Demonic Possession

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Biology 202
1999 Final Web Reports
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Demonic Possession

Melissa A. Bromwell

Belief in the possibility of demonic possession has waned since the advent of sophisticated medical knowledge. What had previously been considered to be examples of control of an individual by a spirit or devil are now commonly accepted as numerous forms of mental illness, easily explained by nervous system activity. If all types of behavior (including emotional states and cognitive states) are produced and mediated solely by the brain, there leaves no potential for such a phenomenon as demonic possession to exist and such cases would clearly be instances of various illnesses. However, neuroscience has not yet been able to explain all of the characteristics common to purported cases of demonic possession ((1).

A possessed individual is typically characterized by having strange physical ailments or disfigurements; verbal outbursts, mostly obscene or sacrilegious in nature; violent behavior and vulgar behavior; bodily spasms and contortions; ability to speak languages never before studied; self-mutilation; "superhuman" abilities such as psychic abilities, abnormal strength, or an ability to perform behaviors out of the realm of human possibility such as levitation; cessation of normal bodily functions for periods of time, including breathing and heart beat; and a pronounced revulsion to symbols, places, people, objects, and ceremonies having any religious context. Other phenomena associated with the presence of a demon include an acrid stench; marked decrease in the temperature of the room which a possessed individual occupies; writing appearing out of nowhere; sounds and voices arising from nowhere; and objects moving on their own and destruction of objects in the room, without anyone having laid a hand upon them ((2), (3).

Despite the striking quality of this description, the expansion of the fields of medicine and psychology has led to diagnoses other than demonic possession for individuals who present circumstances similar to those mentioned above. These sorts of cases are now readily explained in terms of abnormal functioning in the brain and nervous system. There are various disorders which may mimic demonic possession; these include schizophrenia (and other periods of psychosis), dissociative identity disorder, and Tourette syndrome ((4).

Schizophrenia is characterized by the presence of delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behavior, affective flattening or inappropriate emotional responses, avolition, and alogia. General psychotic episodes, such as might accompany mood disorders, can also closely simulate a state of demonic possession by hallucinations or delusions. The delusions can be ones of thought insertion, thought broadcasting, delusions of guilt, delusions of grandeur, such as being God (or a demon), or delusions that God (or a demon) is speaking to the person and giving commands for a special mission (5).

The resemblance between several of these criteria and demonic possession is rather striking. The inappropriate emotional displays seen in psychoses correspond to those frequently documented in cases of demonic possession where the possessed individual expresses either flattened affect or outbursts of extreme affects; a possessed individual will often laugh at situations which are morbid, such as injury to another individual, or crying and screaming when there appears to be no appropriate stimulus for such a response, such as being presented with a crucifix or holy water (6).

Psychosis is generally thought of as a break with reality; society will frequently consider individuals who believe themselves to be possessed as delusional and not "in touch with reality." An individual who appears to be possessed and claims to be a demon may be viewed as suffering from a delusion of grandeur. Family members and friends caring for possessed individuals can become extremely disturbed by the state in which the individuals present themselves and often request an exorcism as a last resort. One might think of this as an example of Folie à Deux, in which one individual develops a delusion while in a close relationship with another person who already has an established delusion; the delusion is of the same content for each individual (5). It is possible that the possessed individual initially suffers from a delusion and eventually convinces loved ones that the possession is real.

The paranoid thinking present in many instances of psychosis is similar to that of an individual who is possessed and fears all items, people, and situations that contain religious themes. An individual who is possessed will react violently to the presentation of anything with a religious context, out of fear that harm will come to them; the reaction is elicited merely from being exposed to something such as a Bible or a priest. The disorganized thinking and speech that often occurs during periods of psychosis may also resemble the seemingly nonsensical speech a possessed individual may show (6).

Individuals who suffer from schizophrenia predominantly marked by catatonic behavior often arrange their bodies in bizarre or inappropriate postures for long periods of time; they frequently engage in stereotypic motor activity or have very prominent mannerisms and facial expressions. Conversely, these individuals might refrain from any movement whatsoever for prolonged periods of time, as if in a trance. This might be similar to the bodily contortions and exaggerated expressions of emotion noted in cases of demonic possession, as well as to the hypnotic-like state observed in possessed individuals (1).

The superhuman strength often exhibited by individuals who are possessed might be explained by the presence of a bipolar disorder; bipolar disorders are frequently accompanied by psychosis, particularly during the manic episodes. Manic individuals exhibit abundant amounts of energy and often have abnormal strength, similar to what can be seen in an individual who is possessed.

