People Who Talk To Themselves

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People Who Talk To Themselves
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Many readers are interested in the following topic: People Who Talk To Themselves Aren t Crazy, They re Actually Geniuses. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

I’m positive I look disturbingly similar to Gollum in “Lord Of The Rings” when he dotes over his “precious.”

Why Do You Talk to Yourself?

Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

Updated on September 28, 2021
Medically reviewed

Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania.

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Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Psychologists refer to the habit of talking to yourself out loud as external self-talk. If you talk to yourself sometimes, then you are not alone. Far from being just an occasional tendency, it is actually quite common.

Some evidence suggests that talking to yourself can actually have a number of psychological benefits. Research suggests that this type of self-talk is connected to a range of different mental functions including problem-solving, reasoning, planning, motivation, and attention.

While there are times it might pose problems or be a sign of a mental health condition, in most cases, you can go ahead and talk to yourself without it being a cause for worry.

This article discusses some of the reasons why people talk to themselves and some of the possible benefits of this behavior. It also covers what you can do if you’d like to stop talking to yourself and some of the signs that it might be a cause for concern.

Why Do People Talk to Themselves?

Children begin talking to themselves around the ages of two and three, but it is generally not much different from other social speech at this early age. Around the age of five, kids become more covert about their self-directed talk. They still talk to themselves, but often speak more briefly, quietly, or privately to avoid having others overhear.

And while it often becomes less obvious to others, self-talk rarely disappears completely. Most people talk to themselves at least on occasion, while some do so with much greater frequency.

While external self-talk is relatively common, there has not been a great deal of research into why some people talk to themselves out loud and others don’t. A 2019 article published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology explored a couple of different explanations that have emerged.

Social Isolation

One theory suggests that people who spend more time alone may be more likely to talk to themselves. Because they have fewer interactions with others, their self-talk may serve as a form of social communication.

There is a fair amount of research supporting this theory. Studies have shown that adults who were an only-child are more likely to engage in external self-talk.

Another study found that people who are lonely and have a strong need to belong are also more likely to talk to themselves. Self-talk, in this case, serves to fill a need that isn’t being met by limited or unsatisfactory social relationships.

Cognitive Disruption

This theory suggests that people may talk to themselves out loud due to cognitively disruptive events that are often brought on by stress or other similar events. For example, feelings of anxiety or obsessive-compulsive tendencies can create cognitive disruptions linked to increases in self-talk.

For example, one study found that people tend to talk to themselves more when preparing to give a speech if they are anxious about public speaking.

The study also demonstrated the impact of positive and negative self-talk. Those who talked to themselves in a negative or self-critical way were more likely to experience increased public speaking anxiety.

Types

There are a few different types of ways that you might talk to yourself. Self-talk tends to be either positive or negative, but it can also differ in terms of its intended purpose.

  • Positive and negative self-talk: Talking to yourself in a positive way may involve delivering self-affirmations or statements designed to help you stay motivated and inspired. Talking to yourself in a negative way often centers on statements that are self-critical or blaming.
  • Instructional self-talk: This form of self-directed speech is centered on talking through the steps that you will need to follow in order to solve a problem or perform a task.
  • Motivational self-talk: This type of speech is focused on providing encouragement to perform a task. For example, you might congratulate yourself for your efforts or remind yourself that you are capable of succeeding.

Studies suggest that talking to yourself in a positive, instructional, or motivational way can help improve your performance.

Surprisingly, researchers have found that negative self-talk doesn’t always impair performance. SOn the contrary, sometimes it can provide helpful and realistic feedback that can help you improve how you do in the future. Too much negative self-talk, however, can undermine your confidence in the long run, so it is important to avoid making it a habit.

Benefits

Talking to yourself can have a number of different benefits. Some of these include:

Reflection

Talking to yourself can be a useful way to gain some distance from your own experiences. It allows you to reflect on the things that are happening in your life. By providing you some distance, it can be a great way to see things more objectively.

