A plausible cause of distress for voice hearers is listening to and believing the threats and criticisms heard. Qualitative research indicates that patients have understandable reasons to listen. This study aimed to develop the understanding of distress using this listening and believing framework. Measures were developed of listening and believing voices and the reasons, and associations with distress tested.
A cross-sectional study of patients hearing derogatory and threatening voices (N = 591). Listening and Believing–Assessment and Listening and Believing–Reasons item pools were completed, and assessments of distress. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses and structural equation modeling (SEM) were conducted.
52% (n = 307) of participants believed their voices most or all the time. Listening and believing had 4 factors: active listening, passive listening, believing, and disregarding. Higher levels of believing, active listening, and particularly passive listening were associated with higher levels of anxiety, depression, and voice distress. Reasons for listening and believing formed 7 factors: to better understand the threat; being too worn down to resist; to learn something insightful; being alone with time to listen; voices trying to capture attention; voices sounding like real people; and voices sounding like known people. Each type of reason was associated with active listening, passive listening, and believing. SEM showed that feeling worn down in particular accounted for listening and believing. Test–retest reliability of measures was excellent.
A framework of listening and believing negative voices has the potential to inform the understanding and treatment of voice distress.