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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 references her maternal love for her 5 year old son as a strong baseline, and then claims that the sense of love that overwhelmed her in the bathroom greatly surpasses it.

I find this testimony impressive. There are 2 aspects about this testimony that intrigue me a lot:

  • This lady experienced an emotional transition from deep despair to immense peace and love in just seconds. How is this possible?
  • Not only that, but also as a result of this experience she was completely healed from bulimia and anorexia, despite suffering these eating disorders for 4 years and numerous failed attempts to quit up to that point.

Testimony 2: MY TESTIMONY: JESUS SAVED ME FROM DEMONS, ATHEISM, SEVERE DEPRESSION & MORE!!

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 had a sleep paralysis "attack" but with an unprecedented level of intensity. In similar fashion to the previous testimony, she cried out "Jesus, save me" a couple times, she broke down emotionally, cried for 1 hour, and afterwards she began to experience a sudden deliverance from all her addictions and mental health issues, without ever relapsing again. This experience is narrated from 27:37 to 33:41 in the video. And there is more. At 42:41 she tells that she changed so dramatically that her attraction to women also stopped, she stopped being a lesbian.

I find this second testimony incredible. She had a very intense sleep paralysis "attack", in desperation she cried out for help, then she broke down emotionally and cried for 1 hour, and afterwards all her addictions and mental health issues stopped. And she also stopped being a lesbian. I just don't know how to express my perplexity and puzzlement at this testimony.


So, 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 be free from years of addiction or compulsive habits or mental health issues in a matter of seconds, without therapy?

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  • $\begingroup$ 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 $\endgroup$ – Raaj K Srivastava May 1 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ @RaajKSrivastava can you post your comment as an answer and provide references to credible sources to back it up? $\endgroup$ – Spirit Realm Investigator May 6 at 15:26
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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.

Recently, there have been several highly publicized studies suggesting 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.

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 (with or without the aid of psychedelics) are also not hard to come by in the literature, but as Sellman (2009) puts it:

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

As research into psychedelics is opening up, and their ability to manufacture such "dramatic life‐changing experiences" is established, we may learn more about the potential mediating role of these experiences in recovery. There is a fair bit more discussion of this in Sellman's book: Future of God in Recovery from Drug Addiction (2007).

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  • $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Sep 6 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. $\endgroup$ – Spirit Realm Investigator Sep 6 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 Sep 7 at 1:34
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    $\begingroup$ @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 Sep 10 at 3:37
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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.

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  • $\begingroup$ 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? $\endgroup$ – Spirit Realm Investigator Mar 28 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ Update: I added a second testimony. I think it can be a good complement to the first one. $\endgroup$ – Spirit Realm Investigator Mar 28 at 17:44

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