Mary’s Monday Metazoan: They’re ouchless! »« [Lounge #463]

Maybe it is demons

The latest explanation for schizophrenia published in a real journal:

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.

This was published in the Journal of Religion and Health, so you can trust it. Unless you think religion poisons everything.

Comments

  1. raven says

    No big deal. I’m clear in even the Scientology sense of the word.

    I’ve never suffered from hallucinations.

    That is the good thing about demons. They can only possess you if you believe in them. Atheists just baffle them.

    If you really want to worry about malevolent invisible beings, Orcs, Elves, Brownies, Bigfeet, Vampires, Ghouls, and Werewolves are far more dangerous.

  2. raven says

    PS Now, what exactly is the difference between fundie xianity and any other primitive superstition?

    I’ve never seen any except that the witch doctors have better outfits and the Voodooists have better parties.

  3. DaveL says

    Dare I ask if the paper went on to lay out a method of testing this “hypothesis”?

  4. says

    PZ:

    Unless you think religion poisons everything.

    I do.

    DaveL:

    Dare I ask if the paper went on to lay out a method of testing this “hypothesis”?

    There are a lot of people who believe in exorcisms.

  5. says

    Well, it could be high heels…

    Flensmark boils the matter into a damning statement: “After heeled shoes is [sic] introduced into a population, the first cases of schizophrenia appear and then the increase in prevalence of schizophrenia follows the increase in use of heeled shoes.

    “I have,” he writes, “not been able to find any contradictory data.”

    Lest critics dismiss this as mere hand-waving or foot-tapping, Flensmark explains, biomedically, how the one probably causes the other:

    “During walking, synchronised stimuli from mechanoreceptors in the lower extremities increase activity in cerebellothalamo-cortico-cerebellar loops through their action on NMDA-receptors. Using heeled shoes leads to weaker stimulation of the loops. Reduced cortical activity changes dopaminergic function, which involves the basal gangliathalamo-cortical-nigro-basal ganglia loops.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/education/2004/nov/16/research.highereducation

  6. Randomfactor says

    So if you see demons behind the evil in the world, you should seek psychiatric help?

  7. raven says

    What’s the harm?

    All laughing aside, this particular delusion can and does harm.

    1. People have been killed or seriously injured during exorcisms to drive out imaginary demons.

    2. SZ’s who aren’t being treated for religious reasons have done harm to others and themselves mostly.

    I’ve even seen that. Guy was brought into a psychiatric lockup at the request of his family. He believed that satan had won and ruled the world. And all his family had been replaced by demons that looked exactly like them. (This is a common delusion known as Capgras syndrome.)

    He refused to take any medication and institutions are very reluctant to force medicate. In many states you need a court order. OTOH, he wasn’t getting out without it. Even the security staff was afraid of him.

    PS Thank Saint Augustine for this one. He was an idiot. “All diseases of xians are to be ascribed to demons”. Got that one wrong.

  8. says

    “Demons are unseen creatures that are believed to exist in all major religions”

    So it’s only religions that are infested? Who d’ya call for that?

  9. davidnangle says

    Inaji @ #6, re: high heels…

    And also? Hot!

    You know what else is hot? Hell. Hell is hot.

  10. Al Dente says

    Hallucinations are a cardinal positive symptom of schizophrenia

    A “cardinal” positive symptom. That’s only one step down from a papal positive symptom.

  11. says

    Davidnangle:

    You know what else is hot? Hell. Hell is hot.

    It’s a burning lake of God’s love, baby!

  12. twas brillig (stevem) says

    No, no, no, … everyone knows Hallucinations are caused by “vitamin L” (i.e. ‘acid’, errrr: LySergic acid Demons). ^_^

  13. says

    The other night I was at a dinner at which one of the other attendees had recently returned from seeing John of God in Brazil. She had seen him heal, even been healed a little herself, and is just sure he wields Power from Beyond….

    She’s a practicing psychotherapist here in town. That’s one shrink I won’t be going to….

  14. steve oberski says

    But I thought it had already been decided that religion was not a mental illness.

  15. says

    F:

    The demon-haunted shoe.

    *snort* That puts a new spin on the 5 inch spikes I was looking at the other day…

  16. anteprepro says

    Jesus fuck. You missed the best/worst part of the abstract

    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.

