Schizophrenia is a complex mental disorder, manifesting in various symptoms. One of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia is auditory hallucinations (hearing voices). These auditory hallucinations could be of various types, such as nonsensical voices, threatening voices or even voices relating to harm. Most of these voices are negative. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why people with schizophrenia hear negative voices

Understanding Negative Voices In Schizophrenia

Auditory hallucinations involve hearing sounds or voices without any external stimulus. It is a common symptom of schizophrenia. Research has found that almost 70% of patients with schizophrenia are likely to experience auditory hallucinations. These hallucinations can be very distressing and cause significant disturbances in a person’s daily life. There are many reasons why these auditory hallucinations are likely to be negative. They are:

  • Past Traumatic Experiences

According to research, traumatic past experiences can cause negative auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia. Not only that, but researchers discovered that a person’s trauma can influence the content of auditory hallucinations. In a study conducted on survivors of child sexual abuse, it was found that people often heard the voices of their abusers in their hallucinations, indicating a strong relationship between trauma and the content of negative voices.

  • Daily Life Stressors

Everyday life stressors or stressful events can exacerbate the symptoms of schizophrenia, leading to increased negative voices. The increased stress load can amplify negative emotions, further intensifying the negativity of the auditory hallucinations

  • Maladaptive Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation is a person’s ability to manage positive and negative emotions. Research suggests that experiences of past trauma can lead to negative voices and difficulties in emotional processing among people with schizophrenia. Additionally, research suggests that those with schizophrenia may exhibit heightened sensitivity to negative emotions in general. Apart from that, research also shows that maladaptive coping strategies such as emotional suppression can also increase the severity and influence the negative content of auditory hallucinations of people with schizophrenia.

  • Brain Chemistry

Some research suggests that the negative content in auditory hallucinations may be due to neurological reasons. One study found that the right Broca’s area ( associated with feelings of distress)  is highly active during auditory hallucinations, suggesting that this part of the brain may be contributing to the negative content of auditory hallucinations. In addition, neuroimaging studies also show that the amygdala (responsible for emotional processing) is highly active when people with auditory hallucinations process negatively variance emotional words, suggesting that the inner workings of the brain may be a contributing factor to negative voices in schizophrenia.

  • Culture

Culture may play a significant role in the content of auditory hallucinations experienced by people with schizophrenia. A study conducted on schizophrenia patients in the 1930s and 1980s found that there were clear differences in the content of auditory hallucinations experienced by the two generations of patients. While patients from the 1930s reported experiencing auditory hallucinations related to religion and god, people from the 1980s reported auditory hallucinations involving religion, god and technological devices like televisions or scanners. In another study conducted across America and India, it was found that there were differences in the content of auditory hallucinations experienced by people from both countries, suggesting that culture plays a huge role in the content of auditory hallucinations and negative voices.


Schizophrenia is a complex mental disorder. Manifesting in various symptoms. Auditory hallucinations are one of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia. These auditory hallucinations are mostly negative in nature.  Past traumatic experiences, daily stressors, brain chemistry, culture and a lack of emotional regulation are some of the many factors that contribute to these negative voices in people with schizophrenia. Understanding these underlying factors is crucial for developing comprehensive interventions and support for individuals with schizophrenia,


  1. Larøi, F., Thomas, N., Aleman, A., Fernyhough, C., Wilkinson, S., Deamer, F., & McCarthy-Jones, S. (2019). The ice in voices: Understanding negative content in auditory-verbal hallucinations. Clinical Psychology Review, 67, 1–10.

Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin