What does it mean if you talk to yourself

Why Do People Talk to Themselves? The Impacts of Self-Talk

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

In this Article

  • Why People Talk to Themselves
  • Self-Talk and Mental Health
  • Mental Health Conditions

Most people talk to themselves regularly. This may happen when thinking through ideas, when debating decisions, or when in need of a pep talk. Some people feel that self-talk creates a “presence” around them that makes them feel better. This can help with loneliness. 

But in some cases, when people talk to themselves in an erratic or muttering way, it could indicate a mental health disorder. This type of talking out loud can be an early sign of schizophrenia that can worsen if untreated. 

The way we talk to ourselves can have positive or negative effects. Below you'll find more about self-talk, why talking to yourself is good for your mental health, and whether to be worried about it.

Why People Talk to Themselves

It’s more common for people to talk to themselves than to not. According to one study, 96% of adults say they have an internal dialogue. While self-talk out loud is less common, 25% of the adults say they do it. 

Many people talk to themselves in everyday situations. There’s a stigma around talking to yourself out loud in public, but doing it can help you understand the world around you. When you talk to yourself you’re intentionally taking in your surroundings. 

Inner dialogue usually sounds similar to the way you would speak to others. This kind of self-talk can occur quietly inside your head or be spoken out loud. Either way, it’s a passive activity – simply listening to your own thoughts. 

Another type of internal self-talk happens when you’re debating something with yourself – not just listening to your thoughts. Some people feel their inner dialogue come from a specific place in their body. This could be in their chest or certain parts of their head. 

Self-Talk and Mental Health

When people talk to themselves, they may be working problems out in their minds and speaking them out loud. This is also known as “self-explaining.” Talking out loud helps people work through their thoughts. 

This is a healthy problem-solving tactic. There have been studies that show when people talk through what they’ve just experienced, they’re more likely to learn from it and understand it.

Self-talk refers to the way that you talk to yourself, whether positively or negatively. Positive self-talk can help you hype yourself up and feel confident before a situation. When you talk to yourself this way you’re able to motivate yourself and pay more attention to your thoughts.

The mental and social benefits of self-talk have long been debated by philosophers. Self-talk can help you make decisions more easily and motivate you to do things you may be putting off. Keeping a positive outlook and talking to yourself kindly can have great impacts on your overall mental health. 

Mental Health Conditions

There are some cases where talking to yourself can be a sign of a mental health condition. Muttering and speaking random sentences out loud could be a sign of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia affects many people worldwide. It’s more common in young people when they’re going through major transitions in their life. 

Schizophrenia is more common than Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. It can affect men in their mid-20s and women a bit later in life. Schizophrenia in children is rare. 

This condition doesn’t have an exact cause, but certain things make someone more prone to developing it. These could include brain chemical balance, genetic causes, and environmental issues. Drugs could also play a part. 

One of the main symptoms of schizophrenia is disordered thoughts. Your thoughts may feel blocked or jumbled. When you speak them out loud they may not have a logical order. When you talk to yourself you might make up new words, repeat single words or phrases with no context, or give new meanings to words. 

If caught early, schizophrenia can be treated and managed.

Talking to yourself is normal. Here's when you should be concerned

Do you talk to yourself? Rest assured, the habit is completely within the norm — and can even be beneficial.

The benefits of talking to yourself

“Yes, research shows that talking to yourself is not at all ‘crazy’ and that, in fact, it is a normal human behavior,” clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D. tells us. “We are accustomed to self-talk in the mind, yet we sometimes feel that this same self-talk — when expressed orally — is a sign of being odd or crazy. In fact, speaking out loud to oneself allows us to sort through our thoughts in a more conscious manner.”

According to Manly, when we express our thoughts and feelings out loud, we become more aware of what is taking place in the mind.  The processes involved in speaking aloud cause us to slow down a bit as we access the brain’s language centers. “In this way, we become more conscious of the mind’s ramblings and can then become more intentional,” the psychologist says.