    Not only they proposing a “well, maybe demons!” hypotheis, in scientific literature, but they also reached “have the Might Disciples of Jeebus fight them!” as their conclusion. Medicine, demonology, BOTH SIDES TEACH THE CONTROVERSY.

  17. karmacat says

    “The hallucination in schizophrenia may therefore be an illusion—a false interpretation of a real sensory image formed by demons.”
    I don’t get what they are saying here. Are they saying that demons are sending images to people with schizophrenia? If that is true, then that would not involve any “pathophysiology.” Are they saying there are real images out there and only people with schizophrenia would misintepret these images?
    The fact is that people with schizophrenia usually have auditory hallucinations. If someone just has visual hallucinations, I would start looking for more “medical causes” such as medications, metabolic problems, brain tumor, seizures, etc. I am wondering how they have diagnosed the schizophrenia. I guess I will have to read the article.

  18. karmacat says

    Okay, I read the article and it is as bad as it sounds. The authors have a superficial understanding of schizophrenia. They at first say that schizophrenia is a result of problems with the dopamine system in the brain (which is simplistic and wrong). But then they cover themselves by saying it is more complex than that. They ignore the negative symptoms and thought disorder of schizophrenia There article is basically based on opinion and speculation that there are demons causing hallucinations. They say this one guy can cure schizophrenia but there is no “placebo” group and they have not confirmed the diagnosis of this guy’s “clients.” Hell, I wrote a better article on schizophrenia in high school.

  19. robertfoster says

    Justice Scalia believes in demons. (And the devil.) It wouldn’t surprise me if he believes that demonic possession was a perfectly rational explanation for schizophrenia. Could a man of faith who has risen to such a high and influential position in our government possibly be wrong?

  20. says

    I thought everybody already knew about the demons.

    Sock demons first became a plague in 1974, when the leaders of the world just decided that they would stop taking steps against them, as they were “imaginary”. The demons, instead of simply asking people for their socks, as they had before, took this in a bad way. As a side note, nobody born before 1974 has ever complained about missing socks. The sock demons sued the leaders of the world for oppressing the minorites, at which point Edward Cullen descended from the heavens to smite down the leaders of the world.

  21. Lofty says

    Inaji

    *snort* That puts a new spin on the 5 inch spikes I was looking at the other day…

    High heels are obviously Satan’s horns, disguised by the simple method of them pointing at hell instead of at heaven. (Do a hand stand in front of the mirror and you’ll see!!!) Demons were never terribly bright.

  22. Gregory Greenwood says

    Now fundies, repeat after me; ‘Devil’s Advocate and The Exorcist are not a documentaries…’

    All joking aside, raven @ 8 is right – this attitude causes very real harm to the sufferers of psychological conditions all over the world. It also isn’t as though this is limited to small fringe religious groups; the Vatican maintains its own cadre of exorcists who take all this stuff rather seriously, believing that ‘possessed’ people manifest supernatural abilities, that the ‘anti-christ’ is waging a war against the catholic church, and that the crimes of the naxi regime were the product of demonic possession.

    It beggars belief that so many people still buy into this rubbush in the 21st century. So much for the age of reason.

  23. thebookofdave says

    Ha! I knew it was demons, all along. In your face, reality! Now, all we have to do is train the next generation of Prayer Warriors in psychiatry, and begin binding demons with antipsychotics.

  24. Sean Boyd says

    I’ve had this “it’s a demon” shit used against me. The individual in question who “diagnosed” my depression as a case of Baalitis (Legionnaire’s Disease was already taken) was a fellow classmate in graduate school at a public, reasonably well-regarded, university in the US. Of his education, he pointed out once that his six years of college (including his master’s degree) had done nothing but confirm every tenet of faith he held. I love to believe that education helps people shed the blinkers of religion and bad thinking…it has done for me, at any rate, if perhaps more slowly than I’d have liked. This fellow is a high school teacher today…I shudder to think about his influence on them.

  25. twas brillig (stevem) says

    re karmacat @20:

    “The hallucination in schizophrenia may therefore be an illusion—a false interpretation of a real sensory image formed by demons.”

    I don’t get what they are saying here. Are they saying that demons are sending images to people with schizophrenia?

    I think what that quote means, is that psych***ists are all wrong to diagnose the hallucinator as being schizophrenic, when they are actually receiving real images from demons. That they are mistakenly calling those actual images: hallucinations.

  26. knowknot says

    @20 karmacat

    “The hallucination in schizophrenia may therefore be an illusion—a false interpretation of a real sensory image formed by demons.”