It can minimize the immediate emotion and knee-jerk feelings you might have in the moment so that you can see things in a clearer, more rational way.

Motivation

Talking to yourself can also be motivating. Consider the times you’ve hyped yourself up to face a challenge by telling yourself “I can do this” or “You’ve got this.” Such thoughts can be useful when you keep them inside, but externalizing such ideas can often be even more motivating.

One study found that when basketball players talked to themselves with either instructional or motivational statements, they showed significant improvements over a control group.

Those who used instructional statements showed greater accuracy in performance and those who used motivating statements performed the tasks much more quickly.

Better Memory

If you’ve ever talked to yourself as you roam the aisles of the grocery store, don’t fret—research has shown it might actually help you better remember the items on your list.

In one experiment, participants had to search for items in a store without saying anything. During the phase of the experiment, however, the participants were told to repeat the names of the items they were looking for as they searched. The results showed that those who talked to themselves found it easier to find what they were looking for.

According to the researchers, by talking to themselves, the participants improved their memory and created a stronger association between the words they were saying and the visual targets they were seeking.

Problem-Solving

Talking to yourself can also be a way to work through problems you might be facing. This tactic, known as self-explaining, can help people monitor their progress and improve their performance as they work through a problem.

Spending a few moments talking to yourself can give you the time you need to really focus and reflect on the problem and all of your options.

Uses

Talking to yourself can clearly have benefits, but there are also things that you can do to make sure you are getting the most out of your self-talk. Strategies that can help are listed below.

Keep It Positive

Negative self-talk, whether it’s in your mind or out loud, can have a seriously detrimental impact on your well-being. If you tend to dwell or ruminate on negativity, finding ways to reframe your words can be beneficial.

This doesn’t mean saying things that are overly positive or unrealistic. For example, you don’t want to replace a negative statement such as “I’m terrible at this” with “I’m the best at this.”

Instead, focus on making positive but realistic statements that foster a more optimistic mindset. For example, you might say “This is hard but you are learning. You’re getting better every day.”

Press Play for Advice On Self-Talk

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring best-selling author Kindra Hall, shares how to tell yourself more helpful stories. Click below to listen now.

People Who Talk To Themselves

Ask Questions

Asking yourself questions about what you have learned or what something means can be a powerful tool for improving memory. Because you are essentially learning something and then teaching it to yourself, it helps reinforce the information and cement it in long-term memory more effectively.

Tune In to What You’re Saying

Talking to yourself is most beneficial when you actually pay attention and listen to what you are saying.

While you might sometimes simply narrate what’s happening in a more stream-of-consciousness manner without really paying attention to the content of your words, listening and thinking about your self-talk can be a helpful way to gain greater self-awareness.

Use the Second or Third Person

Instead of talking to yourself in the first person, try switching to a second or even third-person perspective.

In one study, researchers found that when people talked to themselves in the third person, they were able to better regulate their own emotions. This can be particularly helpful if you are dealing with difficult or stressful feelings.

Using the third person can help give you some distance from those feelings, which can help you evaluate them more objectively, almost as if you were observing someone else’s thoughts rather than your own.

How you talk to yourself can have an important impact on your self-esteem, learning, and self-awareness. Treating yourself with kindness, asking yourself questions, and paying attention to your words can help you make the most of your self-talk.

How to Control It

There’s usually nothing wrong with talking to yourself, but that doesn’t mean that there might not be times when you want to keep your thoughts to yourself instead of verbalizing them. For example, others might find your self-talk disruptive, particularly if you are sharing a workspace with other people.

So what can you do to manage your tendency to talk to yourself? Some strategies that can help include:

  • Talk to other people: If you talk to yourself in order to think through a problem or motivate yourself, you might find it helpful to talk to those around you instead. You might pose questions or ask if they want to offer feedback on your ideas.
  • Distract yourself: Finding other ways to stay occupied can help minimize your desire to talk out loud. For example, you might chew some gum, sip some water, or suck on a mint or piece of hard candy.
  • Write it down: Journaling can be a helpful practice that may help you process emotions, explore solutions, and even relieve symptoms of stress.

