I'm doing research on alleged testimonies and evidences of the spirit realm. In particular, I've been lately reviewing testimonies and live recordings of exorcisms, some of which I find particularly impressive. I say impressive because in my opinion the exorcisms look quite convincing, and I lack the expertise in psychology and neuroscience to provide a convincing explanation other than assuming that everything is staged (which I wouldn't be able to prove either).

Common patterns are that the allegedly possessed person seems to switch personality (as though the alleged entity's personality is taking over), sometimes the exorcist and the alleged entity establish conversation, sometimes the person starts to "throw up" the alleged entity out of their body right before full deliverance is achieved.

Below some example videos with timestamps to illustrate the point:

  1. Woman named Veronica, is exorcised by Bob Larson ( Video not for kids ).


  3. Shocking Powerful Deliverance From Demons

  4. Casting Out False NAR Demons (New Apostolic Reformation Warning)

  5. A demon screamed and came out of a woman at the Eiffel tower and the Police was afraid and left. 😲

  6. Lady's Voice Turns into a Man's Voice - Exorcist Bob Larson Throws out the Demon!

  7. El poder de Cristo - Sacando legión de demonios #chile #imp #estebanguzman #jesus


What is the psychological explanation for exorcisms?

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    $\begingroup$ Related: psychology.stackexchange.com/q/3707/7001 $\endgroup$ – Arnon Weinberg Feb 24 '20 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ If you haven't already, I suggest reading about Anneliese Michel or watching The Exorcism of Emily Rose. If you can find a record of the actual court hearings, I believe there was a Catholic Psychologist or medical professional who explained the psychology behind exorcisms. $\endgroup$ – Cardinal System Feb 25 '20 at 5:23
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    $\begingroup$ Will you accept a scientific explanation? Or will you counter any explanation given with some argument that it cannot explain the videos you've seen because you've decided they show something not explainable by science? $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 9 '20 at 1:25
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause It depends, if the scientific explanation provided effectively accounts for what we observe in the videos, then sure, I don't see why I would not accept that. However, if the explanation presents limitations, e.g. corner cases that are not addressed appropriately, then I will probably point them out in the comments, and maybe accept the answer. Ideally I would like answers to be as honest as possible, e.g. "explanation X can account for 90% of what we see in these and other videos / reported cases, but there is a 10% we don't know how to explain yet because of blah blah ..." $\endgroup$ – Spirit Realm Investigator Aug 9 '20 at 2:22
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah...sounds to me like you want to argue, so I won't take the time to write what is known. I don't think you're here in good faith, from the extent of comments I've seen here and on other stacks. No matter what someone says, you'll find a corner case or won't quite buy the explanation. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 9 '20 at 2:25

Google Scholar reveals a substantial quantity of learned research on the topic of exorcisms, of which the items below are but a few:

  • Ferracuti, S., & Sacco, R. (1996). Dissociative trance disorder: clinical and Rorschach findings in ten persons reporting demon possession and treated by exorcism. Journal of personality assessment, 66(3), 525-539. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327752jpa6603_4

  • Ross, C. A., Schroeder, E., & Ness, L. (2013). Dissociation and symptoms of culture-bound syndromes in North America: A preliminary study. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 14(2), 224-235. https://doi.org/10.1080/15299732.2013.724338

  • McNamara, P. (2011). Spirit Possession and Exorcism: History, Psychology, and Neurobiology [2 volumes]: History, Psychology, and Neurobiology. ABC-CLIO.

  • Henderson, D. J. (1976). Exorcism, possession, and the Dracula cult: A synopsis of object-relations psychology. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 40(6), 603.

  • Bull, D. L. (2001). A phenomenological model of therapeutic exorcism for dissociative identity disorder. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 29(2), 131-139. https://doi.org/10.1177/009164710102900204

  • Pfeifer, S. (1994). Belief in demons and exorcism in psychiatric patients in Switzerland. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 67(3), 247-258. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8341.1994.tb01794.x

  • Rosik, C. H. (1997). When discernment fails: The case for outcome studies on exorcism. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 25(3), 354-363. https://doi.org/10.1177/009164719702500304

As for many religious behaviours, exorcism behaviours appear to exist between non-intersecting religious and cultural groups.

A review of the abstracts suggests that involvement in exorcism is considered to be a Dissociative disorder. The Mayo Clinic also has an interesting article on Dissociative disorder.

  • $\begingroup$ A pattern I've noticed in several of these exorcisms is that people seem to "throw up" the alleged entity or whatever is allegedly possessing them a few moments before they are declared fully delivered. That can be observed in examples 1, 2, 5 and 6. Do you know if any of these articles addresses the "throwing up" pattern observed? $\endgroup$ – Spirit Realm Investigator Aug 28 '20 at 4:23
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    $\begingroup$ Google Scholar identifies over 6,000 references. I've only read the abstracts from about 10 of them. Not sure about exorcism, however, vomiting has been associated with dissociative disorder in other contexts - see doi.org/10.1080/00029157.1986.10402697. Also Google Scholar "dissociative disorder vomiting" for many other references. $\endgroup$ – Tony Mobbs Aug 28 '20 at 4:30

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