Demonic attributions in nondelusional disorders

Abstract

demonicOBJECTIVE:

Belief in demonic influence has repeatedly been described as a delusion in schizophrenic patients. The goal of this explorative study was to examine the frequency, as well as the psychodynamic and social functions of such beliefs in a sample of nondelusional patients.

METHOD:

The sample consisted of 343 psychiatric outpatients who described themselves as religious. In semistructured interviews they were asked to give their view of demonic causality of their illness.

RESULTS:

A high prevalence of such beliefs was not only found in schizophrenic patients (56%) but also in the following groups of nondelusional patients: affective disorders (29%), anxiety disorders (48%), personality disorders (37%) and adjustment disorders (23%). Belief in demonic oppression tended to be associated with lower educational level and rural origin, and was significantly influenced by church affiliation.

CONCLUSIONS:

Beliefs in possession or demonic influence are not confined to delusional disorders and should not be qualified as a mere delusion. Rather they have to be interpreted against the cultural and religious background which is shaping causal models of mental distress in the individual.

PMID:
10494064
[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
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