Early Clinic First Episode Program logo

1-888-NM-EARLY ( 1-888-663-2759 )

Cultural Considerations

Every person has their own unique experiences

Our culture and beliefs, determined by how, where and when we were raised, can influence a variety of behaviors, including:

  • How we communicate
  • How we cope
  • Who we go to for support
  • How willing we are to seek help from a professional

Things that are upsetting or unusual are often explained using beliefs that are common to our family and culture.

  • Some people believe that seeing and hearing things has religious or spiritual significance that provides them with understanding and insight.
  • Someone from a culture where many people believe in the possibility of demon possession might think that they are possessed when they hear or see things that others cannot see or hear.
  • Other cultural explanations might include ghosts, evil spirits, God, or aliens.

What matters most is letting your providers know about your cultural and religious background so they can help ensure that your treatment best meets your needs.

Cultural experiences that may be similar to the concept of “Psychosis”

  • Ghost Sickness (Native American)

    Certain Native American cultures may view symptoms of psychosis as related to spiritual connection; symptoms include weakness, dizziness, fainting, anxiety, hallucinations, confusion, and loss of appetite from the action of evil forces.

  • Akamba (Kenya)

    Persons can be possessed by the spirits of ancestors, or aimu, in ecstatic rituals.

  • Hallucinogenic State (Ecuador)

    The Quichua Indians use plant-derived hallucinogens, such as ayahuasca, and then invite spirit animals like jaguars to take over their mind. In this hallucinogenic state they often perform elaborate healing rituals for community members in emotional and physical distress.

  • Ukuthwasa (West Africa)

    Symptoms include social withdrawal, irritability, restlessness, and appearing to respond to auditory hallucinations.

  • Amafufunyana (West Africa)

    A hysterical condition characterized by people who speak in a strange muffled voice, cannot be understood, and have unpredictable behavior. Believed to be induced by sorcery that led to possession by multiple spirits that may then speak through the individual (“speaking in tongues”).

  • Nervios (Mexican/Mexican American)

    Refers to a wide range of mental illness and psychological distress.

  • Bouffée Délirante (France)

    Marked by transient psychosis with elements of trance or dream states.

  • Involuntional Paraphrenia (Spain and Germany)

    Refers to a paranoid disorder that occurs in midlife and has features of, yet is distinct from, Schizophrenia Paranoid Type.

  • Amok (Southeast Asia and Malaysia)

    Marked by a sudden rampage, usually including homicide and suicide, ending with exhaustion and amnesia.

  • Colera (Guatemala)

    Marked by violent outbursts, hallucinations, delusions, and temper tantrums.

  • Latah (Southeast Asia)

    Marked by automatic obedience reaction with echopraxia (involuntary repetition or imitation of another person's actions) and echolalia (involuntary repetition of sounds and language).


  • Versola-Russo, J. M. (2006). Cultural and Demographic Factors of Schizophrenia. International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation. 10 (2), 89-103
  • "Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia," The British Psychological Society, Division of Clinical Psychology