Can someone be healed from a long-held addiction or compulsive disorder in an instant due to a dramatic spiritual experience and without therapy?

My question is motivated by multiple conversion testimonies in which people claim to have had dramatic life-changing spiritual "encounters" or experiences that put an immediate end to behavioural addictions, substance addictions, mental health issues, among others. For illustrative purposes, I'm sharing below two conversion testimonies that I find quite impressive and don't know how to explain from a psychological point of view, and therefore I believe they can be interesting case studies.

Testimony 1: From Atheist To Believer In Jesus Christ - How Jesus Cured My Eating Disorder - Christian Testimony

This testimony has many details, but I want to focus here on the eating disorder aspect of it (from 15:47 to 23:34), and the experience this girl had that made her free in a matter of seconds. This girl had been suffering from bulimia and anorexia for 4 years, with multiple failed attempts to quit the behaviour up to that point. According to her testimony, in December of 2017 she was throwing up in the bathroom, she was feeling impotent, hopeless and desperate. In the midst of this, she had the sudden occurrence to mentally cry out "Jesus" and immediately, in a matter of seconds, a feeling of immense love and peace overwhelmed her. But most astonishingly, as a result of this overwhelming emotional experience, her 4 year bondage to bulimia and anorexia immediately stopped. According to her testimony, the experience happened 2 years prior to the recording of the video, and she has never relapsed or even had the desire to ever since.

She devotes a good part of the video to describe in great detail her bathroom experience. She employs an interesting analogy to help the audience understand her experience: she referenced her maternal love for her 5 year old son as a strong baseline, and then claimed that the sense of love that overwhelmed her in the bathroom greatly surpassed it.

I find this testimony quite impressive, and there are 2 aspects that I find particularly intriguing:

  • This lady experienced a spontaneous emotional transition from deep despair to overwhelming love and peace in just seconds. How is this possible?
  • As a result of this 'ecstatic' experience (let's call it that way), she was instantly healed of bulimia and anorexia, despite a track record of 4 years of failed attempts at quitting.


This testimony describes a somewhat similar experience to the first one. In short: a woman tells that for decades she used to deal with severe depression, strong anger and hatred issues, porn addiction and compulsive stealing. She also mentions that she used to be a lesbian, and for many years experienced sleep paralysis "attacks" at night and felt "evil presences" during these episodes. According to her testimony, one night she experienced a sleep paralysis episode that was unusually intense (extremely intense). In similar fashion to the previous testimony, she cried out in desperation "Jesus, save me" a couple times, broke down emotionally, cried for 1 hour, and experienced afterwards a sudden freedom from all her past addictions and mental health issues, without relapses. This experience is narrated in detail from 27:37 to 33:41 in the video.

But there is more. At 42:41 she tells that her change was so dramatic that it even affected her sexual preferences. Yes, that's right, her same-sex attraction stopped -- she wasn't a lesbian anymore.

I find this second testimony incredible as well. This woman had an intense episode of sleep paralysis, cried out for help in desperation, broke into tears and cried for 1 hour, and then, boom!, all her addictions and mental health issues were pretty much gone. Back to factory settings. Completely healed. No therapies needed. Just an ecstatic/cathartic experience and that's it.

I'm really intrigued to know a psychological explanation for these testimonies. I imagine that if we could learn how to tap into the power of our minds to suddenly turn our emotions into peace and love (like in the first testimony) or experience a strong emotional catharsis (like in the second testimony) to free ourselves from years of addictions and unhealthy compulsive disorders in a matter of seconds, that would just revolutionize therapy and addiction recovery programs.

So, what is really going on psychologically in these testimonies? Do these experiences have a name? How is it possible for a person to suddenly quit years of addiction or compulsive habits or mental health issues in a matter of seconds, without therapy and without relapsing?

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, Anybody can be healed from any of the addiction, stress, fear n phobia, or any state. simply, it needs to change the subconscious mind with special mind techniques, ant it too in minutes. only need is of a person who is expertise in using theses techniques. when the subconscious mins is programmed for the another state of mind, rest will be done by the power of our mind itself -- that is sure $\endgroup$ Commented May 1, 2020 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ @RaajKSrivastava can you post your comment as an answer and provide references to credible sources to back it up? $\endgroup$
    – user25376
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 15:26

2 Answers 2


The answer to this question is indeed: We don't know - as @ChrisRogers correctly explained. However, let me mention some related research that may help shed some light on the question.

