Why do i talk to myself outloud

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.

Why Do I Talk To Myself? Causes and When to Worry

Do you talk to yourself? We mean out loud, not just under your breath or in your head — pretty much everyone does that.

This habit often begins in childhood, and it can become second nature pretty easily. Even if you don’t see anything wrong with talking to yourself (and you shouldn’t!), you might wonder what others think, especially if you often catch yourself musing aloud at work or in the grocery store.

If you’re worried this habit is a little strange, you can rest easy. Talking to yourself is normal, even if you do it often. If you’d like to be more mindful around talking to yourself so you can avoid doing it in specific situations, we have some tips that can help.

Beyond being a perfectly normal habit, private or self-directed speech (scientific terms for talking to yourself) can actually benefit you in a number of ways.

It can help you find things

You just completed an impressive shopping list. Congratulating yourself on remembering everything you need for the next week or so, you get ready to head out to the store. But where did you leave the list? You wander through the house searching, muttering, “shopping list, shopping list.”

Of course, your list can’t respond. But according to 2012 research, saying the name of whatever you’re looking for out loud can help you locate it more easily than simply thinking about the item.

The authors suggest this works because hearing the name of the item reminds your brain what you’re looking for. This helps you visualize it and notice it more easily.

It can help you stay focused

Think back to the last time you did something difficult.

Maybe you built your bed by yourself, even though the instructions clearly said it was a two-person job. Or perhaps you had to take on the extremely technical task of repairing your computer.

You may have vented some frustration with a few exclamations (even expletives). You probably also talked yourself through the toughest parts, maybe even reminded yourself of your progress when you felt like giving up. In the end, you succeeded, and talking to yourself may have helped.

Explaining processes to yourself aloud can help you see solutions and work through problems, since it helps you focus on each step.

Asking yourself questions, even simple or rhetorical ones —”If I put this piece here, what happens?” can also help you concentrate on the task at hand.

It can help motivate you

When you feel stuck or otherwise challenged, a little positive self-talk can do wonders for your motivation.

These words of encouragement usually have more weight when you say them aloud rather than simply think them. Hearing something often helps reinforce it, after all.

There’s one big thing to keep in mind, though. Research from 2014 suggests this type of self-motivation works best when you talk to yourself in the second or third person.

In other words, you don’t say, “I can absolutely do this.” Instead, you refer to yourself by name or say something like, “You’re doing great. You’ve got so much done already. Just a little bit more.”

When you refer to yourself with second- or third-person pronouns, it can seem like you’re speaking to another person. This can provide some emotional distance in situations where you feel stressed and help relieve distress associated with the task.

It can help you process difficult feelings

If you’re grappling with difficult emotions, talking through them can help you explore them more carefully.

Some emotions and experiences are so deeply personal that you might not feel up to sharing them with anyone, even a trusted love one, until you’ve done a little work with them first.

Taking some time to sit with these emotions can help you unpack them and separate potential worries from more realistic concerns. While you can do this in your head or on paper, saying things aloud can help ground them in reality.

It can also make them less upsetting. Simply giving voice to unwanted thoughts brings them out into the light of day, where they often seem more manageable. Voicing emotions also helps you validate and come to terms with them. This can, in turn, diminish their impact.

By now, you probably feel a little better about talking to yourself. And self-talk certainly can be a powerful tool for boosting mental health and cognitive function.

Like all tools, though, you’ll want to use it correctly. These tips can help you maximize the benefits of self-directed speech.

Positive words only

Though self-criticism may seem like a good option for holding yourself accountable and staying on track, it usually doesn’t work as intended.

Blaming yourself for unwanted outcomes or speaking to yourself harshly can affect your motivation and self-confidence, which won’t do you any favors.

There’s good news, though: Reframing negative self-talk can help. Even if you haven’t yet succeeded at your goal, acknowledge the work you’ve already done and praise your efforts.

Instead of saying: “You’re not trying hard enough. You’ll never get this done.”