Schizophrenia, or any form of psychosis, is currently thought to be the result of a malfunctioning dopaminergic system, either a system which is too active or a system which is too sensitive. The dopamine system has been implicated in movement and coordination, emotional response, and the ability to experience pleasure and pain (7). It would then seem quite likely that many purported cases of demonic possession are merely instances of dopamine systems failing to work properly, given the aforementioned abnormal motor and affect behavior. It also seems quite plausible that individuals who believe themselves to be possessed are in a state of severe ahedonia.

Another disorder which has frequently been misdiagnosed as demonic possession is dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder. The criteria for this disorder is the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states, each with its own way of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and the self; at least two of these personalities or identities recurrently take control of the individual's behavior; and an inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be dismissed as ordinary forgetfulness (8). The separate identities involved in this disorder and the physical changes that denote dissociation could certainly reflect the abrupt change in personality manifested by those who appear to be victims of demonic possession (9).

A demon in someone who is possessed has its own purpose, own beliefs, morals, and attitudes, mannerisms, even its own style of speech, including a different voice. Each of these is distinct from those of the individual prior to possession and to an observer, it is clear that a change has occurred in the individual. In addition, an individual who suffers from demonic possession may not be able to recall the periods of time in which the demon manifests itself, resulting in blackouts and time loss (6). This is quite comparable to the manifestation of multiple personalities, each unique from the other, in an individual with dissociative identity disorder. The different personalities also have different motivations, ways of behaving, types of knowledge, and types of speech. The differing speech patterns between identities might partially explain the phenomenon of "speaking in tongues" often witnessed in victims of demonic possession. Time loss and blackouts are also extremely common to individuals with dissociative identity disorder; the unrecalled periods of time occur when another personality is in control (10).

Extreme suggestibility and hypnotizability are prevalent among individuals with dissociative identity disorder, which may be important if someone has suggested to an individual with the disorder that they are not mentally ill, but are in fact possessed by a demon. An individual with dissociative identity disorder who has had this suggested to them might come to believe they are inhabited by a demon (11).

Motor activities common to those with dissociative identity disorder include anesthesia, eye rolling (especially during switching to another personality), and pseudoseizures (11). These are behaviors that are commonly observed in individuals who are reported to be possessed by a demon; individuals who are possessed may be unable to feel pain in certain areas of their body and some of the distortions involved in possession include eyes rolling back and seizures (6).

The commonly accepted etiology of dissociative identity disorder is an early history of repeated trauma and abuse, often to horrific degrees (12). There is currently no biological theory concerning the origin of dissociative identity disorder; this creates both a direction for future investigations into the disorder and a possibility that demonic possession is an occurrence that cannot be explained in terms of the brain.

Another disorder that has probably been mistaken for demonic possession throughout time is Tourette syndrome, characterized by multiple motor and vocal tics (13). Motor tics can range in complexity from eye blinking to sticking out the tongue to rapid jerking of the body and writhing. The vocal tics can be sounds such as coughing, barking, growling or repeating words and phrases over and over again. Perhaps the most well-known symptom of Tourette syndrome is coprolalia, the screaming of obscene and foul language (14).

It is obvious how these behaviors can be misinterpreted as demonic possession; possessed individuals are often described as flailing and thrashing about and shouting obscenities, sexually aggressive phrases, violent threats, and sacrilegious statements.

There is also a high rate of comorbidity with obsessive-compulsive disorder in individuals who have Tourette syndrome (14). It seems likely that there would be a high frequency rate of obsessions with religion in individuals who claim to be possessed by a demon.

The origins of Tourette syndrome are thought to lie in either the dopaminergic system or the noradrenergic system. It is believed that the disorder results from either supersensitivity in the dopamine receptors or hyperactivity in the functioning of the norepinephrine system (14).

The concordance of the putative biological causes of schizophrenia and Tourette syndrome seem to imply some type of connection between the two disorders, and the phenomenon which they both imitate, i.e., demonic possession. It also lends credence to the belief that the brain is responsible for types of behavior which may initially seem remarkably beyond the realm of normal human behavior.

However, there is quite a bit about supposed demonic possession which cannot yet be explained by biology. This category includes such phenomenon as levitation, wounds appearing upon the victim that have not been inflicted by the self or another concrete source, knowledge of languages never before studied, sometimes never even heard, and psychic abilities such as knowing facts about other individuals that have never been met. In addition, the accompanying situations related to the area around possessed individuals do not seem to be explainable in terms of the brain or any aspect of biology; science cannot yet explain the distinct decrease in temperature of the room the individual occupies, the appearance of writing and sounds from an unseen force, and the movement of objects on their own (2).

