researchers compared the schizophrenia patients experiences with those of the psychics, as well as a control group of healthy individuals, they claimed to have discovered some clues as to what could be protecting the group of healthy voice-hearers from the schizophrenics.
“These individuals have a much higher degree of control over the voices. They also have a greater willingness to engage with and view the voices as positive or neutral to their lives,” said Corlett. “We predict this population will teach us a lot about the neurobiology, cognitive psychology, and eventually treatment of distressing voices.”
Researchers acknowledge that their approach and using psychics in their study is somewhat unusual but it is justified due to the lack of treatment options for those suffering with illnesses like schizophrenia.
“Our understanding of psychosis is limited, and we’ve made only incremental progress for the past 50 years,” says Corlett. “The research may be unusual, but big, intractable problems require creative and sometimes unorthodox solutions.”
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