    Are they saying that demons are sending images to people with schizophrenia? If that is true, then that would not involve any “pathophysiology.” Are they saying there are real images out there and only people with schizophrenia would misintepret these images?

     
    The fact that coming to play means that you leave your marbles until the game is over leaves considerable room for varying interpretations, but if the writer is being consistent it means that the demons choose (or are directed to) particular individuals, and cause these individuals to experience perfectly normal sensory input either via external events (as when the victim is alone at home and Mr. Giggles appears in directly percievable spirit form (!)) or by direct physical manipulation of the victim’s sensory apparatus (ie, causing the eye to react physically in precisely the same way that it would to everyday light).
     
    No pathology of any kind is needed, and therefore a perfectly sane person can be “attacked by the enemy” in this way, at any time.
     
    This is necessary for at least two reasons:
    – If demons require victims to undergo previous neurological / biochemical prep, what kind of power is that?
    – If demons, as spiritual beings, could NOT act in this manner (which clarifies the truly external source of the “hallucination”), the source of hallucination might purely “internal,” within the confines of the unitary, independent, and in some sense immutable “soul,” and therefore merely “imaginary.” THIS DOES NOT BODE WELL FOR COMMUNICATION ORIGINATING WITH OTHER SPIRITUAL BEINGS, SUCH AS GOD.
     
    Also, it just plain slips the whole issue out of the grubby fingers of Bill Nye types.
     
    But before those uppity scientists started poking their noses into the sacristry, various forms of mysticism allowed for metaphysical wiggle room between physical reality and religious belief in Christian thought. It’s not uncommon to hear this pointed out via an apocryphal but often accepted conversation between Joan of Arc and her interrogator. From one source online, presented as fact:

    “You say God speaks to you, but it’s only your imagination.” These are the words spoken by the inquisitor to Joan of Arc during her trial for heresy.
    “How else would God speak to me, if not through my imagination?” Joan replied.

    But now, with hardcore Christians tending strongly toward antipathy against mysticism while engaging more literal forms of nonsense, the presence of scientifically trained mental health professionals become a direct bulwark against the remaining nonsense, right?
     
    Nope. The following is from Ralph Hoffman, Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Director in the Intensive Outpatient Program at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital:

    How can we understand differences between an inspired voice, an isolated instance of hearing one’s own name, and the voices of the mentally ill? One answer is that “non-pathological” voices occur rarely or perhaps only once. Not so for the person with mental illness. Without treatment, these experiences recur relentlessly.

    He does not clarify.
     
    There is always an out.

  27. twas brillig (stevem) says

    the Vatican maintains its own cadre of exorcists who take all this stuff rather seriously

    You mean the RCC lied to me? When I was in Catechism, when The Exorcist movie came out, they kept telling us (in class) that the RCC does NOT have exorcists, that the movie is FICTION. While simultaneously telling us that all the “miracles” Jesus performed: expelling demons from the possessed; were really layman descriptions of schizophrenia and Jesus just calmed them from their ranting.
    [/no snark], that was really what they told us in catechism, back in the ’70’s.

  28. says

    twas brillig @ 32, one of the main reasons the RCC was so upsetty about The Exorcist was that it depicted a priest who had lost faith. They were upset about that before it was a movie. They were also busy trying to handwave the whole exorcism business back then, it was seen as backward, although they have always had special dispensation to perform them, and were trying to go more with the “it’s likely to be a mental illness” track.

  29. Suido says

    I’ve had hallucinations. There was that time I took peyote at a full moon party on Koh Phangan. They were some good hallucinations. No demons, unless they were really drunk, white, touristy demons.

  30. cartomancer says

    Pffft. Everyone knows that daemons stopped being able to hurt people when people stopped spelling the word without the “a” it so clearly needs.

    That’s why exorcists have to make their abjurations in Latin, because it is still spelled with the “a” in Latin.

    It’s the same with mormons. Leave out the superfluous second “m” and they have no powers anymore.

  31. hexidecima says

    as always, the god of these twits is shown to be utterly impotent. Hooray!

  32. kc9oq says

    It was demons that afflicted Salem in the 17th century.

    Demons or ergot.

    About the same.

  33. cologchem says

    It is interesting that the author is from Turkey, I suspected an Islamic influence based upon the abstract. They have a lot of demons to deal with. Looking over the titles in the journal makes for some interesting reading.

