People, but more frequently women, may believe themselves to be the victims of unsolicited and malevolent attention on the part of spirits. The visible form of such afflictions may include various stigmatizing illnesses or a trance condition, but they may also include a subjective sense of malaise. The affliction may be perceived as due to spirits acting of their own accord or due to the malevolent machinations of another human being who captures a spirit or directs it to attach the victim. Illnesses resulting from the former are held to be more difficult to counter than those due to the latter.
In some societies certain conditions (including trance, madness and leprosy) are considered synonymous with spiritual affliction. If Western medicine fails, spiritual affliction is often suspected. Unusual ailments may also be viewed as spiritual afflictions. Women are widely considered to be more vulnerable than men, partly because of the greater risks associated with menstruation.