Each person’s experience of psychosis though unique can have shared features. The majority hear voices, but others experience non-verbal thoughts, images and visions, tastes, smells and sensations, which have no apparent cause. For example, feeling as if insects were crawling under your skin, having a sensation like an electric shock, or smelling things that other people around you can’t smell. These are called hallucinations, although many regard the term as misleading, because of the implication that the experiences are not real.
What seems to be important is how you react to these experiences. Some people take them in their stride; others feel overwhelmed by them. You may feel ashamed and afraid that you are going mad. You may not realise how common the experience is.
The voices that those experiencing psychosis hear may be recognisable or unfamiliar. There may be one or many of them talking to, or about you. They might be present occasionally or present all the time interfering with ordinary life making concentration and conversation difficult.
The voices may be benign and helpful, or hostile and nasty. Some people hear only positive voices, and may not regard them as a problem. They may even feel them to be a helpful, guiding light. Others hear only negative voices, ridiculing and belittling them which cause them great distress and which they feel they have to fight. They may feel the voices are in control of their body and can hurt them. The voices might suggest that they will punish them if they don’t do as they’re told. This may be responsible for them cutting themselves and other destructive behaviours.