  34. Ichthyic says

    Demons or ergot.

    About the same.

    not at all, actually.

    demons are fictional boogeymen used as stand in projections for justifying mob rule.

    ergot actually produces a real drug that causes real hallucinations.

    In fact, it’s very worth distinguishing between the two.

  35. Graculus says

    Apparently, I am possessed by Typyos today.

    Titivillus, the patron demon of typos.

  36. cubist says

    As best I can tell (and this latest bit of evidence sure doesn’t do anything to convince me otherwise), all religious belief is delusional. In the case of a Believer whose Belief leads them to engage in charitable acts, the delusion is arguably beneficial, and at least harmless; for other Believers with different Beliefs, the delusion can be dangerous-to-downright-lethal, depending on the specifics of said Belief.

    Schizophrenics are really demon-possessed… oy vey. This particular delusion clocks in squarely in the dangerous-to-lethal end of the spectrum.

  37. Muz says

    This is where the Paranormal Activity series has Blair Witch beat. The Blair Witch lot had to create their viral marketing out of whole cloth. The PA people just wait for the religious cooks to do it for them for free.

  38. Usernames are smart says

    … one of the other attendees had recently returned from seeing John of God in Brazil. She had seen him heal, even been healed a little herself, and is just sure he wields Power from Beyond….
    — Eamon Knight (#15)

    Frick: “So, can he even heal an amputated limb?”

    Frack: “Oh, yes! He wields Power from Beyond!”

    [scene missing]

    Frack (armless): “What have you done?!”

    Frick: Heal! Heal! Heal! Heal!

    *curtain*

  39. Gregory Greenwood says

    twas brillig (stevem) @ 32;

    You mean the RCC lied to me?

    And they never do that, what with bearing false witness being such a sin and all… ;-P

    When I was in Catechism, when The Exorcist movie came out, they kept telling us (in class) that the RCC does NOT have exorcists, that the movie is FICTION. While simultaneously telling us that all the “miracles” Jesus performed: expelling demons from the possessed; were really layman descriptions of schizophrenia and Jesus just calmed them from their ranting.

    As Inaji says @ 34, at the time the RCC was trying to downplay the whole exorcism thing in a desperate attempt to retain whatever tattered shreds of credibility and relevance it could still muster at that time, and out there supernaturalist woo such as exorcism was not considerd good for the RCC’s public image.

    Today things are rather different, not least because the truth coming out about paedophile priests, and the associated coverups, has already destroyed any credibility or moral authority the church has outside its own community of believers, so right now it is all about battening down the hatches and reinforcing that tribal church identity, and if a little faux-spectacle like the odd pantomine ‘exorcism’ helps to achieve that end (and to hell with the suffering of the victim in all this, but of course – what else would you expect from the RCC?) then the church is more than happy to provide it.

  40. Gregory Greenwood says

    Graculus @ 43;

    Titivillus, the patron demon of typos.

    So the other demons get lust and depravity and all the exciting stuff, and Titivillus gets typos? Poor chap.

  41. David Marjanović says

    When I was in Catechism, when The Exorcist movie came out, they kept telling us (in class) that the RCC does NOT have exorcists, that the movie is FICTION.

    *blink*

    Wow.

    I’ll file that under Catholics being unable to imagine how superstitious their own official dogma is. The RCC does accept that mental illness exists and is better left to secular treatments, but it also maintains that there are genuine cases of demonic possession that require an exorcist.

    Well, if the higher-ups found out, your catechism teachers have most likely been fired for heresy.

    It’s the same with mormons. Leave out the superfluous second “m” and they have no powers anymore.

    Full of win.

    religious cooks bake with the power of jesus btw.

    + 1

  42. Nick Gotts says

    knowknot@20,

    The supposed words of the inquisitor and Joan appear to be a slight misquote from George Bernard Shaw’s “St. Joan”, Scene 1:

    JOAN. I hear voices telling me what to do. They come from God.

    ROBERT. They come from your imagination.

    JOAN. Of course. That is how the messages of God come to us.

    I’d be amazed if anyone can produce any evidence they have any historical basis. The text of the play is available here, while an English translation of a Latin text supposedly derived from minutes of Joan’s trial taken in French, is here. I can find nothing in that text remotely similar to the words in the apocryphal exchange: Joan appears to have maintained throughout that her voices were those of saints.