The idea that experiences of paranormal activity is linked to mental illness is not a new idea. People who see things that others don’t see or hear things that others don’t hear are, more often than not, going to be seen as something other than normal. While it’s true that mental illness can indeed lead someone to believe they’re having an experience of paranormal activity, this doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone who believes they’ve experienced the paranormal is indeed mentally ill.
One of the most important links between paranormal activity and mental illness comes right from the diagnostic criteria for some mental illnesses. For example, hearing voices is one of the symptoms of schizophrenia, as well as many other mental illnesses. Thus, when someone hears a voice, they immediately qualify for one of the criteria for those particular diagnoses.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is mentally ill, either. There are more than just a single criteria for mental illnesses. The fact that a person hears a voice (or believes they hear a voice) doesn’t automatically guarantee an illness. All it means is that they heard a voice. There are many things that can cause this type of experience.
It’s tempting to assume, therefore, that anyone who hears a voice must either be mentally ill or have had a paranormal experience. This isn’t the case either. It is entirely possible (and, in the eyes of many, probable) that an otherwise sane individual may experience a momentary sensory hallucination brought on by anything from a bad burrito to an ear infection. That person may come to believe they’ve had a paranormal experience, and it may lead others to believe the person is mentally ill. In all reality, the person may just have had indigestion.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that there are no paranormal experiences. It also doesn’t mean that there are. It also doesn’t mean that every mentally ill person, whose mental illness includes hallucinations or hearing voices as one of the diagnostic criteria, will experience those particular symptoms.
In the end, the whole question of a link between paranormal experiences and mental illness are only peripherally related. In fact, it’s probably best to create a divide between the idea of paranormal experiences and mental illnesses. The link that exists is tenuous, and in many cases, completely irrelevant. The real question – the question of how the individual interprets a given event, is what will help determine whether the event was paranormal, psychological, or even neither.