One can come to two conclusions when faced with this evidence. The first is that the cause of such circumstances will eventually be determined by further study of the brains of reportedly possessed individuals. This might reveal that there is something biologically (and entirely secularly) unique about such individuals which allows them to be capable of creating such phenomena by themselves; in this case it could be determined that demonic possession is nothing but a myth perpetuated for centuries. On the other hand, the possibility that demonic possession is a real occurrence cannot yet be rejected; no thoroughly decisive evidence exists to the contrary. What is currently known about science cannot fully explain every situation reported to be a case of demonic possession, at least not by the methods which science currently employs. Until science can explain each detail, if indeed it ever can, one cannot dismiss the possibility that demonic possession is a real and true phenomenon.

WWW Sources

1) Exorcism

2) A Brief Handbook of Exorcism

3) Rituale Romanum

4) The Ghostbusters of Psychiatry

5) Schizophrenia

6) Exorcism

7) Dopamine

8) Dissociative Identity Disorder

9) The Lost Daughter

10) Understanding Dissociative Disorders Through Dissociative Signs and Symptoms

11) Cast Out What?

12) Fact Sheet: Dissociative Identity Disorder

13) Exorcising a Damnable Disease

14) Guide to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Tourette Syndrome

 

 

Comments made prior to 2007

I will not give my full name for the information came from my brother who is a therapist at a treatment facility. He was an atheist, but not now. I just wanted to mention a case he told me about that has happened very resently. It was what happened to middle aged man that had been involved in Santaria. The family brought in their paster to talk and pray for the individual. He witnessed a book fly across the room as the minister started praying for the individual. There was also a chair that, as said, took on a life of its own, repeatedly slamming its self into the minsiter. He told me that all he could say was that dissacoiative identity disorder could not effect inaniment objects ... Charles, 17 February 2006

 

 

The article on Demon Possess was very good! It's great how the author made a comparison between several Psychological conditions and demon possession. My reason for writing is that I know such a person who is mentally challenged, but thinks she is possessed with a demon. In fact, her Therapist told her that she needed an exorcist. I was quite surprised that a professional would advise someone of this unless they knew for certain. I am in the ministry and know that this person is not possessed, but how do I reach her? Can anyone from this organization help us? ... John H. Thomas, 27 April 2007

 

 

Read the article concerning demonic possession and agree that in many cases it is explainable via mental illnesses and can be traced back to torture of some kind over a prolonged period of time. May I add that the test might be that others may perceive to some extent the manifestations of the possessed person. I can not rule out completely demonic posession or miraculous events. Visions at Fatima and others are generally seen, heard etc by others present. Yhose in the medical field must responsibly view the explainable of course and the effects on the human mind and body ... Reader on the web, 25 November 2007

Comments

Anonymous's picture

demonic possession

umm i dunno if this is what is happening to me but im scared to find out look it's just i guess over time this thing has gotten worse whare i try to hurt my loved ones and my eyes go solid black no i mean literly and i hear things that arnt there and see stuff just not normal.. and i hear 4 guys in my head all the time and they try to take over me 24/7 and i dunno if what it is is a possession.. just my husband took me to see our pastor and i had a urge to kill him i just wanted to go after him and strangle him and so much hate!! but i dont hate no one... and myhusband and i's relationship is sooo bad and im loseing him.. im not me im this diffrent depressed sad wanna kill u person... and things are going wrong.. i need help dunno what to do...

Anonymous's picture

You need exorcist . You

You need exorcist . You possibly could have few demons possessing your mind and body and you can hear them.Demons don't like religion and God, that's why you (them inside you) wanted to go after priest. May you feel better with God's help.Good luck to you .

gato's picture

Exorcist work for Satan.

Exorcist work for Satan. Satan is the creator of religions on earth. THat is why Muslims and Jews have been killing each other for centuries. What about the Irish and the British? In the name of religion they kill each other. God is the only one who and will save you if you believe in Jesus of Nazareth and what He did for us on the cross.

Anonymous's picture

demonic possession

to whom it may concern, I suggest that you go and see your DR. first before you jump into other things it could be just a chemicial imbalnce and that can be fixed with meds and you will feel better along with some help.Some times a prist can make you worst. Please try your DR. first then if it does not help then go to the church for help. GOOD LUCK>

Anonymous's picture

while some symptoms of

while some symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder, etc. can mimic demonic interferance or posession, those disorders do not explain why a person can have two different blood types or different symptoms (i.e. at times will be a diabetic and at other times, won't.)

