Hi. So I was diagnosed with Bipolar about 5 years ago. I haven’t been medicated in a while due to the fact I don’t have the funds to meet with a psychiatrist to get the correct prescription. I’ve been doing well without medication and I don’t believe I am experiencing a high or low mood, but I’ve started to notice something else that has become a major concern for me. For the past few weeks I’ve been hearing voices that aren’t my own. These voices do not speak to me, they sound more so like someone else talking behind my own thoughts. If I try to focus on the voices when they appear I can’t, they slowly fade away so I can’t really get an idea of what they say. These voices appear during the day and at night while laying down so they arent specific to a tired state. I have never experienced psychosis or hallucinations before and from my knowledge if hallucinations were to appear wouldn’t they be from depression or mania, not a pretty stable mood? Could there be another cause for these voices I’m hearing? I’ve been rather stressed recently due to college starting again but that is the only change in my routine/life recently. My main concern is that these voices aren’t a cause of my bipolar but a whole new illness (maybe schizophrenia) starting to present itself.

A. It may not be a new illness developing, but the new voices are a symptom of your currently untreated bipolar disorder coupled with your increased stress levels because of school.

Hearing voices is a symptom of bipolar disorder. Not everyone with bipolar disorder experiences voices but some do.

The stress of school could have triggered the voices. Generally speaking, stress is a common trigger of mental health symptoms, particularly psychosis symptoms. Not being in treatment increases your risk of relapse.

Consider voices an early warning sign that a relapse may be occurring. I would strongly encourage you to consult your psychiatrist. The two of you can develop a plan of action.

You mentioned not being able to afford medication. Many psychiatrists are given free samples from pharmaceutical companies for their patients who cannot afford medicine. It’s also common for pharmaceutical companies to offer programs for free medication. There may also be other private or publicly funded programs for which you may be eligible. Ask your psychiatrist for more information.

The key to managing mental health disorders is addressing symptoms when they arise and not waiting until there is an emergency. Now is the time to seek help in order to prevent your symptoms from worsening. This is particularly true with psychotic disorders. Early treatment can prevent the development of further psychosis and thus ultimately prevent a relapse. It’s important to take action. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle