Spirit Possession in a Psychiatric Clinic

  • Simon Dein


This paper considers one specific religious experience-spirit possession.  I present a case study of a female claiming to be possessed by a spirit who attended a psychiatric clinic. I compare and contrast anthropological and psychiatric theories of spirit possession.  While anthropological theories of spirit possession emphasise their social meaning, rhetorical and discursive functions, psychiatric theories focus upon underlying mechanism (dissociation) and its role in dealing with traumatic experiences. Current psychiatric classification systems the DSM -5 sees spirit possession as a form of dissociation often arising from earlier trauma. I argue that a full understanding of the phenomenon of spirit possession necessitates combining both perspectives.  The paper end by discussing the relationships between exorcism and psychotherapy.