New paper says maybe mental condition really IS demons (UPDATE)

See how the journal reacts in the update below.

Originally published 3 June 2014

Oh my… a paper published in the Journal of Religion and Health suggests that schizophrenia may in fact really BE demons!

I almost have no response to that. Almost.

Here is the abstract. I do not have access to the article.

Schizophrenia or Possession? – Springer.

Schizophrenia is typically a life-long condition characterized by acute symptom exacerbations and widely varying degrees of functional disability. Some of its symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations, produce great subjective psychological pain. The most common delusion types are as follows: “My feelings and movements are controlled by others in a certain way” and “They put thoughts in my head that are not mine.” Hallucinatory experiences are generally voices talking to the patient or among themselves. Hallucinations are a cardinal positive symptom of schizophrenia which deserves careful study in the hope it will give information about the pathophysiology of the disorder. We thought that many so-called hallucinations in schizophrenia are really illusions related to a real environmental stimulus. One approach to this hallucination problem is to consider the possibility of a demonic world. Demons are unseen creatures that are believed to exist in all major religions and have the power to possess humans and control their body. Demonic possession can manifest with a range of bizarre behaviors which could be interpreted as a number of different psychotic disorders with delusions and hallucinations. The hallucination in schizophrenia may therefore be an illusion—a false interpretation of a real sensory image formed by demons. A local faith healer in our region helps the patients with schizophrenia. His method of treatment seems to be successful because his patients become symptom free after 3 months. Therefore, it would be useful for medical professions to work together with faith healers to define better treatment pathways for schizophrenia.

The research made the blog of the Journal of Improbable Research.

Long ago, before modern medical understanding, people thought that various conditions such as mental illness and brain disorders like seizures were caused by demons. Those days have long past. Maybe not in the religious-minded. Note that this article comes from High Council of Science, Gulhane Military Medical Academy, Ankara, Turkey. Turkey is a hotbed of Muslim fundamentalism.

The Journal is peer-reviewed including reports on “contemporary modes of religious and spiritual thought with particular emphasis on their relevance to current medical and psychological research.” Articles deal with mental and physical health in relation to religion and spirituality of all kinds. Therefore, that might explain why such a piece is published – that even contemporary (backwards) religions are returning to pre-scientific explanations.

I can’t fathom how such a paper would contain anything but speculation. The medical data nor any other scientific evidence anywhere in no way supports the reality of supernatural entities as a cause of human harm. Belief, however, causes havoc.

When people believe this is religious cause, it will encourage exorcisms. Exorcisms are downright deadly. Most modern religions note that “in most cases” demons can be ruled out. Oh really? Show me how they can ever be ruled IN! This is nonsense that keeps the population stupid.

Tip: Craig Rheinheimer

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Purchase this tee HERE

UPDATE (18 June 2014) Real Clear Science blog contacted the Journal of Religion and Health’s editor Dr. Curtis Hart to ask why they would publish such a ridiculous paper.

RealClearScience – Published Paper Blames Schizophrenia on Demons.

“The article was published in hopes that it would provoke discussion,” he said. “The Journal does not agree that demons are a real entity.”

Discussion or publicity? What kind of discussion starts from this nonsensical foundation?

With no plans to retract the paper, two rebuttals are planned for a future issue.

The author of the paper, Irmak, says this:

“There is no scientific evidence to support the existence of demons,” he admitted. “This is like the argument of creation or evolution. It is a matter of belief and I think the existence of demons cannot be proved by scientific methods.”

Yeah, it can, just as evolution can be “proved” very solidly unless you insist on not using science and reason as guides.

The world works naturally, not via some supernatural entities running the show (Or if they are, they are indistinguishable from natural laws so what’s the point of being supernatural?) Irmak speaks of John Nash, the world-renowned mathematician who suffers from schizophrenia. Or, as Irmak believes, demons. It appears to be some inspiration for this paper and is mentioned at the end.

It is absurd to start a discussion equivalent to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. There is no progress out of that.

  28 comments for “New paper says maybe mental condition really IS demons (UPDATE)

  1. Bob Blaskiewicz
    June 3, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    DAMN IT, SHARON! Stop publishing so many damned interesting stories! I have no freaking idea what I’m doing for VS this week. What we need is someone who would do a news blur type thing. Damn.

  2. Lee
    June 3, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    If this is peer reviewed and receives no denouncement nor is ripped to pieces then it would appear that everyone involved suffers from a delusional departure from reality. I have made this site a daily stop to sate my news of the strange and current woo. Sadly I am at an all time low in my perception of humans being disappointing on almost every level.