Research is on Manly’s side: A 2011 study printed in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology examined the benefits of talking to oneself by assigning 20 participants to locate certain objects in a supermarket. During one trial, no one was allowed to talk as they searched for the given grocery items. However, in the second trial, the participants were told that they could repeat the names of the objects aloud as they searched for them.

In the second trial, it was easier for subjects to locate the items. Talking to themselves out loud sparked their memory and created a stronger association between language and visual targets.

The language you’re using matters

Another study published in Procedia — Social and Behavioral Sciences researched how motivational self-talk impacted basketball players during practice. The scientists found that when the players said encouraging words to themselves out loud, they ended up passing the ball faster.

Researchers discovered that using the second or third person within positive self-talk (for example: “You’ve got this!”) was more effective.

They also discovered that using the second or third person within positive self-talk (for example: “You’ve got this!”) was more effective and caused the athlete to perform better. This is due to the self-distancing component within the language: Even though you’re talking to yourself, you’re creating more separation in the scenario, as if in a third person perspective.

Keep in mind that in all of this research, the language you’re using matters. “If we’re talking to ourselves negatively, research suggests that we’ll more likely guide ourselves to a negative outcome,” Dr. Julia Harper, an occupational therapist and life coach, explained to NBC News’ BETTER. “However, when self-talk is neutral — as in a statement like ‘What do I need to do?’ — or positive, such as ‘I can get this done,’ then the outcome is much more effective.”

Further, Dr. Jessica Nicolosi, a clinical psychologist based in New York went on to tell NBC News that what we say to ourselves, along with how and when we say it notably impacts our self-esteem, sense of worth and beliefs about self-efficacy. “When working with my patients, the focus is less on whether they talk to themselves, and more about the content of those conversations,” she told the outlet.

When talking to yourself may be a cause for concern

There’s typically no reason to believe that there’s anything wrong with you if you have little chats with yourself regularly. On the contrary: If anything, self-talk makes an individual more alert, aware, and able to process their feelings.

However, there are always exceptions to the norm and, as Jeffrey S. Nevid Ph.D., ABPP writes on Psychology Today, “people who suffer from serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, also engage in self-dialogues, and they may be observed carrying on conversations with the voices inside their heads. ” According to Nevid, the difference here is that this form of self-speech directs ownership of inner speech towards “other persons or forces outside oneself.”

Further, if you find yourself engaging in self-talk that involves repetitive numbers, phrases, or mantras and it’s becoming disruptive or hard to stop, this could be an emotional issue that’s worth exploring with a qualified medical professional.

Georgina Berbari•October 18, 2020

Why it's okay to talk to yourself and how this habit can make you more effective

Everyone does it: they do an internal monologue. It is part of the constant stream of consciousness that cannot be absent when we are awake. How to learn to talk to yourself correctly, our friends from the Reminder project tell.

“Okay, romantic moment, tell her something. Tell me how you crushed a pony. No, she likes ponies, I guess... Ask how long ago she had tests. What the hell is in my head? Lord, what a huge leg she has, tell her about it. No, don't talk, shut up! So, the pause dragged on, we must at least say something. Approximately such internal monologues were scrolled in the head by the protagonist of "Clinic", one of the most believable medical series.

Like him, many talk to themselves or hear an inner voice—when they are alone in a car, when they get bored in line, when they try to sleep, and so on. I sometimes talk to myself out loud - most often these are sarcastic comments if I did something ridiculous, or voicing what I should do, for example: "Now I'll do the dishes, and then I have to get dressed and go to the store." Sometimes all this makes you wonder: is it okay to talk to yourself if we invented speech to communicate with others?

It's embarrassing for many to admit it, but talking to yourself is completely normal and very common, says psychotherapist Laura Dabney. This is not something you “need to grow out of” and certainly not a sign of psychological problems. Moreover, psychiatrists call internal (or voiced) monologues a healthy practice. Firstly, they can be a way to get rid of negative emotions, such as fear, nervousness, anger or guilt. And secondly, they help organize thoughts, plan actions and consolidate memory.

