Cacodemonomania Definition: The pathological belief that one is inhabited, or possessed, by an evil spirit or entity. The psychiatiric term for the delusion of being possessed is cacodemonomania or sometimes, simply, possession state
History and Cause Cacodemonomania is one of the oldest delusional states known and the most widespread. there are accounts of cacodemonomania from the beginnings of history and from all corners of the globe. It is known as dojoin Japan, embrujadain Mexico, and kubandwa in Rwanda. But whatever the name, the belief in demonic possession is essentially the same whenever and wherever it is found: Demons, devils, spirits, or other foreign bodies are believed to inhabit and control the patient.
In the West, interest in demonic possession was rekindled in 1973 by the film The Exorcist. In fact, the film may have been responsible for some degree of public hysteria and “copycat neuroses or cinematic neurosis”
Although it is not widely reported, it was argued by some mental health professional that if a patient’s religious conviction (for example, holding a belief in being possessed by the Devil) blocked the success of normal clinical approaches to treating the patient, then a religious activity such as an exorcism could be used as an adjunct to the treatment by overcoming the blockage. Needless to say, this practice is highly controversial.
In 1923, Freud explained cacodemonomania as an individual’s neurosis creating the demons. The demons resulted from unacceptable repressed wishes projected onto the external world. Freud’s most famous cacodemonomania patient was ChristophHaizmann. Haizmannwas a successful painter, but his career was hindered by the emergence of his delusion of being possessed by the Devil. Freud explained that Haizmann’s delusion was merely an imagined image of his own deceased father, a terrifying father, who Haizmann fantasized, wanted to rape and then castrate him.
To Freud, the basis of Haizmann’s delusion came from the failure to resolve the Oedipal conflict. That is, Heizmann had wanted to continue a relationship with his mother and therefore resented the father for being in the way. Freud did not personally examine Haizmann but merely based his diagnosis on information gathered on Haizmann by others.
Dr. Sally Hill and Dr. Jean Goodwin argue that Freud’s analysis of Haizmann is wrong. Their argument is causing many to rethink all aspects of cacodemonomania, including the question of why people who exhibited “possession” symptoms at certain historical times often were burned at the stake as witches. Hill and Goodwin claim that Haizmann’s “Devil” was indeed an image of his father – a man who have severely abused Haizmann as a child- but also that Haizmann was the victim of other severe childhood traumas, a fact that Freud might have discovered had he looked at the evidence more carefully.
Apart from Freud’s view, “another possibility, based on contemporary experience with patients who consider themselves possessed by demons, would be that ChristophHaizmann had experienced severe sadistic abuse. Such survivors often cannot give a direct account of their extreme abuse because terror and amnesia block internal narration and verbalization. They go to describe that Haizmanngrew up surrounded by death, destruction, murder, public, executions, rape, pillaging, torture, starvation, and even cannibalism. All of this contributed to Haizzman’s childhood trauma. It was so intense that he buried it deep in the innermost recesses of his mind. It resurfaced again years later in the form of a devil that wanted to destroy him, just as his father had nearly done.
Thus, Haizmann’scacodemonomania was a reflection of a violent, traumatic childhood environment. And cacodemonomania emerges as yet another manifestation of a child’s attempt to cope with a brutal world.
Historians might ask whether violence and trauma childhood can help explain cacodemonomania’s long history. If the supposedly “possessed “ witches who burned at the stake were merely victims of chil abuse, then witch burnings are a classic instance of victim burning.