WHEN MENTAL ILLNESS IS MISTAKEN FOR DEMONIC POSSESSION
DEC 12, 2018 @8.29 PM
For centuries, mental illness was perceived as either possession by evil spirits, a moral weakness or punishment from a higher being. As a result, magical approaches to therapy and rituals evolved. With the development of the churches during the Middle Ages, exorcism, shrines, and saints became of great importance for the treatment of mental illness.
This notion of possession, in which a person becomes demonised, possessed, or controlled by a demon is still present in many beliefs today. To drive out the demons or evil spirits, family members or religious figures turn to exorcism.
However, Datin Dr Ang Kim Teng, past president of Malaysian Mental Health Association refutes this notion and said that this is far from the truth.
"Mental illness is often misunderstood. Those suffering from mental illness are commonly perceived to be restless, violent and unpredictable. Although this is the case, it is actually unclear what causes mental disturbances.
“There are many forms of mental illness that differ in severity, duration and degree. It is a disturbance of the mind which can affect thinking, feeling and behaviour that may interfere with normal functioning thus making daily life difficult.
"Some patients may display a change in mood or behaviour, social isolation, increased irritability, panic attacks manifested by breathing difficulty, palpitations and sweating, mass hysteria, aggressive or violent behaviours, bizarre behaviours such as being delusional or mumbling to self and attempts of self-harm or being suicidal," she said.
She added that such behaviours are often preceded by emotional stress and difficulty coping with conflict or adjusting to adverse events. Other factors are biochemical imbalance, alcohol or drug abuse and deterioration of brain cells especially in elderly people.
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