  3. Bill T.
    June 3, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    “Journal of Religion and Health”, safe to guess the “researchers” already believe in angels, and other supernatural beings, demons are no stretch for them.

  4. Lukas
    June 3, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    After reading this I could not stop laughing.. Are those people serious?? I would like to know how in the world they can explain that some pills and medication can help a person who has schizophrenia to be in touch with reality because I personally doubt that the pharmaceutic companies have on their pay bills priests who chant over every pill for a person who has schizophrenia.

    Also I would say that religion makes schizophrenia much worse then it is. There is a article where a person who had a schizophrenia learned that his OBEs are not demon possessing mambo jambo and got better. Here is the article:

    Just my two cents..

  5. Neil J
    June 3, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    I’ll paraphrase the article since I have access to the paper at my institution:

    Schizophrenia is bad and affects a lot of people. It has some pretty horrific symptoms and can lead to suicide in schizophrenics. The primary treatment for schizophrenia is dopaminergic antagonists, but dopamine dysregulation is likely not the primary cause of schizophrenia.

    According to DSM-IV (the article was written and published online before DSM-V came out), the symptoms of schizophrenia are 1) Delusions, 2) Hallucinations, 3) Disorganized speech (word salad), 4) Inappropriate behaviour or catatonic behaviour, 5) Blunted affect, alogia or avolition. Hallucinations and delusions are often negative, and appear real to the patient. One way to explain the manifestation of these symptoms is to consider that demons exist.

    Then follows a speculative description of the “demon world”. Apparently, demons exist, are invisible, marry, have children and die, but live much longer than humans. They can fly, take over minds and possess humans. The reasons why they do this vary from being hurt accidentally to love (?). They take over the body control region of the brain, and sometimes more than one demon is present. By the way, all of these claims include citations. Wow.

    The authors then compare the symptoms of schizophrenia (at least the delusions and hallucinations) to the supposed symptoms of demonic possession, saying that they are similar.

    They conclude by stating that the WHO has claimed that faith healers can help people with psychiatric disorders (citing Gater, R. A., De Almeida, E., Sousa, B., Barrientos, G., Caraveo, J., Chandrashekar, C. R., et al. (1991). The
    pathways to psychiatric care: a cross-cultural study. Psychological Medicine, 21, 761–774. — I’ll look this one up), and that churches in the UK have faith healers sometimes. He names a couple, and says (without evidence) that some of their patients become symptom-free after 3 months. Therefore we should consider faith healers.

    The end.

    Minus references and the abstract, this article weighs in at a “whopping” 3 pages, with a very inefficient typeface. I probably could have just summed it up as “here’s what schizophrenia is, here’s what ‘researchers’ claim demonic possession is, they’re similar, faith healers claim to be successful”.

    I wonder why it was published online in Dec. 2012 and is just now appearing in print? Does this journal accept so many articles that it takes more than a year after accepting them to get them out in paper?

  6. Rich
    June 3, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    The pills themselves contain tiny, tiny priests. Nanopriests, if you will. They exorcise from within. You only don’t know about them because Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know.

    On a serious note, this is idiotic, and if it leads to the ‘treatment’ of some poor schizophrenic with an exorcism rather than medical help, it’s shameful too.

  7. spookyparadigm
    June 3, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    Actually, I suspect they don’t. Just a quick glance suggests that many of the papers are bog-standard medical anthropology or related approaches.

    There are a few possible reasons this was allowed through, but I don’t think it was religious belief. I’ll let others puzzle them out.

  8. spookyparadigm
    June 3, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    Don’t disagree with any of what you just wrote, but I’d point out that most of the references are to sources specifically about jinn. FYI (generally).

  9. June 3, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    I have no control over nonsense in the media. Don’t shoot the messenger! Also, I WOULD LIKE A BREAK FROM DAMNED INTERESTING STORIES. I do wish we could more recognition for having these stories all in one place.

  10. Fred
    June 3, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    Oh man. This is one of those things that really makes me wish it was possible to move to another planet.

  11. June 3, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    I’d rather stay here, and have THEM go to another planet. With demons.