The “inner voice” has been studied since the beginning of psychology. The Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky made the observation that young children begin to talk to themselves at the same time that they learn to talk to others, and first they do it out loud and then to themselves. Such behavior - an internal monologue that sometimes breaks into speech - we retain for life.

Over the past few decades, we have learned that when talking to yourself, a person makes the smallest movements with the muscles of the larynx, and Broca's center is activated in the brain - the area responsible for the motor organization of speech. If the work of Broca's center is disturbed, the ability to conduct an internal monologue is also violated. That is, the same tools in the brain are used for internal conversation and articulated speech.

Another confirmation of this is the operation of the efferent copy mechanism. This is a signal that helps the body to distinguish the processes that we cause ourselves from external stimuli. A prime example is tickling: if we try to tickle ourselves, the brain “predicts” that the touch is due to our own movements, and the tickling sensation is extinguished.

The same signal operates when we talk to ourselves. Experiments have shown that the brain "mutes" the effect of other external sounds when we speak aloud.

Another interesting experiment found that the inner voice seems to help us to cope better with everyday tasks. Animals performing tasks to correlate two stimuli (the so-called matching tasks - tasks when the subject is shown an object and then asked to choose the same one from those in front of it) activate different parts of the brain depending on whether the stimulus was visual or auditory . We, humans, “turn on” several areas of the brain, regardless of the stimulus perception system.

But if a person is asked to mumble some meaningless word under his breath, for example, "blah blah blah" - and therefore deprive him of the opportunity to use his inner voice - he will behave (in a sense) as animal. That is, when performing tasks with visual or auditory stimuli, zones in his brain are activated that are responsible for either vision or hearing.

Interestingly, speaking thoughts out loud may have a different effect than speaking them silently. In one small experiment, psychologists at Bangor University in the UK asked one group of volunteers to read instructions for a task to themselves while another group read aloud. Those who read the instructions aloud performed better than the participants who sat in silence.

This is why it is not surprising that many people use self-talk to get things done. For example, this is what athletes do (very often tennis players), who, at critical moments, cheer themselves up with motivating (“Come on, you can!”) Or instructing phrases.

Unfortunately, although the inner voice can help us control our behavior and improve our results, it can be a problem. For example, it can interfere with sleep just when it is needed. And self-digging, rumination (constant scrolling in the head of the same thought) and negative words about oneself are associated with the development of depression. In addition, people suffering from depression cannot stop the flow of thoughts in their head, even when they need to focus on something else.

It turns out that, on the one hand, we need conversations with ourselves, and on the other hand, the ability to use them to our advantage is important here, that is, to get rid of useless thoughts and include those related to current tasks. It takes time to learn how to do this, but the goal is quite achievable. Here are some tips that psychologists give. More precisely, not even advice, but ideas that should be remembered.

  • Talking to yourself is normal. The internal monologue is part of a constant stream of consciousness that cannot be absent when we are awake. According to some estimates, the speed of internal speech is up to 4000 words per minute, 10 times faster than oral speech. If a person really has serious psychological disorders, for example, schizophrenia, he can also talk to himself, but there is a difference: he is talking with voices that he perceives as outsiders, while in a normal internal monologue we know for sure that the author is this is us.
  • Negative self-talk is also normal, but up to certain limits. Usually psychologists call to get rid of negativity in conversations with oneself, to eradicate thoughts like “I can’t do it”, “I don’t deserve this”, and so on. But some experts point out that in principle there is nothing wrong with thoughts with a negative coloring, because evolution taught us to do so. “Two-thirds of our daily thoughts are negative,” says Sherry Benton, a former professor emeritus at the University of Florida. “They warn us of danger, help us analyze past actions, and help us understand who we are. All this gave us a chance to survive when we were hunters and gatherers. If 1/3 of the internal dialogue can be called positive and self-affirming, then you are doing a great job.
  • However, an excessive amount of self-criticism and reproaches in the internal monologue is an alarming sign. The internal narrative is connected with emotions, and if it is gloomy, it can lead to anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
  • The internal monologue will be useful if it is neutral. If he relies on facts, if mistakes are perceived not as a disaster, but as something that can be avoided next time, if the feeling of guilt for small misconduct passes relatively quickly. This is not the same as positive thinking. It is better to replace negative phrases in a conversation with yourself not with positive statements, but with neutral and “applied” ones. For example, pronouncing immediate plans or instructions on how best to do this or that job.
  • Self-talk should not be avoided; on the contrary, it can be made into a good habit. They can become a kind of mindfulness technique if you chat with yourself after a stressful event or on the eve of an important day.

