A systematic review of explanatory models of illness for psychosis in developing countries

Int Rev Psychiatry. 2012 Oct;24(5):450-62. doi: 10.3109/09540261.2012.711746.


Background: Explanatory models of illness, held by patients and treating clinicians, offer justifications and propose explanations for sickness, treatment evaluations and choice. These have been studied in relation to common mental disorders but research on explanatory models of psychosis (EMOP) has received scant attention. Adequately understanding patients' explanatory models for psychosis has important clinical implications.

Method: We systematically examined studies on EMOP in the developing world to report on the nature of explanatory models, their relationship with help-seeking, duration of untreated psychosis (DUP), perceived stigma and any differences in the explanatory models between first and subsequent episodes.

Results: 14 studies examining EMOP in developing countries were identified. The majority of studies reported predominantly supernatural and psychosocial EMOP. Holding supernatural and psychosocial explanatory models affected help-seeking behaviour, treatment modalities used and DUP.

Discussion: EMOP in developing countries are rich and varied. The literature reports on a variety of populations using different methods and suffers from methodological limitations. Some recent studies have also attempted to modify explanatory models by using educational interventions; however, this was not examined in patient populations. Further research is needed to examine the impact of different explanatory models on DUP and help-seeking behaviours.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries*
  • Humans
  • Psychotic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Psychotic Disorders / ethnology*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*