DEMONIC POSSESSION OR DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER?

DEMONIC POSSESSION OR DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER?

What if for all these years we have not been looking at the situation from the right angle? What If we got it all wrong? What if "demonic possession" or "oppression" or "cursed"- instead of having a paranormal explanation has a more scientific explanation?

What is dissociative identity disorder and why it can be misdiagnosed as Paranormal activity or "demonic possession"?

Dr. David Gardner discovered Multiple Personality Disorder, formerly known as dissociative identity disorder in the late 1880s. It is a mental disorder, in which there is an existence of at least two or more personality identities within a person. 

Till 1994, psychologists and psychiatrists used to call this mental disorder multiple personality disorder, but for a better understanding, it was re-named, as dissociative identity disorder, which means fragmentation or splitting of identity. Fragmented identities are a result of sexual trauma or physical abuse experienced by the individual. Natural disasters or other traumatic events can also be the reason for the onset of this disorder. 

Mary Reynolds was the first patient who was diagnosed with DID, she woke up from a prolonged sleep cycle as a new identity. There are historical shreds of evidence proving that Mary experienced intense trauma as a victim of religious persecution, which is believed to be the reason for the onset of DID. 

One of the major symptoms of dissociative identity disorder, which brings us to the main objective of this article, is – POSSESSION.

During the possession stage, the numerous personalities are promptly obvious to relatives and partners. Patients talk and act in a noticeably unique way like someone else or another being has dominated. The new personality might be that of someone else (frequently somebody who has passed away, maybe in a dramatic manner) or that of a mysterious soul (regularly an evil spirit or god), who might demand punishment or reward for the previously done actions. When there is back and forth between two or more identities, it disrupts the patient's daily activities. For example, an identity that is very shy and an introvert might not feel comfortable going out and working with different people, which might disrupt the patient's work life. 

The control of a human body by spirits, ghosts, demons, or gods is said to induce an unusual or altered state of awareness and related behaviours. Many religions and cultures, including, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc include a concept of demonic possession. Possession might be considered voluntary or involuntary and might have favourable or negative effects on the host, which solely depend on the cultural environment in which it is encountered. 

In the recent history of clinical diagnosis of demonic possession incidences in the cultural or religious environments have been marked by uncertainty. Demonic possession was categorized as either abnormal or was handled as an issue faced by the lower-class, during the first half of the 20th century. 

The question that now arises is: " Can a patient of dissociative identity disorder  be misdiagnosed as a case of demonic possession?"  

Over the past years many clinical psychologists, paranormal psychologists, and spiritist have dedicated their careers to find the answer to the quest, even tho the researchers have not been able to provide a concrete explanation, but there are still researches that claim that there is a significant prevalence of dissociative and psychotic-like experiences, similar to demonic possession experiences, which can be observed in people of different cultures and religions.

The worldwide popular temple, located in Bihar, is especially known for exorcism and helping people under demonic possession. On the Bhabhua – Chainpur Road, Harsu Brahma Temple is about 10 kilometers west of the district headquarters in Bhabhua. Harsu Brahma Samadhi, in the form of a massive fort built by Raja Sharivahan, is located within this fort. People from all over the world visit Brahma Dham to achieve salvation. Among all, the number of women is higher than the men who are visiting the temple. During the Shardiya Chaitra Navratri, followers and believers suffering from demonic possession gather here. This practice has been passed down from generation to generation. It is said that a fair of ghosts and spirits is held here during Chait Navratri. As a result, Harsu Brahma Dham is often referred to as the Supreme Court of Ghosts.

Many clinical psychologists have offered psychological explanations for the symptoms displayed by people visiting this temple. It has been noted that women are more likely than men to claim to be possessed, a plausible explanation for this can be that most of these women come from a family where their opinions and views are not encouraged and are suppressed. These are the women who are very vulnerable, in the sense that they have never had a chance to speak to anybody or express how they feel. The commonality among all the women presenting themselves at the temple as possessed was that they were traumatized or had problems at their homes. Therefore, it is believed that because of these difficult circumstances they are oppressed, and claiming to be possessed, is their way to cope with the situation. The moment they claim to be under possession, they get so much attention, that the whole family, the whole village, or the whole community notices them and for the first time accepts them and their opinion.

However, we are also not forgetting that there are also men who are oppressed and aren't allowed to express their views and opinions about sexuality or accept themselves for who they are. Moreover, they may also adopt a new identity to overcome the circumstances and trauma in their life.

Misdiagnosis between Demonic possession and Dissociative Identity Disorder can often be caused by the commonality between the two cases, i.e., in both cases, the experiencing person communicates in a certain voice which exhibits personality traits that are distinct from the affected person's. As the DID theory has gained acceptance in recent years, more people believe that the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder provides a better explanation for this behaviour than demonic possession. 

About the Author

Shubhangi Tiwari
student.

My name is Shubhangi Tiwari, I am a budding psychologist, currently, I am pursuing psychology honors from Amity University Noida. Being a psychology e

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