Demonic Possesion : Medical Explanation

Demonic Possesion and Exorcism: From the movie "The Exorcist"
Demonic Possesion and Exorcism: From the movie “The Exorcist”

Demonic possession” is often termed as the paranormal phenomenon involving entrance of demon(s) inside a body (more commonly used for living person) to possess control over it. If we describe it as portrayed in the movie “The Exorcist”, it is characterized by erased personalities, fainting, convulsions, knowledge of foreign languages, hidden secrets & future, drastic changes in vocal intonation and facial structure, superhuman strength, etc. which persists until the demon leaves or is forced to leave the body.

After my research of few days on this topic, I found that:
This term is often described from two viewpoints:
a)Religious
b)Medicine

a) Religious Concept:
Different religions have different concepts on demonic possesions. They suggest “Exorcism” as the way to get rid of the possesion though they are performed differently in different religion (Performed by Priest in Christanity and Shamans in Hinduism). Prayers, sprinkling of holy water, beating, etc. are some forms I’ve seen and read about exorcisms.

In the Middle Ages, people or animals were believed to be possessed if they had any one of the following symptoms:

  • ability to curse or speak in unknown languages
  • ability to make abnormal physical efforts
  • ability to read minds or predict future happenings
  • fear of holy objects like the sign of cross
  • lacked the ability to say the word Christ
  • spitted or vomitted excessively

 

b) Medical Concept:
It is considered to be one of the many forms of insanity in medicine (more precisely psychiatry). There are many psychological ailments commonly misunderstood as demonic possession. Some of them are:

Hysteria: Hysteria is when someone has a very strong emotion that is unmanageable. Often, this means a very strong sense of fear. The term hysteria has been replaced by “psychosomatic”, “functional”, “nonorganic” or”psychogenic”.

Mania: Mania is a severe medical condition characterized by an extremely strong mood. Maniacs are very energetic, they have unusual thought patterns.

Psychosis: People with psychosis may have hallucinations, that is they experience things that are not really there. They may also have delusions, that is they have fixed beliefs and ideas that are usually false. Sometimes their personality changes, and they cannot think straight, that is the way they are thinking may be hard to follow. Some of these thoughts may be paranoid. All of these symptoms may occur alone or in combination, that is not every psychotic has all of them. As a result of these symptoms, psychotics often act in strange ways, which also makes it difficult for them to work in society. They often have trouble with social interactions, or with finding new friends, as most people do not understand them.

Schizophrenia: People with Schizophrenia have a different idea of what is real and what is not. This can cause problems with behaviour, thinking, emotions and motivation. People with schizophrenia are often thought to have ‘lost touch with reality’.

Dissociative identity disorder: People with dissociative identity disorder function as two or more Dissociative Identity States (DIS), called Neutral Identity States (NIS) and Traumatic Identity States (TIS). NIS keep out of the mind traumatic memories. so it’s easier to master daily life. TIS are aware of these memories and that’s why the behaviour is influenced.

Of these, most commonly people misunderstand “Dissociative Identity Disorder” as demonic possession. In cases of dissociative identity disorder (commonly called split personality), about 29% are reported to identify themselves as demons. However in medical science this is regarded as the mental disease called demonomania or demonopathy, a monomania in which the patient believes that he or she is possessed by one or more demons.

Accusations:

It becomes equally important to discuss about those who accuse others of being possessed. In that case we may be facing “collective hysteria (also called mass hysteria)”. Collective or mass hysteria is the sociopsychological phenomenon of the manifestation of the same or similar hysterical symptoms by more than one person. A common manifestation of mass hysteria occurs when a group of people believe they are suffering from a similar disease or ailment. Also I came to know that, between 1533 and 1697, many people lost their lives during exorcisms or similar stuffs due to accusations made by children and teenagers. Many of them apologised later due to remorse. This is a case of simulation. In Medicine, simulation is defined as the conscious process of feigning illness in order to gain some particular end. A person easy to influence can be convinced by others of being demon-possessed. The number of “demon-possessed” people and accusers was higher in women than in men because hysteria which is more common in women compared to men is the first step to all other diseases mentioned above.

