For such situations, they probably feel the need of self-advice. They may talk to themselves in order to avoid the interference of others in their personal matters. Even then, the question here is: are these people different from others? What could this behavior signify? Are they mentally ill? Not at all. Imaginary conversations can actually prove to be beneficial in maintaining one’s sanity. Let us discuss ‘talking to yourself – a helpless habit or a mental disorder’, in detail.
Possible Reasons Behind Conversing with Oneself
A person can have an imaginary conversation with four different entities altogether. These people may include an imaginary friend, a real friend (not present for the conversation), God, and oneself. Such people share their feelings, thoughts, and experiences by speaking them aloud when alone. They may also rehearse for a foreseen situation or try to alter a situation of the past, by changing what has been said or done, in their head. Such people also tend to talk aloud in private. Some diseases related to mental illness can lead to imaginary conversations as well. Given below are the reasons and the significance of imaginary conversations with oneself.
#1 A Rehearsal
Situation – The situation for a rehearsal can relate to absolutely anything that the person is nervous or unsure about. This can include a job interview, a conversation with some celebrity/highly influential person, preparation for an argument, debate or discussion, romantic proposal, etc.
The Imaginary Conversation – Considering the ‘interview’ situation, the person will rehearse by talking to himself. He will say the things he would like to say in the forthcoming situation (the interview), to himself. He will also speak (on behalf of the interviewer), the things he would like to or expect to hear from the interviewer. He would then draw a conclusion from the whole conversation and decide whether he is selected in the interview or not. However, the real situation, in almost all cases, never turns out to be the same as the created one.
Significance – This conversation only signifies that the person is low on self-confidence. He is nervous and more or less, very unsure about the forthcoming situation. Hence, he chooses to prepare himself well-in-advance for the same. Therefore, this imaginary conversation does not indicate any psychiatric disorder. It is completely normal to get a little nervous in certain situations and practice a way out
#2 An Unsatisfied Past
Situation – Almost every individual has faced some situation in the past that he/she is dissatisfied with. A lot of people get over it, accepting the fact that nothing can be done to change the past now. However, a person who fails to accept this fact will keep repeating this situation in his mind.
The Imaginary Conversation – The person will always think of ways that could better the situation, which may include a better understanding, clever things that should have been said, things that shouldn’t have been said, better comebacks, and other things. He will keep replaying the situation by changing the actual dialogs. In this conversation, he will speak the altered dialogs and respond to them, playing the role of the other person as well.
Significance – Dissatisfaction. As the person is extremely unhappy with the past, he tries to find satisfaction by changing the irreversible situation in his mind. However, this temporary satisfaction further leads to complete frustration, when reality hits him. This conversation does not signal a mental disorder, it only signifies discontent and the wish to correct a situation that cannot be changed.
Situation – A lot of people look for self-motivation before any competitive situation. Be it right before an examination, a match, an interview or presentation, they love to reassure themselves that they can make it through.
The Imaginary Conversation – In such situations, a person tends to keep his spirits high with a little conversation with the self. For example, before an examination, you may hear him say, “Come on ____ (whatever his name is), you will pass this test. You know you’ve prepared well; think harder; relax and memorize everything,” and so on. By saying this, the person will feel empowered to pass the forthcoming examination.
Significance – This conversation signifies the need for self-motivation. Some people have the habit of motivating themselves, as they believe they need self-motivation to surpass the situation with better results. Self conversation for this purpose is not abnormal in any way, nor is it a disorder or disease.
Situation – This situation includes any unfulfilled dream, or anything a person wished for, but which did not happen. Wishful thinking can also include a situation of the past that the person wishes to change, or a situation in the future, that the person wishes to fall into place.
The Imaginary Conversation – In such situations, you may hear a person talk about unrealistic things to himself. He may enact various scenarios that have neither taken place in the past, nor do they have any scope of taking place in the future. He may also be talking to or about an imaginary person, framing the person’s character, just as the person he wished he would come across in reality.
Significance – This conversation signifies that either the person is unhappy with his reality and so wishes for better things, or that he simply loves dreaming of unrealistic things, although his reality isn’t bad. Such conversations may also stem from the media world. Movies with happy endings, unrealistic heroism and fanciful characters, also play an important role in influencing such behavior. However, this imaginary conversation also signifies a naive, easily influential mind. It is not a part of a psychological disorder or disease.