  12. Paul Robinson
    June 3, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    What journal can or will peer review journal of religion & health? – the two are not often partners. Then who am i to ask i’m daft as a brush. The demons are merely literal some depressives & folks with mental health problems suffer, not the wee red man wie big horns. Faux science aimed at health or mental health is as disgusting & useless as faux paranormal mumbo jumbo. I would like to see some positive alternatives suggested now & again rather than the usual – that’s stupid & ridiculous comments. I thought American skeptiks had mor answers than questions to this daft stuff. Go down in a barrage of AA fire challenging the religious fundamentalists of any sort. Treading a fine line defending their right to discus it here in Frogland, but risking a hammering for disagreeing with them, & that goes for Christians & Muslims. I have done a reasonable amount of study of most religious books searching the meaning to life (apparently the answer & meaning to life is 42) but they’re all contradictory. Most have more in common than difference, so why the explexetive deleted are they always argueing the difference. All stuck on same planet with similar problems so why argue instead of try to reach a consensus? Believers & non believers in things like ghosts, life after death, alien intelligence (when it’s difficult enough to find it on Earth), religion of all hues, would be better off agreeing to differ, & stop slagging each other – cept with the stupider cults, & agree it’s beyond our intelligence. Conspiracy theorists i’ll pass on as it’s an even stupider subject, full of pitfalls, where some of the weirder conspiracies oft turn out to be true, & the believable, non existant.

  13. Peebs
    June 3, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    I fully expect this to be ‘Peer Reviewed’ in the Daily Mail.

  14. Headless Unicorn Guy
    June 3, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    New paper says maybe mental condition really IS demons

    No, it’s Slenderman!

    (And as I said in that thread, Christianese Spiritual Warfare types are THE example of “If all you have is a hammer…” Mated with fear that Satan is always lurking around to slip his woopee cushion under their butts. A 2000-year spiritual tradition reduced to a Live Role-playing Game of Masters of Mighty Magick fighting Demons…)

  15. Justin
    June 3, 2014 at 11:34 PM

    I wrote a paper very similar to this a few years ago for a professor friend of mine. Only it was reversed. In my humble opinion, the beliefe that one is demonicaly possesed is often a syptom of schizophrenia. That combined with a religious upbringing. People who suffer from this often say aliens are controling them or the government as well. Its a symptom, not a cause.

  16. Brian
    June 4, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    “…the symptoms of schizophrenia are 1) Delusions, 2) Hallucinations, 3) Disorganized speech (word salad), 4) Inappropriate behaviour or catatonic behaviour, 5) Blunted affect, alogia or avolition.”

    The above sounds like a good portion of religious fundamentalism. I can at least cite experience. Go to facebook’s ‘fundies say the darnedest things’, read a few entries, and compare them to the list for schizophrenia.

  17. James G
    June 4, 2014 at 8:42 AM

    It is stunning that such an article could pass muster and get published in a journal even tangentially associated with science. It might be fun reading all the papers in the future that cite this one.

    I glanced at this year’s submissions, and they sound reasonable. I can’t imagine why they would let this one go through when it seems bound to undermine their credibility.

  18. Adam
    June 4, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    Nah, it’s not demons. It’s invisible brain ants. They burrow and itch inside the person’s skull and have powerful telekinetic abilities too.

  19. Bill T.
    June 4, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    Your point about the content of the other papers is well taken, and I’m obviously into the realm of speculation on my statement.

    I still believe it’s not an unreasonable speculation about many of the contributors’ belief systems.

    Belief in demons not a religious belief? Really? Given the paucity (like “zero”) evidence for demons, where else would this belief lie?

  20. K Friesen
    June 4, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    I have read this paper (after reading about it on this site), and it is definitely not peer reviewed. For that matter, there is scarcely anything in the paper – no methods, numbers, statistics, nothing even about “spiritual treatment”. The five pages of this paper (three if you don’t include the abstract and references) basically describe the symptomatology of schizophrenia and delusional disorders, talk a little bit about what a “demonic” experience might be like. To be a bit balanced, this article is under a subheading of “Psychological Exploration”To quote, in a fair use sort of way, from the “paper”

    “Most scholars accept that demons can possess people and can take up physical space within a human’s body (Asch 1985). They possess people for many reasons. Sometimes it is because they have been hurt accidentally, but possession may also occur because of love (Ashour 1989; Philips 1997). When the demon enters the human body, they settle in the control center of the body–brain. Then, they manifest themselves and take control of the body through the J Relig Health (2014) 53:773–777 775 123brain (Whitwell and Barker 1980; Littlewood 2004; Gadit and Callanan 2006; Ally and Laher 2008). Demonic possession can manifest with a range of bizarre behaviors which could be interpreted as a number of different psychotic disorders (Al-Habeeb 2003; Boddy 1989). On many occasions, the person has within him more than one demon, and often they talk from their voices. They therefore cause symptoms such as hearing voices and certain delusions”