Accusations Made In Nepal About Witchcraft (Occurs Mostly in Villages):

The accusations generally rise with the reason for the illness of local people. Illiteracy is obviously the root cause for this but I’ve come across many news about such accusations due to superstitions, enemity against the victimized, and political interference. There are no clear legal provisions and null professional commitment of the educated sections of the society which makes the problem more severe.

24 thoughts on “Demonic Possesion : Medical Explanation

  1. Although, there is an equally balanced belief for both sides, what i have seen is, In Psychiatric wards, patients with such disorders like ‘ possessed by god, demon, and superpower kind of things’ is being treated with antipsychotic medications. I have seen people resolve and go home.

    So I still say, go for allopathic medication rather than rituals and faithhealers.
    I believe it can be treated with medication.
    Its completely my opinion.

  2. I have to agree with the medical concept, power of the mind itself is supernatural but i still cant deny the other one.( religious view)

    1. @sarwatam jain: when meaning supernatural; how do you use the term? In other ways, does natural entity like human have brains whose powers or functions are ‘not-natural’. @mele: although i know he/she will never return i have genuine questions for any other person with similar kniwledge-base. 1. Can things like ‘me or I’ be explained in terms of chemical pathways or electrical impulses happenning somewhere within human brain so that it becomes easier both to understand and appreciate explainations. Human consciousness lies within body and any abnormalities either somatic or psychological are worthwhile if explained in their terms.

  3. This is not the lind of problem that lends itself to a “one size fits all” solution. There can be various causes, various symptoms, and various solutions.

  4. My friend,

    You do not know what you are writing about, and you may not know until you die.That is not bad, you will live with the reality you know.

    But for people like me who perfectly knows in what condition I live, people like you make me sick.It is better to say I do not know the full story. or i do not have the expierience….than saying it is this disorder…that disorder…labeling it here and there….I am sorry.Yes there are that kind of disorders….and there are root causes for that…..spirits….I live with it…I know it is not from me…I know it is another entity…..but psychology failes miserably to understand this….

    Bye

    1. This article doesn’t claim that ghosts and spirits doesn’t exist. Its just that the topic is explained from medical point of view. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    2. You may be right from your view point Mele, but most of the superstitions once though to be possession like multiple personality disorer, Hearing and seeing things- Schizophrenia have been a part of Medical Psychiatry and are under treatment.

      Sulav has just emphasized on Medical aspect.
      The Dark Aspect may be still unexplored.
      We do not claim to know everything.

      Thanks for reading

  5. I believe demonic possesion is a misinterpretation and hype that has sustained through the decades from when little was know about science and biology and religious beliefs had the monopoloy over influencing a persons logical thought. Even today religions hold that grasp, where the uneducated and even the educated blindly follow over and above scientific proof provided. The Demonic possesion tag is so easily given to a person where I believe this misdiagnosis could be a range of ailments. The most likely fit is a person in the final stages of having the rabies virus.If you dont believe me just search for a video where someone has this. Luckily we have progressed medically and that is why we dont contract this as much. But this is where these thoughts originated from.

