Voices and imaginary friends

From Understanding Voices: For More Info, Go Here…

Sometimes voices in childhood can be similar to having an imaginary friend or companion. It can often be hard to know how much is part of a child’s imagination, and how much they are actually hearing and seeing things that others do not.

Researchers define imaginary companions as invisible or pretend characters with whom children converse and interact for an extended period – at least several months. This includes invisible characters which have an ‘air of reality’ for the child, and what psychologists call ‘personified objects’ – imaginary beings that are embodied in a toy or object.  On this understanding, imaginary companions in childhood are quite common, being reported by up to 65% of young school-age children.

Some psychologists believe that imaginary companions are created by children as a means of making sense of strange or unusual ‘hallucination-like’ experiences. Research in this area is at a very early stage, but there is some evidence for the theory that imaginary companions are linked to experiences of voices later in life, though not necessarily distressing ones. This doesn’t mean that a child with an imaginary companion will develop a mental health problem, however. It’s just that people who have imaginary friends as children may be more susceptible than others to having unusual or anomalous experiences when they’re an adult.

On the whole, imaginary companions are generally linked to positive developmental outcomes. They can help children learn about the distinction between fantasy and reality, practice social roles and ‘theory of mind’ skills (the understanding that others’ perspectives, experiences and beliefs are different from their own), and develop a sense of self. They may also provide a foretaste of creative abilities later in life.

Imaginary friends tend to disappear in later childhood, but they have been reported in adolescence and can even be present in adulthood.

 

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