Hesperian Health Guides
Mental Illness (Psychosis)
A person may be mentally ill if she has any of these signs:
- She hears voices or sees unusual things that others do not hear or see (hallucinations).
- She has strange beliefs that interfere with daily life (delusions)—for example, she thinks that loved ones are trying to rob her. Similar signs can be caused by illness, poisoning, medicines, drug abuse, or damage to the brain.
- She no longer cares for herself—for example, she does not get dressed, clean herself, or eat.
- She behaves in a strange way, like saying things that make no sense.
No matter what treatment is given, a person with a mental illness should be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity.
People who are not mentally ill sometimes act this way, particularly if these behaviors are part of their community’s beliefs or traditions. For example, if a woman says that she received guidance in a dream, she may be drawing upon traditional sources of knowledge and guidance—not suffering from mental illness. These signs are more likely to be signs of mental illness if they come so often and are so strong that a person has difficulty carrying out daily activities.