When to Be Concerned

Self-talk isn’t always a positive force. If you are engaging in negative self-talk, it can take a toll on your confidence, self-esteem, and mental well-being.

Sometimes you might find yourself engaging in self-talk centered on rumination, or continuously talking about the same sad, negative, dark thoughts. This type of self-talk may be a sign of a mental health condition such as depression.

Self-talk can also be a concern if it occurs as a result of hallucinations. In this case, a person would talk aloud to a non-existent external source rather than engaging in a conversation with themselves.

Hallucinations may be connected to a number of different conditions including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance use, metabolic conditions, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Self-talk that is illogical, incoherent, and accompanied by disordered thoughts can be a sign of schizophrenia or a related condition.

In most cases, talking to yourself isn’t a sign of an underlying mental health problem. However, if this self-talk is extremely negative, difficult to control, or accompanied by auditory or visual hallucinations, you should talk to your doctor.

A doctor or therapist can help determine if you might have a mental health condition and recommend appropriate treatments. They can also help you learn to manage the behavior and avoid negative self-talk.

A Word From Verywell

While talking to yourself is sometimes viewed as eccentric, quirky, or even pathological, it is important to remember that it is actually incredibly common. Not only that, it can have a number of important benefits including regulating emotions and improving memory.

So go ahead and talk to yourself when you’re walking down the aisles of the grocery store or preparing yourself to give a big speech. While it might seem silly, it actually works.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Brinthaupt TM. Individual differences in self-talk frequency: social isolation and cognitive disruption. Front Psychol. 2019;10:1088. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01088
  2. Geurts B. Making sense of self talk. Rev Philos Psychol. 2018;9(2):271-285. doi:10.1007/s13164-017-0375-y
  3. Brinthaupt TM, Dove CT. Differences in self-talk frequency as a function of age, only-child, and imaginary childhood companion status. Journal of Research in Personality. 2012;46(3):326-333. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2012.03.003
  4. Reichl C, Schneider JF, Spinath FM. Relation of self-talk frequency to loneliness, need to belong, and health in German adults. Personality and Individual Differences. 2013;54(2):241-245. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2012.09.003
  5. Shi X, Brinthaupt TM, McCree M. The relationship of self-talk frequency to communication apprehension and public speaking anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences. 2015;75:125-129. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.11.023
  6. Boroujeni ST, Shahbazi M. The effect of instructional and motivational self-talk on performance of basketball’s motor skill. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2011;15:3113-3117. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.04.255
  7. Lupyan G, Swingley D. Self-directed speech affects visual search performance. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 2012;65(6):1068-1085. doi:10.1080/17470218.2011.647039
  8. Moser JS, Dougherty A, Mattson WI, et al. Third-person self-talk facilitates emotion regulation without engaging cognitive control: Converging evidence from ERP and fMRI. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):4519. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-04047-3

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

People Who Talk To Themselves Aren’t Crazy, They’re Actually Geniuses

People Who Talk To Themselves

I talk to myself a lot. And I don’t mean only in the privacy of my own home. I talk to myself while I’m walking down the street, when I’m in my office or when I’m shopping.

Thinking out loud helps me materialize what I’m thinking about. It helps me make sense of things.

It also makes me look insane. Crazy people talk to themselves, right? They’re conversing with the voices inside their heads. If you’re yammering on to nobody, everyone thinks you’re a mental patient.

I’m sure many people have seen me wandering down the streets of NYC and thought, “The crack addiction is strong with that one.”

I’m positive I look disturbingly similar to Gollum in “Lord Of The Rings” when he dotes over his “precious.”

Well, the joke is on the judgmental assh*les who give me a side-eye on the train. (By the way, I SEE YOU!).

Talking to yourself, it turns out, is a sign of genius.

