Fifth of young adolescents 'hearing voices', says study12/04/2012 - 08:29:15
A new study has found that that 21%-23% of adolescents aged 11 to 13 have reported hearing voices.
While auditory hallucinations tend to stop for most children as they grow older, those who continue to hear them face a much higher risk of psychiatric disorder.
Just 7% of older adolescents aged 13 to 16 reported hearing voices.
However nearly 80% of the teens who continued to hear voices also had a psychiatric disorder, linking auditory hallucinations and serious mental illness.
The study, which assessed 2,500 Dublin children aged between 11 and 16, was conducted by the Department of Psychiatry at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Lead researcher Dr Ian Kelleher revealed auditory hallucinations can vary from hearing an isolated sentence now and then to hearing conversations between two or more people lasting for several minutes.
“It may present like screaming or shouting and other times it could sound like whispers or murmurs,” said Dr Kelleher, of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).
“It varies greatly from child to child, and frequency can be once a month to once every day.”
Professor Mary Cannon said it suggests hearing voices seems to be more common in children than was previously thought.
“In most cases these experiences resolve with time,” she Prof Cannon, HRB clinician scientist at the RCSI and Beaumont Hospital.
“However in some children these experiences persist into older adolescence and this seems to be an indicator that they may have a complex mental health issue and require more in-depth assessment.”
Dr Kelleher said hearing voices could be a “blip” on the radar that does not turn out to signify any underlying or undiagnosed problem.
“However, for the other children, these symptoms turned out to be a warning sign of serious underlying psychiatric illness, including clinical depression and behavioural disorders, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” he added.
“Some older children with auditory hallucinations had two or more disorders.
“This finding is important because if a child reports auditory hallucinations it should prompt their treating doctor to consider that the child may have more than one diagnosis.”
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