We’ve all felt it. That voice inside us that says we’re not successful, not thin, or just not quite good enough. While occasional self-doubt is to be expected—we’re all human, after all—a constant beating from your critical inner dialogue can take a toll on your mental health. For those diagnosed with major conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, an uphill battle can feel even steeper than usual. Here’s how negative self-talk impacts bipolar and schizophrenia and how people struggling can use therapy, medication, and above all self-compassion, to break the cycle.

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Coping with Negative Self Talk

Negative self-talk for someone with a major mental illness may be a bit different than it is for people without mental illness, says Krista Baker, LCPC, Program Manager of Adult Outpatient Services and Supervisor of Outpatient Schizophrenia Services at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“There are factors that may make treating someone with schizophrenia more difficult, like chronic negative auditory hallucinations (hearing sound/noise that has no external source). People without a major mental illness tend to have more resilience and better able to cope with negative self-talk.”

Auditory hallucinations are also known as “hearing voices”. The “voices” can be encouraging or upsetting and aren’t necessarily a sign of mental illness. In fact, in 2015 a team of researchers analyzed data from more than 31,000 people in 18 countries and found that 2.5% of the population has heard something and 3.8% has seen something that others didn’t at some point in their lives.

This suggests that these experiences aren’t totally unique and won’t necessarily result in a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. To put the finding into context, in the US, 3.5 million people are diagnosed with schizophrenia; approximately 5.7 million Americans have a bipolar disorder diagnosis (less than 3% of the population).

Updated: Mar 31, 2021
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