In summary: if you learn to talk to yourself correctly, this process does not distract you from business, but, on the contrary, stimulates cognitive activity and efficiency in general. The one who mumbles something under his breath is not necessarily a mad scientist: he may be a genius, using all resources to optimize the functioning of the brain.

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Question: I am talking to myself - is this normal?

Surely at least a couple of times in your life you have talked to yourself - to yourself or even out loud. There are people who do this regularly and even find it helpful. Is it okay to talk to yourself? Maybe it's even useful? We deal with the psychologist Victoria Keilin.

Is it okay to talk to yourself?

Short answer: yes, fine.

Most often, a person pronounces some phrases out loud automatically - when he is happy with something or dissatisfied with something. This is completely normal, strong emotions require an outlet. When you need to concentrate or perform some complex manipulations, it is easier to pronounce the procedure. It helps to focus.

Throughout the day, complex multi-level conversations, calculations and guesses about what is happening around us are carried out in our head. Usually we just don't notice it. In loneliness, a person is usually immersed in his thoughts. Sometimes thoughts require putting into words. Yes, from the outside, communication with oneself looks strange - but there is nothing terrible in this.

Try to think of daily activities where you could talk to yourself, such as making a shopping list and listing items you need out loud. Or after a video conference with your boss, trying to deal with stress and talk. Such conversations are not just normal - they help to feel better.

Is talking to yourself useful or harmful?

In difficult times, kind words addressed to you can be a kind of manifestation of care. This is a way to calm yourself down a bit and focus on the positive. When you're nervous before a presentation, talk through your fears, think about how to deal with them, or just remind yourself that you're well prepared. But trying to avoid such a conversation, on the contrary, will leave you alone with excitement.

To make communication more productive, try to distance yourself and talk to yourself in the second or third person. Replace the question "Why am I so nervous?" to "Why are you so nervous?" or to “Why is (name) so nervous?” This technique will allow you to look at the situation from the outside and act less emotionally and more balanced.

Victoria Kaylin


- In most cases, talking to yourself is a completely safe way of reflection, which allows you to structure your thoughts, remember information better and increase concentration. In fact, during a conversation with ourselves, a mini-session of psychotherapy takes place - we calm ourselves down, talk about the important, make decisions and develop. And speaking helps to cope with stress.

But there are situations when talking to yourself can be a signal of psychological problems. For example, when such a conversation is accompanied by causing physical harm to oneself. In such cases, you should seek help from a specialist. If you blame yourself, humiliate yourself, or otherwise try to harm yourself morally, this is an occasion to think about your own self-esteem.

People with perceptual disorders (hallucinations and illusions), schizophrenia and other mental disorders can talk to themselves. In this case, other signs of the disease are most often manifested.

How to talk to yourself properly

  1. Be kind to yourself. Scientists from the American College of Springfield studied scientific papers on talking to yourself. Research confirms that words of encouragement motivate athletes in competition. This is especially true for endurance sports. The negative message of the conversation has the opposite effect. What we say to ourselves and how we do it affects our self-esteem and performance not only in sports but also in life.
  2. Talk to yourself to benefit. For example, to cheer yourself up before a video call or during a task. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, USA, found out that if you pronounce the names of an object while you are looking for it, the thing will be found faster. And by asking yourself questions in stressful situations, you can learn a lot about your fears.
  3. Don't forget to listen. Conversation - even if it is with oneself - is a two-way process. So when you say something to yourself, be prepared to listen to the answer.

What is the result

Talking to yourself is normal. It can be a healthy way to support yourself in a difficult situation.

Learn more