    Then there is a “scientific” (to use the word scientific incorrectly) discussion about the contrast between schizophrenic symptoms and demon possession (which is apparently presumed to be a fact, not a superstition or assumption)

    “As seen above, there exist similarities between the clinical symptoms of schizophrenia and demonic possession. Common symptoms in schizophrenia and demonic possession such as hallucinations and delusions may be a result of the fact that demons in the vicinity of the brain may form the symptoms of schizophrenia. Delusions of schizophrenia such as ‘‘My feelings and movements are controlled by others in a certain way’’ and ‘‘They put thoughts in my head that are not mine’’ may be thoughts that stem from the effects of demons on the brain. In schizophrenia, the hallucination may be an auditory input also derived from demons, and the patient may hear these inputs not audible to the observer The hallucination in schizophrenia may therefore be an illusion—a false interpretation of a real sensory image formed by demons. This input seems to be construed by the patient as ‘‘bad things,’’ reflecting the operation of the nervous system on the poorly structured sensory input to form an acceptable percept. On the other hand, auditory hallucinations expressed as voices arguing with one another and talking to the patient in the third person may be a result of the presence of more than one demon in the body”

    To bring the results of this in depth, epidemiological observational cohort study (and no, I am not using any of these terms appropriately, I know).
    “It has been shown by World Health Organization (WHO) studies that faith healers may help patients with psychiatric disorders (Gater et al. 1991). Currently, the churches in the United Kingdom retain the services of faith healers (Friedli 2000), the task of whom is to expel the demons in cases of real possession. Rollins is an Anglican priest in London. Prior
    to the priesthood, he was a trained and qualified psychiatrist. He turned to the priesthood and exorcist feeling that medicine failed to address certain human sufferings (Leavey 2010). Similarly, B. Erdem is a local faith healer in Ankara who expels the evil demons from many psychiatric patients with the help of good ones. B. Erdem contends that on occasions, the manifestation of psychiatric symptoms may be due to demonic possession. An important indicator of his primary suspicions about the possession is that, if someone has auditory hallucinations, he would remain alert to the possibility that he might be
    demonically possessed. His method of treatment seems to be successful because his patients become symptom free after 3 months”

    From these strong findings (sarcasm is intended), future directions of research are discussed;
    “Above considerations have led to the suggestion that it is time for medical professions to consider the possibility of demonic possession in the etiology of schizophrenia, especially in the cases with hallucinations and delusions. Therefore, it would be useful for medical professions to work together with faith healers to define better treatment pathways for schizophrenia.”

  21. CLamb
    June 4, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    The statement and the article linked to by the statement “Exorcisms are downright deadly. ” confuses anecdotes with data. Not only that but the author admittedly excluded anecdotes which didn’t agree with the conclusion.

  22. Abel Undercity (@AbelUndercity)
    June 4, 2014 at 11:13 PM

    It could be bunnies.

  23. June 5, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    Harry Potter. I’ve used him many times when I need to do an exorcism.

  24. June 6, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    And there was NO reference for the faith healer whose patients were symptom free after 3 months. How in the world did such a piece a crap get published? Why did it get published? And why was there a delay from publishing online to print of one and a half years?

  25. June 6, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    Not a defense for Springer, but they have fallen for worse:

    Noorden, R. V. “Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers,” Nature News, 24-Feb-2014. [Online]. Available:

  26. Bill T.
    June 18, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Common error/obfuscation/etc.: “This is like the argument of creation or evolution. It is a matter of belief and I think the existence of demons cannot be proved by scientific methods.” – Attributed to M. Kemal Irmak. If an accurate quote, this clearly illustrates the author’s bias. The scientific case for evolution is well established, that for creation not so well. It is equivalent to having belief in the heliocentric model of the solar system, yah, I have faith in the theory, but it’s not blind faith. If something “cannot be proved by scientific methods”, they’re not provable, period.

  27. ApexDisorder
    June 18, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    Demons are real.
    I care and babysit for 4 every day.

  28. James G
    June 19, 2014 at 12:34 AM

    “The article was published in hopes that it would provoke discussion”

    There are responsible ways to do that. This wasn’t one of them. It damages the reputation of the journal, it adds peer reviewed legitimacy to superstition, and casts peer review itself in a bad light.

    The appropriate place to publish nonsense like this is the National Enquirer. It’s too bad we can’t exorcise away the demon named bad science.

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