    1. IN my opinion it is of course rational and fair to consider both aspects as was stated earlier. Medicaly speaking, yes alot of these conditions that we now understand and know how to treat were consfused or missinterpreted, i should say, as demonic possesion. But to rely solely on CURRENT medical view points and scientific understanding is completely irrational seeing as how science still has not brought about answers to even the simplest of things. For example… why do we die? As scholars and doctors and scientists would say, we die because over a matter of time our body breaks down, cells stop replicating, and eventually we die. BUT WHY DOES OUR BODY DO THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE? How can the human body, as magnificent as it is, suddenly stop working correctly for no apparent reason other than age? Could there be a more spiritual connection to this that can possibly explain this phenomenon? Because if science and medicine cant explain it then what can. Could it be possible that there are mysteries even science can’t explain? OF COURSE! Demonic possesion is MOSTLY made irrelevant as a true condition because of societies view to seperate religion from reality. When in fact religion is the reason reality is the way it is today. Religion is the reason America as founded. Religion is the reason for The Crusades and ALL of the worlds biggest conflicts. Religion is the one thing that has ever provided rational explanations to any and all questions. Why do i say rational? Because if your willing to believe in a microscopic organism that you can only see under a high zoom micrscope and give it the benifit of the doubt that it could be the cause for an ailment or cure for a disease… why not give that same benefit of the doubt to a realm in which we have yet to understand because of, what i’d like to call, selective ignorance. Yes the world as a whole CHOOSES to ignore religious beliefs because you cant prove them with cold hard facts. When in fact you can. You would much rather believe that a huge explosion created the EXACT dimensions of the universe rather than believe in the more logical explanation that someone placed it there on purpose. You would rather believe the UNPROVEN THEORY that we came from tree climbing, unintelligible creatures as opposed to the more logical thought that we were placed here on purpose as we are now just like those monkeys were. Man’s seperation from thier spiritual needs is thier seperation from reality and in doing so man has created thier own reality because its “more believable”. My friends i say one last thing in conclusion… if you have to SEE something to BELIEVE something, then you might want to reconsider what you think you know is reality. I can’t see a demon or a ghost because im mortal. But i also cant see the truth from someones mouth. I cant see pain but i know its real correct? In the end it comes down to the one thing people never want to admit… do you believe or do you not. Believing is not irrelevant… its just not socially accepted anymore… but try telling that to the greeks who became great because of thier beliefs, or the indians who roamed the lands of native america who were also a proud and great people, or the nazis who were totally influenced by belief that they were doing God’s will. Never disregard Religious FACTS because medicine seems to be more concrete. One day all will be revealed and where will the sceptics be when the truth is finally “IN YOUR FACE’ as some will say.

  6. now I live science my whole life but recently I was sitting in my frontroom and for no reason I had a erg to look down the hallway so I did and at the end it dips off and that’s were my eyes were locked and out of no were I seen a face pale real dark around the eyes but not to pale like a ghost and it had medium length hair but anyways it just peeked around the corner not the whole face but it was just barely enough to see the nose and it pulled back quickly like it made a mistake like it noticed me. now I never seen it again but I think there might be something out there.

    1. Thank you Knuckles for sharing your experience.

      This is not a case of Demonic possession, but your explanation suggests to a Ghost sighting.

      But Human mind can often play tricks with sense organs: illusion is a probability (like seeing images of people or animals in clouds, the interpretation of which depends upon the perciever). Many of times fear can induce such illusions.

      Just my idea. I respect your view what so ever.

  7. Wow! This topic is so awesome!! But for me!! I’ll give them a 50/50 perhaps science will prove it!! but many mystery science can’t answer!! Like for example “the bermuda triale” many people cant answer this mystery!!

    1. The Bermuda Triangle actually has been solved through common sense. Most ships and planes that are lost in the Bermuda Triangle go down during a storm (meteorological evidence has shown this many times, even when writers and alleged witnesses say that the day and sea was calm). And of course missing ships and planes won’t be seen again because they’re on the bottom of the ocean. Remember, much of our oceans, especially the bottoms, haven’t been explored. Sometimes, ships reported to be missing show up to port later, but few bother to report those ships as having been found, or when they do report it enthusiasts of the Bermuda Triangle don’t care. Some ships and planes that were reported to have vanished actually didn’t. The Triangle also doesn’t have a disproportionate number of disappearances for it’s size and how many ships and planes travel through it. This was backed up by The United States Coast Guard, who said that the number of disappearances isn’t relatively significant compared to the traffic the area gets. In fact, in 2013 it wasn’t counted among the top ten dangerous waters in the world, which is somewhat strange for a site notorious for its numbers of casualties and disappearances. That sounds pretty solved to me. Granted, I am a skeptic, but I acknowledge when science isn’t able to explain things, like why we sleep, how gravity works, or how bicycles work. There’s a lot that science doesn’t know and can’t conclusively prove, like possession (though I personally think it’s medical or psychological). The Bermuda Triangle is not one of those things.

