Could Demonic Possession Really Happen?

Reader’s Question

Is demonic possession possible, and do you believe it could happen?

Psychologist’s Reply

Psychiatric illness has been present for thousands of years. During those years, the symptoms were thought to be related to demonic possession, a disturbance of “humors”, tree spirits, etc. Modern psychiatry and psychology recognize that symptoms and behaviors once felt to be related to demonic possession are related to disturbances in brain chemistry.

How do we know these symptoms and behaviors are related to brain chemistry? First, we can artifically duplicate almost any recognized symptom or behavior by using medications and chemicals that are known to change brain chemistry. We can create paranoia, hallucinations, etc. Second, we can reduce and sometimes eliminate these same symptoms with the proper medications. Third, when treating folks with severe psychiatric illness, the same symptoms return when they stop their medications…then go away again when the medications are returned. Lastly, this current model works across cultures.

It’s also important to remember that psychiatric illness exaggerates and amplifies the existing cultural, spiritual, and personal beliefs of the individual. In short, people who believe in demonic possession are the only ones who experience it. A non-believer is unlikely to experience demonic possession. It’s also true that in most cases, only folks who have a prior belief in alien life ever report being abducted. Psychiatric symptoms, while similar in their neurochemistry, are influenced by the experience and culture of the individual. In paranoia, the person believes they are being watched by the police in their country. An individual who only speaks English never has a hallucination in a another language…that kind of thing.

While you may find other professional opinions on the matter, this is mine.

Please read our Important Disclaimer.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. Originally published by on and last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

Ask the Psychologist provides direct access to qualified clinical psychologists ready to answer your questions. It is overseen by the same international advisory board of distinguished academic faculty and mental health professionals — with decades of clinical and research experience in the US, UK and Europe — that delivers CounsellingResource.com, providing peer-reviewed mental health information you can trust. Our material is not intended as a substitute for direct consultation with a qualified mental health professional. CounsellingResource.com is accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation.

Copyright © 2020.