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'Hearing voices' common in fifth of adolescents

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Auditory hallucinations, or “hearing voices”, can affect up to a fifth of children between the ages of 11 and 13, according to research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland assessed nearly 2,500 adolescents. They found 21-23% of those aged 11-13 years had experienced auditory hallucinations, of which 57% were found to have a psychiatric disorder following clinical assessment.

In those aged 13-16 years, 7% reported auditory hallucinations, of which nearly 80% were found to have a psychiatric disorder.

The authors said: “For many children, these experiences appear to represent a ‘blip’ on the radar that does not turn out to signify any underlying or undiagnosed problem.

“However, for the other children, these symptoms turned out to be a warning sign of serious underlying psychiatric illness, including clinical depression and behavioural disorders, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

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