This past March, the Catholic News Agency in Rome published an article titled, “How can you tell if someone is demon-possessed?”. In it, Father Cipriano de Meo, an exorcist since 1952, explains that discerning the difference between demon possession and mental illness is an important part of the exorcist’s role because, “typically, a person is not possessed but is struggling with some other illness.”

But how can we know if it’s demon possession or mental illness? Father de Meo suggests “discernment through prayer” and judging the behaviors of the suffering person.

I was going to make a joke about how that’s an absurdly unscientific medieval approach–you can’t diagnose an illness based on nothing but subjective personal judgment and your comparison of superficially visible symptoms with stuff mentioned in a big book cobbled together by committees of old men. It’s the year 2016! Show me biological test results! But then I remembered that’s how psychologists and psychiatrists do their diagnoses, too.

Setting aside the similarity in how the diagnoses are made, whether you go to a therapist or an exorcist is going to result in very different treatments. So here’s a handy chart you can use to decide if you should go and see a therapist or an exorcist:

 

Symptom

Therapist

Exorcist

Climbing up the walls.

X

Climbing on the ceiling.

X

Red eyes caused by the spawn of Satan inside of you.

X

Red eyes caused by your drug addiction.

X

Fear of holy water and crosses.*

X

X

Repeatedly doing rituals because you’re trying to show God you’re not a bad person.

X

Repeatedly doing rituals because you’re trying to open a portal to the Underworld.

X

Communication issues due to speaking in Biblical Aramaic

X

Communication issues due to anxiety.

X

Inner demons ruined your last relationship.

X

In a relationship with a demon**.

X

* As with any phobia, behavioral therapy is an effective, evidence-based approach to overcoming your fears, but with this phobia, there’s always the chance that you might be a vampire, so pay a visit to the exorcist to cover all of your bases.

** Be honest about this one. It has to be a real demon, not just that jerk you keep taking back because of your codependency issues. Get thee to a therapist!

Liked it? Take a second to support Mark on Patreon!