If you hear voices and want to kill your pastor or family for no reason, it's indeed possible that there have been doors opened to the demonic. However, they can be closed and those demons CAN be gotten rid of without all the fanfare produced in film like The Exorcist. Most often, it can be done quietly with prayer in two to three hours. However, you do need to make an assessment of where you stand with God and what, if anything, you may have done to open a doorway to the demonic. The last thing you want to do is send these demons packing without attending to the source or they will come back (as the bible states) and they will come back with more.

You can even do it yourself. Books like "Blood on the Doorpost" has an appendix which lists all of the possible "access points". Some may have nothing to do with any particular sin on your part. It may be a generational curse that you inherited or by abuse you suffered. Demons are very frequently passed on spiritually through sex.

Or it may be an involvment in the occult or it might even be something that someone gave you that is a cursed object. So,that's why a good book on "Spiritual Warfare" or "Deliverance" will help.

Also, get yourself a King James Bible. And find a pastor who believes in the sole authority of the Bible and the Bible alone. Also, Don't let any person lay hands on you unless you know they are a person who keeps themself as free from sin as possible by fasting and praying. The last thing you want is to have someone who is actively involved in sin or the occult lay hands on you. They might transfer an entity to you. This happened to me once when I allowed a psychic to lay hands over my head to heal a headache. I felt waves of energy and my headache felt better but, I also got more than I bargined for. All's well but I'm VERY careful about who I let touch me now. (I also don't see psychics anymore either.)

Anonymous's picture

If you received a demon from

If you received a demon from a healing that means the psychic probably was either:
a.) Infected by the demon themself.
Or b.) Not really a healer, or a parasite.
I'm a psychic and a healer in training, and a strong believer in God and Jesus Christ, as are my mentors in which one of them is a Reverend. Not all psychics are evil or are for the devil, actually it's quite the opposite. I am also a strong believer in medicine and science, and I do think mental illnesses exist, however, science can not explain everything. I can not fully express to people that if you are going to seek a psychic or a healer, make sure you know the person well. I thought I should reply to this because I see too often people blaming psychics for demonic possession, when in fact it could be something entirely different that caused it, such as a curse as you mentioned, and plenty of other intervening factors. Let me put it into another perspective, say I visit a Catholic Priest for guidance, and after visiting the Priest, I start to convulse or throw things at people (dramatization) and speak in another tongue. Did I receive the demon from the Priest? Not necessarily. Who was there while I was visiting the Priest? Where did I go after visiting the Priest? Do you see what I mean? Now granted, there are bad people who do want to harm others and use estrange methods to do so, but perhaps hinting that if you see a psychic or a healer they will give you demons is a bit over the top? And considered generalization to say the least. May God bless you.

guest's picture

healer , demon , where it come from other

right now im worst phase from the more positive phase of someones demonic attack on my life. ih aev had this for a long time in my life. i escaped one intent. so i got to escape take notes on what i saw in real time life and escape to recover. i will not relinquish what i saw. they did not accomplish what they wanted, and it took years for me to recover from what took place and the intent to twist my soul out of my self. and literaly torture me to madness. i got then to llive a blessed life and careful who i let near me. however i also had ties tehre after to jamaica wi. and work in art world in nyc where i had been made threats to my life of somene have evil powers and were going to do to me.. what they said. in terms of what i saw done already. i was not an easy target.. and got to escape this over and over with people provign showing off and bragging their intentens to use their honed mental powers to get to someones mind, body and hwo u make money and thrive spirit and soul talent. this is a basic war fare pscychological warfare game. however its more credible then if the us army is having a whole unit intellegence based to use psychic experiments to kill people with same premis? i wrote this an james channon and the other guy who wrote about the new earth army, and the using of mental powes on people to kill. i knwo for reasl that people who experiment with psychic powers are people who feel they are super power minds artist and other and feel people w ho are afraid or confused or in dark are stupid.. or naive. and schizophrenia is something that follows trauma after the mind is traumatized broken down , the person is then a victimizable personi suffered trauma and saw myself as vulnerable and using ones minds information was also part of the game. i got to live 17 years of happy healthy life and was determined to be that person to bust the case and prove it. this past year in june i was then again a victim of a more intrent assault . one minute i was normal healthy and i felt somene waiting for a shot again. then i took aturn and all hel broke lose like i got jumped and someone began a super attack om me to take me down. i had just left jamaica and had encountered a few people also of intent and had not been able tot ake down, but suffered stress trauma.. making me slightly weaker and needing some recovery. but where i turned to find that led to what took place . and i began to get sick mad and lose my midn from the things that took place. they began to go into my mind files and twist at high speed to prove how fast they coudl move. i had been marreid to a person who vowed he could kill me or kkll someone via the mind, and me. and this is how he moves in real life. feels he is super smart and agressive and cant be stopped and is invisible to people. my famiy are stupid and probablyu their sould gone to this long ago i was teh only successful one in that manner. and rising.. i had personality spirit and insight vision and also the intent to open my mouth, just two days ago after suffering 7 months in a small room i took that amde me sick and someone in there with me , i was to sick slow to move had to make myself wake up from shcok to move but i did not make it. then the last minute of life i had i got on a plane back to where i had escape. for some reason in delerium and i almost am a dead person sick walking as this was swrong move falling back into hands of person who i had escaped who was putting me in danger and a person who would take soul out if he could. i did nto fall yet i was still fightign for my life three days ago. then i made a move that did not make sense but i was in a deepstate of shock and it made me break down and get sick and thin, i was looking to do opposite to stand back from people and find a place to recover. but i got confused and where i landed. im like ghost now and cant recall who i am , and the demons going wilding on me like have no defense now as i had before when i was still stronger.. and holding off and fighthing.

