Fixated on Demons

Fixated on Demons.

Jimmy was a single man in his mid-20s when he began his sessions with me. His pastor had referred him to me, after having seen him through several rounds of spiritual healing and deliverance. His symptoms did not abate and his relapses seemed to get worse through the months. “They tell me that I am demonized and if you can only drive out these demons that are with me, I shall be well again,” Jimmy informed me at our first appointment. He had these ‘demons’ since he was 18 years old; “they would come and go, and would talk to me, and suggest and give advice to me when I was confused.” He was absolutely sure that these voices he heard were otherworldly in origin and would not entertain any other possible explanations for his symptoms. If I had contested his views to disprove him, Jimmy would probably have walked out of my office, and that would be the last I would see of him. With his consent, I suggested that he allow me to check-in with a family member, and he very gladly suggested his mother. I saw Mrs Tan alone at a subsequent meeting, and discovered from her the background to Jimmy’s illness.

He was a mid-mannered boy, and was not used to the rough-and-tumble and the shouting and threatening that went on when he enlisted for his national service. One day, when he was particularly slow in completing an assigned task, his whole platoon was disciplined. Some of the boys blamed him for their punishment. Late that evening, they threw a blanket over him while he was asleep, dragged him on to the floor, and began kicking and punching him. He told no one of the bullying, but had problems sleeping from then on. A few days after the incident, he snapped and nearly threw himself through the window from his third floor barracks, if not for some of his platoon mates holding him down. He was hospitalized for three weeks, and was discharged immediately from service. He had been on medication off-and-on, and have had several relapses in the past. Unfortunately, in the church he previously attended, some members told him that he should come off his medication and trust God entirely for his healing. When he relapsed, they claimed he was demonized. That had stuck in his mind, and it accounted for his belief system and resistance to medication.

I began to pay a lot more attention in strengthening our therapeutic alliance in the following weeks. Getting him to retell his stories during his army days and reframing them helped with his guilt and anxiety. He was introduced to a couple of my previous patients who suffered from psychosis, but were now stabilized, and had them relate their experiences and symptoms – to assure him that he was not alone in his suffering. We studied Bible passages relevant to demonization to disabuse him of his erroneous beliefs. Eventually, we got round to handle his symptomatology by walking him through the DSM’s diagnostic profiling for psychosis, and progressed towards treatment strategy. With his permission, we made contact with his previous psychiatrist, and I accompanied Jimmy for his first appointment with the doctor. It took another four to five weeks before he was stabilized, and we continued with our supportive counselling sessions till he was able to return to his job.