Situation – Usually people have a habit of sharing whatever happens in their daily life with friends, siblings, parents, or spouse. However, when a person is lonely and has no one to talk to, he tends to talk to himself. In most cases, they become their own problem solver. They also feel socially unaccepted.
The Imaginary Conversation – Conversing with one’s self as a result of loneliness is more realistic in nature. While having such conversations, a person tends to pour out his feelings in words, maybe aloud or maybe in his head. He may also indulge in actions that are not accepted by society. He would discuss real situations and analyze his feelings. However, out of loneliness a person may also have wishful thoughts and talk about how he wished his life should have been.
Significance – Loneliness is very obvious and of prime significance of such conversations. As the person is leading a secluded life, he has no one to share his experiences with. Such people can be termed as loners. However, they are still within the boundaries of sanity.
Situation – In case of panic and anxiety, people are mostly negative about everything. They face intense fear and panic in any situation that seems dangerous or troublesome to them. An individual engages in self-conversation in case he suffers an anxiety attack, because he is so focused on his problems that he gets detached from the people around him (the outside world).
The Imaginary Conversation – In this case, a person has an imaginary conversation with himself, to better his situation. As his mind is already filled with negative thoughts, the person will try to have a convincing conversation with himself. The conversation will soothe his fear and lower his level of anxiety and panic. For example, if a person is claustrophobic, in an enclosed place he is most likely to tell himself, “It is OK. This place is NOT so congested. You still have enough oxygen to breathe. No, you won’t suffocate here.”
Significance – Having such a conversation signifies the will to overcome fear. The person tries to make himself more comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. Therefore, this conversation proves beneficial to the person, helping him to surpass a difficult situation.
Situation – In depression, an individual feels lost, useless, disconnected, suicidal, and like he is going insane. He will lose interest and get teary for no reason. He may also spend sleepless nights or suffer from insomnia. Depression usually stems from anxiety.
The Imaginary Conversation – As depression makes a person feel empty and lost from within, the person finds it very difficult to interact with people around him. Therefore, talking things out with his folks and/or friends is something impossible for him. The person may try having a conversation with himself due to the feeling of isolation. However, this is a very severe case of depression. The person must see a psychiatrist if he faces such symptoms.
Significance – The significance of this conversation is depression. The feeling of emptiness and isolation gets to the person so bad, that he starts having imaginary conversations with himself. This may be an indication of a mental disorder. Consulting a psychiatrist is very essential in this case.
An individual suffering from schizophrenia, usually hallucinates. He may have visual and audio hallucinations and also respond to them. In the visual, a person may just imagine some other person (maybe a relative, friend or just any person), in the room. The person then tries to make conversation with this imaginary person. To a viewer, it may seem like the person is having an imaginary conversation with himself. In the audio case, the person may feel like somebody is talking to him. He may talk in response to what he hears, even if he is alone in the room. Again, someone observing this schizophrenic person may think he is having a conversation with himself. However, these symptoms are all a part of schizophrenia. A person suffering from Alzheimer’s may face a similar situation.
Most individuals with Down Syndrome have been observed to have conversations with themselves. These conversations are not due to hallucinations or delusions. These conversations can be about themselves, their toys, or some third person (imaginary or real). They may also talk to their toy or some object present in the room. This behavior is considered normal. However, if the tone of the person suddenly changes while having this conversation with himself, it might be an indication of a psychological problem. These problems may include anxiety, depression, physical illness, or pain.
There are a few other reasons why people may have imaginary conversations with themselves. Some of them are as follows:
Childhood Habits – Children often have a habit of putting life in each of their toys. They then talk to their toys and look after them (more like parenting the toy). Some kids grow past that stage, whereas some don’t. These habits change as they grow older, but don’t die completely. Such kids tend to have imaginary friends or develop the habit of talking to themselves as they grow up.
Natural Reasons – Last but not the least, it is said that every human being is in a never-ending conversation with himself. He is constantly analyzing, perceiving and organizing situations through these conversations. Often, while thinking, people tend to talk to themselves. Moreover, they may not even realize that they’re having these conversations.
Having imaginary conversations, mostly, signify a relationship that one attempts to create with oneself. It also displays the level of comfort with their own self. Digging up past issues and trying to correct them may signify realization of mistakes. However, it may also signify more serious an issue; one that needs medical attention. It is best to seek help in such cases.