Try: “You’ve put a lot of effort into this. It’s taking a long time, true, but you can definitely get it done. Just keep going a little longer.”

Question yourself

When you want to learn more about something, what do you do?

You ask questions, right?

Asking yourself a question you can’t answer won’t magically help you find the correct response, of course. It can help you take a second look at whatever you’re trying to do or want to understand. This can help you figure out your next step.

In some cases, you might actually know the answer, even if you don’t realize it. When you ask yourself “What might help here?” or “What does this mean?” try answering your own question (this can have particular benefit if you’re trying to grasp new material).

If you can give yourself a satisfactory explanation, you probably do understand what’s going on.

Pay attention

Talking to yourself, especially when stressed or trying to figure something out, can help you examine your feelings and knowledge of the situation. But this won’t do much good if you don’t actually listen to what you have to say.

You know yourself better than anyone else does, so try to tune in to this awareness when you feel stuck, upset, or uncertain. This can help you recognize any patterns contributing to distress.

Don’t be afraid to talk through difficult or unwanted feelings. They might seem scary, but remember, you’re always safe with yourself.

Avoid first person

Affirmations can be a great way to motivate yourself and boost positivity, but don’t forget to stick with second person.

Mantras like “I am strong,” “I am loved,” and “I can face my fears today” can all help you feel more confident.

When you phrase them as if you’re speaking to someone else, you might have an easier time believing them. This can really make a difference if you struggle with self-compassion and want to improve self-esteem.

So try instead: “You are strong,” “You are loved,” or “You can face your fears today.

Again, there’s nothing at all wrong with talking to yourself. If you do it regularly at work or other places where it could disrupt others, you might wonder how you can break this habit or at least scale it back a bit.

Keep a journal

Talking to yourself can help you work through problems, but so can journaling.

Writing down thoughts, emotions, or anything you want to explore can help you brainstorm potential solutions and keep track of what you’ve already tried.

What’s more, writing things down allows you to look over them again later.

Keep your journal with you and pull it out when you have thoughts you need to explore.

Ask other people questions instead

Maybe you tend to talk yourself through challenges when you get stuck at school or work. The people around you can also help.

Instead of trying to puzzle something out yourself, consider chatting to a co-worker or classmate instead. Two heads are better than one, or so the saying goes. You might even make a new friend.

Distract your mouth

If you really need to keep quiet (say you’re in the library or a quiet workspace), you might try chewing gum or sucking on hard candy. Having to talk around something in your mouth can remind you not to say anything out loud, so you might have more success keeping your self-talk in your thoughts.

Another good option is to carry a drink with you and take a sip whenever you open your mouth to say something to yourself.

Remember that it’s very common

If you slip up, try not to feel embarrassed. Even if you don’t notice it, most people do talk to themselves, at least occasionally.

Brushing off your self-talk with a casual, “Oh, just trying to stay on task,” or “Searching for my notes!” can help normalize it.

Some people wonder if frequently talking to themselves suggests they have an underlying mental health condition, but this usually isn’t the case.

While people with conditions that affect psychosis such as schizophrenia may appear to talk to themselves, this generally happens as a result of auditory hallucinations. In other words, they often aren’t talking to themselves, but replying to a voice only they can hear.

If you hear voices or experience other hallucinations, it’s best to seek professional support right away. A trained therapist can offer compassionate guidance and help you explore potential causes of these symptoms.

A therapist can also offer support if you:

  • want to stop talking to yourself but can’t break the habit on your own
  • feel distressed or uncomfortable about talking to yourself
  • experience bullying or another stigma because you talk to yourself
  • notice you mostly talk down to yourself

Have a habit of running through your evening plans aloud while walking your dog? Feel free to keep at it! There’s nothing strange or unusual about talking to yourself.

If self-talk inconveniences you or causes other problems, a therapist can help you explore strategies to get more comfortable with it or even break the habit, if you choose.

Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.

