Is It Normal to Talk to Yourself?

People talk to themselves out loud for many reasons. It could come from loneliness, stress, anxiety, or even trauma. Usually, though, talking to yourself is a healthy, normal, and even beneficial way to process thoughts and experiences.

This article explains the difference between healthy and concerning self-talk, provides tips for embracing self-talk and ways to stop it, and gives information on associated mental illnesses.

Woman walking down the street talking to herself.

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Why Do Some People Talk to Themselves?

Everyone has an internal monologue; some engage with it by speaking out loud to themselves, while others keep quiet. Two theories explaining why people talk to themselves include:

  • Social isolation theory: A lot of time alone makes people more likely to talk to themselves.
  • Cognitive disruption theory: Talking to yourself occurs when you face something difficult or traumatic that impacts your psychological well-being

Different functions of self-talk include:

  • Self-criticism: "I sounded ridiculous during that meeting."
  • Self-reinforcement: "I am prepared, and I will do fine during the presentation tomorrow."
  • Self-management: "Don't forget to make that appointment today."
  • Social assessment: "When I ask him out, he will likely say yes."

Other reasons someone might talk to themselves include reasoning, problem-solving, planning, attention, and motivation.

The Benefits of Talking to Yourself

Self-talk can be helpful in several ways. It can help you avoid giving in to impulses, provide guidance through challenging situations, and help you stay on track with your goals. Athletes, for example, often use self-talk to stay motivated and achieve goals.

When Does Self-Talk Start?

Most children start talking to themselves around 2 or 3. After age 5, self-talk usually becomes more internal but never completely disappears.

How to Embrace It

Try using self-talk as motivation or encouragement. A short phrase like "Keep going!" is more effective than having a conversation. Get specific about what you need to focus on, such as not saying the word "Um," during a big presentation, and use self-talk to stay on task. Self-talk that's meant both to motivate, like, "You've got this!" and to instruct, like, "Keep your eyes on the ball," are shown to be equally beneficial.

Childhood Experiences and Self-Talk

Research shows that adults who had an imaginary friend or who were only children growing up are more likely to talk to themselves as adults.

How to Stop Talking to Yourself

Since self-talk is a natural part of human existence, it can be challenging to stop yourself from doing it, especially if it's frequent. Here are some tips to self-talk less often:

  • Be self-observant: Notice when you are talking to yourself and pay attention to why you do so. The more you can understand why you speak to yourself, the more successful you will be in stopping.
  • Use an alternative action: Any time you notice your self-talk, do something else instead, like writing or simply thinking your thoughts.
  • Build support: One of the reasons people talk to themselves is out of loneliness. Identify people you can turn to when you want to talk and ensure you aren't isolating yourself from others.
  • Use organizational tools: If you talk to yourself to stay organized, try writing to-do lists, using a calendar, or setting reminders to keep yourself on task.

When Is It a Cause for Concern?

Just as self-talk can be beneficial, it can sometimes be detrimental. When self-talk becomes negative or critical, it creates an unhealthy narrative that can affect your self-worth.

Research also supports the idea that some people who talk to themselves more frequently do so out of loneliness or because they don't have healthy or enough social relationships. Talk to a mental health provider if self-talk is associated with feeling alone or with symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Mental Health Conditions Associated With Talking to Yourself

Certain mental illnesses are associated with higher levels of cognitive disruption, which might lead people to self-talk to resolve it. Used in this way, self-talk can be comforting and may help you cope. Some mental illnesses associated with self-talk include:

One way to distinguish between healthy self-talk and potential psychosis (losing touch with reality) is to pay attention to how the voices appear. Healthy internal self-talk is more of a conscious conversation. If you are responding to voices in your head and you didn't consciously create the dialogue, if there is more than one voice having a dialogue at a time, or if there are sounds, smells, or vivid images that accompany the voices, it's important to talk to a mental health provider.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you want to stop talking to yourself but are having a hard time, feeling highly anxious, or hearing other voices talking to you, it's crucial to speak to a mental health provider to rule out mental illness.


Self-talk is a normal and natural part of being human. People talk to themselves for many reasons, including self-criticism, self-reinforcement, self-management, social assessment, problem-solving, and motivation.

Sometimes, however, self-talk can be a cause for concern. It could be a symptom of a mental illness if it's uncontrollable, is associated with high levels of anxiety or symptoms of depression, or if the words are confusing and don't make sense. If this is the case, speak to a mental health provider.

A Word From Verywell

You might be concerned about why or how often you talk to yourself, but in most situations, it's completely normal and healthy to talk out loud. It can be a helpful way to encourage yourself or stay motivated. If you're feeling lonely, sad, anxious, or out of control, speak with a mental healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How common is talking to yourself out loud?

    Talking to yourself out loud is extremely common. Though some engage in self-talk more than others, many people speak out loud to themselves, and everyone has internal dialogues. Healthy developing children automatically start talking to themselves out loud from a very young age.

  • What mental disorder makes you talk to yourself?

    Self-talk can be a symptom of a number of mental illnesses. It can be a sign of an anxiety disorder, depression, PTSD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. More severe mental illnesses associated with self-talk include schizophrenia and psychosis.

  • Do intelligent people talk to themselves?

    Though there are different reasons why people talk to themselves, people of all education and intelligence levels do it. Self-talk is healthy, normal behavior.

4 Sources
Verywell Health 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.
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