Anonymous's picture

If you think you are possessed

If you feel you are possessed go see a Catholic priest. They are the only ones with the power and the authority to exorcise.

Michael Anderson's picture

Go and talk to someone who is

Go and talk to someone who is a born again christian exrocisms are an attempt at at power encounter what is need is a truth encounter. Jesus is The Truth.

Anonymous's picture

Deliverance from demons

This is not true. Any one who is a born again Christian has the Holy Spirit living in them therefore they have the authority to bind the demon and deliver the person. However unless the person possessed receives Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and repents(turns in the opposite direction) there is no point in delivering the demon out of them. Jesus said that if you do that and the person is not filled with the Holy Spirit the demon will go and get 7 more demons and return to that person. The person will end up far worse than they began. Go and see a bible based church and make an appointment with a pastor if you need to be delivered.

(Matthew 12: 43-45)"When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.

Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

Anonymous's picture

TRUE THIS

THIS IS TRUE. WHEN IN LIFE SOMEONE WHO IS OF EVIL INTENTENTIONS THEY ALWAYS TRY TO GET A FRIEND TO ABUSE VICTIM.
I WAS A VICTIM OF GAY ABUSERS. THEY WORK IN GROUPS.
ONE GUY WENT TO USE HIS FRIENDS PON ME TO ABUSE ME FOR NOT TALKIGN TO HIM.

AND SOME OF THEM ALSO CLAIMED OF PSYCHIC POWERS.
IN LIFE PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT TRUE MEN. USE OTHERS TO ABUSE.

FEMALES ALSO.. I WOULD AGREE THAT THE WEAKER THE VICTIM IS THAT THE MORE OPEN TO ATTACK. ADN THE WEAKER THEY GET THE MORE HARD IT IS TO EXTRACT THE PERSON FROM SOUL.
THERE ARE EASONS WHY A HACKER HACKS INTO A COMPUTER. hACKERS ARE ALSO DEMONS OF CYBER WORLD. THEY HAVE A REASON. TO GAIN ACCESS IS TO ROB INFORMATION GAIN WEALTH, MAKE COMPUTER DIE, OR FOR OTHER INENT.
IN ANY CASE COMPUTER VIRUS IS LIKE COMPUTER IS SCHIZOPHRENIC. IT BECOMES CATTONIC FROZEN AND GOES MAD.
PEOPLE WHO CANT DEAL WITH IT ABUSE COMPUTER OR ARE CONFUSED.
THE HACKER LIKES THE GAME. HE GETS KICKS. AND AS SMART AS MACAFEE GET OR NORTON, THEY HAVE TO ALSO NOW MAKE NEW GAME TO KEEP IT UP. ITS AN ONGOING THING.
I DO AGREE . THIS WAS GOING ON FROM TIMES OF CAVE MEN AND JESUS. jESUS WAS ENLIGHTENED AGAINST IT.
DEMONS ARE FROM PEOPLE. AND ROUGES WORK IN PACKS AND NEED COMPANY..
SO IF ONE DEMON COMES INTO PATH OF A VICTIM.HE WILL TRY TO GET BACK UP . SO VICTIM MUST TO. BUT THE VICTIM IS USUALY ABUSED OR DIAGNOSD WITH MENTAL ILLNESS SO ITS A BD DEAL. SO THAT IS WHY SATAN IS MAKING WORLD AS IS. BECAUSE EVIL PREVAILS. MYOWN FRIENDS SAT AND WATCHED ME DIE. THEY DIDNOT EVEN THINK TWICE MOST OF THEM ALSO ARE CONTRADICTIONS. CONTRADICTIONS ARE SATANS TOOLS.

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