The smartest people on earth talk to themselves. Look at the inner monologues of the greatest thinkers. Look at poetry! Look at history!

Albert Einstein talked to himself. He wasn’t an avid social butterfly when he was growing up, and he preferred to keep to himself.

Einstein.org reports that he “used to repeat his sentences to himself softly.”

So, you see? I’m not alone, and I’m not completely bonkers. I’m just really smart. Ha!

Talking to yourself makes your brain work more efficiently.

In a study printed in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, psychologists Daniel Swigley and Gary Lupya hypothesized that talking to yourself was actually beneficial.

We’re all guilty of it, right? We might as well celebrate it and study the benefits.

In one experiment, Swigley and Lupya gave 20 people the name of an object (like a loaf of bread or an apple), which they were told to find in the supermarket.

During the first set of trials, the participants were bound to silence. In the second set, they repeated the object’s name out loud as they looked for it in the store.

According to Live Science, test subjects found the object with greater ease when they spoke to themselves while searching. Saying things out loud sparks memory. It solidifies the end game and makes it tangible.

Talking out loud to yourself helps you only when you know what you need.

If you want to find something, speaking the object’s name out loud is helpful only when you’re familiar with its appearance.

You have to know what it is you’re looking for; otherwise, you’ll just confuse yourself. According to Lupyan:

Speaking to yourself isn’t always helpful — if you don’t really know what an object looks like, saying its name can have no effect or actually slow you down. If, on the other hand, you know that bananas are yellow and have a particular shape, by saying banana, you’re activating these visual properties in the brain to help you find them.

In other words, you can’t make sense of something without knowing what you’re dealing with. If you know what you need and verbalize its name, you will better your chances of finding it.

You learn as a child by talking to yourself.

Babies learn to speak by listening to grownups and mimicking what they say. Talking is all about practice.

We need to hear our voices to learn how to use them.

According to Live Science, “self-directed speech can help guide children’s behavior, with kids often taking themselves step-by-step through tasks such as tying their shoelaces, as if reminding themselves to focus on the job at hand.”

Think about all the munchkins you know. Haven’t you seen them talking to themselves while they play with a toy car or favorite stuffed animal?

A toddler can remain focused by talking through his problems.

If a small boy is playing with his toy cars, he might say, “The small car can fit through this garage door, but the big truck is too big.” At the same time, he’ll test which of the cars fit inside the toy garage.

A child learns by talking through his actions. By doing so, he remembers for the future how he solved the problem. Talking through it helps him or her make sense of the world.

Talking to yourself helps you organize your thoughts.

What helps me the most when I talk to myself is that I’m able to organize the countless wild thoughts running rampant through my brain.

Hearing my issues vocalized calms my nerves. I’m being my own therapist: Outer-voice me is helping inner-brain me through my problems.

According to psychologist Linda Sapadin, talking out loud to yourself helps you validate important and difficult decisions. “It helps you clarify your thoughts, tend to what’s important and firm up any decisions you’re contemplating.”

Everyone knows the best way to solve a problem is to talk it out. Since it’s your problem, why not do it with yourself?

Talking to yourself helps you achieve your goals.

Making a list of goals and setting out to achieve them can be hard to do. It can be overwhelming.

Talking yourself through those goals is a much steadier way to achieve them. If you walk yourself through the process, each step will seem less difficult and more concise.

Things will suddenly seem doable, and you’ll be less apprehensive about diving into the problem.

As Sapadin puts it, “Saying [your goals] out loud focuses your attention, reinforces the message, controls your runaway emotions and screens out distractions.”

It puts things in perspective and grounds you.

Talking to yourself means that you are self-reliant. Like Albert Einstein, who “was highly gifted and acquired early in his life the ability to exploit his talents,” people who talk to themselves are highly proficient and count on only themselves to figure out what they need.

We “crazies” are the most efficient and intelligent of the bunch. We take the time to listen to our inner voices, out loud and proud!