Previous research has suggested that spiritual experiences may be associated with beneficial outcomes in addiction treatment, though evidence is largely associative, and often retrospective. Cases of spontaneous recovery from addiction linked to intense experiences are also not hard to come by in the literature, but as Sellman (2009) puts it:

... dramatic life‐changing experiences are hard to manufacture.

Hence the crux of the problem: How to practically test this phenomenon? How can researchers manufacture dramatic spiritual experiences in the lab so that they can be studied? There is a fair bit more discussion of this problem in Sellman's book: Future of God in Recovery from Drug Addiction (2007).

Recently, a new venue for such research has opened back up: Psychedelics. Psychedelics can fairly reliably manufacture intense mystical experiences in patients. Thus, we now have a potential practical solution to the problem of studying the effects of dramatic spiritual experiences!

Already, several highly publicized studies have suggested that psychedelic drugs can be useful in the treatment of addiction. A few of these preliminary studies looked at spiritual experience as a potential mediator of this effect. Garcia-Romeu, Griffiths, & Johnson (2014) for example, tested psilocybin on habitual smokers with a history of failed attempts at quitting, in a small non-randomized or controlled pilot study (read: preliminary!), and found:

Smoking cessation outcomes were significantly correlated with measures of mystical experience on session days, as well as retrospective ratings of personal meaning and spiritual significance of psilocybin sessions. These results suggest a mediating role of mystical experience in psychedelic-facilitated addiction treatment.

Other effects of the drug and its intensity were not predictive of long-term outcomes, suggesting that the spiritual experiences themselves may have been responsible for the effects, with the drug only a trigger. Other studies (eg, Bogenschutz et al, 2015; Dakwar et al, 2014; Dakwar et al, 2018) found similar results (again, preliminary!) with alcohol and cocaine addiction. This is by no means the only interpretation of the effects of psychedelic drugs on addiction - for example, such experiences may simply accompany whatever underlying effects the drug induces.

As research into psychedelics is again possible, we may learn more about the potential mediating role of dramatic spiritual experiences in addiction recovery through them.

  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm. I am yet to read these articles, but are these people substituting the primary addiction with another? I realise that psilocybin is considered less addictive, but it is potentially addictive nevertheless addictioncenter.com/drugs/hallucinogens/psilocybin-mushrooms Having said that, I see the potential link to the question. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ It would be interesting to know how dramatic life-changing spiritual experiences can be triggered without the aid of psychedelic drugs. The two testimonies in the OP and several others I've watched do not report the use of drugs to trigger the experience, so the trigger had to be something else. A common factor in the two testimonies is that the individuals were in despair and cried out for help prior to their dramatic life-changing experience. Also they both report feeling positive emotions and freedom from compulsive habits afterward. I've got no idea what exactly happened in between though. $\endgroup$
    – user25376
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers I am no expert on this subject, but it is my understanding that the reason that research into psychedelics has opened up again after decades of hiatus is that their safety has finally been established. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Commented Sep 7, 2020 at 1:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers Addictions to psychedelics are quite unusual. There certainly are some people who use them regularly, but that's an atypical pattern compared to other substances. I'm involved in a group piloting some psychedelic research and potential for addiction is not one of the common concerns. So far the drug is always given in a very controlled setting, as well, with multiple trained guides and with supportive pre- and post-counselling. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 3:37

I haven't got half an hour at the moment to sit and watch this video at the moment, but there can be many reasons someone with religious convictions may be able to abstain from addictive behaviours.

It is impossible, to determine categorically what exactly invoked the change from a neurological point of view scientifically and from a psychology stand point you only have anecdotes to work from.

Large scale psychological studies on how this works have not been conducted that I know of. And, in order to consistently leverage this potential we would need to be able to measure the state of mind along with how and what that person is thinking at any specific moment in time.

While an empathic person can have an idea what someone might be thinking, mind reading is not physically possible, so therefore this cannot be leveraged from a pure scientific standpoint at this time.

Once large scale psychological studies on how this works have been conducted, we may become closer to leveraging this ability within people.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Chris for the answer. About watching the whole thing, as I said in the post you can just watch from 15:47 to 23:34 (about 7-8 mins) for the "eating-disorder-freeing" experience. Also, in your clinical experience have you ever heard of people having sudden experiences that made them stop long-held disorders or addictions without relapsing ever since? $\endgroup$
    – user25376
    Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ Update: I added a second testimony. I think it can be a good complement to the first one. $\endgroup$
    – user25376
    Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 17:44

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