Spirit Possession and Exorcism in the Treatment of a Bedouin Psychiatric Patient Academic Article uri icon


  • A male Bedouin psychiatric patient was initially misdiagnosed and treated as a paranoid schizophrenic. The modern mental health care system correctly understood the “form” of the patient's symptoms, auditory and visual hallucinations. It did not however at first appreciate their “content”, or cultural significance. The patient had unresolved anger toward his family which was manifested in an angry exchange with his mother. This exchange created guilt and the belief that the patient had sinned against God and was possessed by demons. A psychiatric social worker was able to reconcile the patient with his mother and to incorporate a traditional Bedouin healer, the Dervish, to exorcise the patient. The patient was cured by the Dervish, re-diagnosed as a neurotic by the modern system, and continued successfully with both systems for several months in follow-up treatment before being discharged.

publication date

  • January 1, 1997