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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I often talk aloud to myself


Knowing Yourself A Man among People

“It's like I'm writing subtitles for my life,” admits 37-year-old Alexandra. - Everything I’m going to do, I comment out loud: “It’s warm today, I’ll put on a blue skirt”, “I’ll withdraw a couple of thousand from the card, it should be enough.” If my friend hears, it's not scary - he's used to it. But in a public place, people start looking askance at me, and I feel stupid.”

It helps me focus

Speaking out loud is not the way we want to communicate, so why not just keep quiet?

“The need for comments appears when the task at hand requires concentration,” says psychotherapist Andrey Korneev, a specialist in somatic psychology. — In everyone's life there was a period when we described aloud everything that we did or were going to do. Although, perhaps, we do not remember him: it happened at the age of about three years. Such speech addressed to no one is a natural stage of development; it helps the child to orient himself in the objective world, move from spontaneous reactions to conscious actions and learn how to manage them. Then the external speech “curls up”, passes into the internal, and we stop noticing it.”

A strong emotion is a surge of energy, and it requires some kind of manifestation outside, so that we can get rid of excess tension

electronic scheme or preparing a dish according to a new recipe. Its function is the same: it facilitates the manipulation of objects and helps to plan them.

Elena, 41 years old, teacher of Norwegian

“Criticizing myself out loud, and even scolding, was a habit for me. I never thought about it and somehow involuntarily made a remark to myself in the psychotherapist's office. And he asked: “Who told little Lena that she was a klutz?” It was like a revelation: I remembered that this is how the school teacher scolded me. And I stopped talking like that - because I don’t think so, these words are not mine!

I splash out emotions

Exclamations that do not imply the addressee can be a manifestation of strong feelings: indignation, delight. Once Pushkin, alone, “clapped his hands and shouted “Oh yes Pushkin! hey son of a bitch!" - He was so pleased with his work. Replicas “if only it had passed!” student before the exam, "so what to do with it?" an accountant on a quarterly report and what we say while looking after a train that we missed - they all have the same reason.

“A statement in such a situation serves as an emotional release and is often accompanied by an energetic gesture,” explains Andrey Korneev. “A strong emotion is a surge of energy, and it requires some kind of manifestation outside so that we can get rid of excess tension.” I continue to have an internal dialogue. Sometimes we seem to look at ourselves from the outside - and evaluate, scold, read lectures.

The strong feeling that we experienced in the past did not find an outlet and remained locked inside in childhood, - says Andrey Korneev. “The unresolved conflict turns into an internal one: one part of us is in conflict with another.”

The strong feeling we had in the past found no way out and remained locked inside. For example, we could not express anger towards our parents. And we relive it, repeating aloud the words once addressed to us.

Separate your thoughts from others

Who speaks to us during such monologues? Are we really expressing our own thoughts and judgments, or are we repeating what our parents, relatives, or close friends once told us?

“Try to remember who it was. Imagine that this person is now in front of you, - Andrey Korneev suggests. - Listen to his words. Find an answer that you can give now as an adult, based on your life experience and knowledge. As a child, you may have been confused or scared, didn't know what to say, or were afraid. Today you have something to say, and you will be able to protect yourself. This exercise helps complete the experience.

Try to speak more quietly

“If talking about actions helps, there is no need to try to get rid of it,” Andrey Korneev reassures. - And if at the same time disapproving glances or comments from others who do not want to be aware of your plans interfere, then try to avoid them.

What to do? Speak quietly, in a whisper. This is just that rare case when the more promiscuous, the better. Then the people around you will not suspect for a second that you are talking to them, and there will be less embarrassing situations. Gradually, you can switch to silent pronunciation, this is a matter of training. Look closely and you will notice other people moving their lips near the store shelf with twenty kinds of cereals. But that doesn't stop anyone.

Prepare ahead of time

Make a grocery list when going shopping. Calculate the time when going to the train. Learn all exam tickets. Planning and careful preparation will eliminate the need to think on the go and worry out loud. Of course, there are emergencies that do not depend on us and that cannot be foreseen. But, hand on heart, we admit that they rarely happen.

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