  8. I HAVE A QUESTION…CAN SOMETHING THAT STARTED OUT AS A MENTAL CONDITION COULD RESULT IN A POSSESION? MY LITTLE BROTHER DEVELOPED THESE TERRIBLE STOMACH AILMENTS AFTER A VERY CLOSE FRIEND OVERDOSED AND HE FOUND THE BODY. THIS STARTED WHEN THE WAS 16. HE WAS IN AND OUT OF THE HOSPITAL ALOT AND ALMOST DIED. HE CLAIMS TO HAVE HAD AN OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCE. NOW…BECAUSE HIS MIND WAS TELLING HIM HE WAS ILL WHEN THEIR WAS NOT SCIENTIFIC EXPLAINATION FOR HIS PAIN…AND BECAUSE HE WAS SO WEAK DURING THIS TIME, MENALLY AND PHISICALLY, IS IT POSSIBLE THAT HE COULD HAVE BECOME POSSESSED? I ASK THIS BECAUSE HE NO LONGER SUFFERS FROM THESE PHYSICAL AILMENT BUT IS NOW TORMENTED WITH VOICES AND DELUSIONS THAT TAKE CONTROL OF HIM. I LOOKED INTO HIM EYES DURING ONE OF HIS MOST RECENT EPISODE AND IT SENT A CHILL RIGHT DOWN MY SPINE. I AM NOT AN OVERLY RELIGIOUS PERSON BUT I SWEAR I WAS LOOKING STRAIGHT INTO THE FACE OF THE DEVIL. I LOOKED UP AT HIM AND THERE WAS NO COLOR TO HIS EYES. AND I MEAN MORE THAN JUST DIALATED PUPILS.

  9. @Jennifer most definitely your brother may have encountered an evil spirit. Traumatic life circumstances can open people up to demonic torment. I am a christian pastor and have observed, encountered, and even expelled evil spirits through Jesus’ powerful name.
    E-mail me if u need help. [email protected].
    Moderators and contributors also thank you for bringing your studies, experience and expertise to this thread. This truly is a vast subject usually without neat and tidy diagnoses. Individual experiences are critical to determining conditions.
    May the peace of God be with u and your brother.

  10. its matter of time, science will definetly clear all prevailing doubts/confusions or misconceptions whatever they are.

  11. I believe demonic possession exists but it is very rare. The biggest ruse The Devil has is to make people believe he doesn’t exist and it seems to work. The Devil is a real being with powers beyond belief and extremely intelligent and cunning. He is a fallen angel and I think was a seraphim- those angels closest to God but refused to be obedient. The Devil has limited powers and cannot be at more than one place at a time and also can’t do anything without God’s permission. Demons are also intelligent but it depends on their rank or order. When a demon possesses a body it is not there all the time; it is transient- it comes and goes and never departs from the victim unless by force. Remember that the best protection The Devil has is a skeptical public!

  12. Hello,

    My mother is suffering with this problem of ” Demonic Possession” for the past 5-6 years.
    All these years have been very mentally and emotionally challenging for the family. As most of the people do in such a scenario, that is, going to temples and “Faith healers or Babas ” for all these years but nothing has helped so far. I have seen the situation go worse in the past couple of years.

    Now, I want to try the medical route finally. Can you please advise on how to go about it? Shall we contact a psychologist or psychiatrist? and what should we tell the doctor? I mean what is the name of this illness? Is it “Schizophrenia” or something else?

    I stay in Delhi area and any help/suggestion would be highly appreciated.

    Mayank

    1. I would advice you to see a psychiatrist. Such problems are common in their clinics or hospitals and you will not need to tell them much before they will give you a diagnosis. It is called DID, dissociated identity disorder.

Leave a Reply to drsumiran Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.