Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dear Parents Thinking of Contacting an Exorcist...

Most of the time when I watch "real haunting" shows, I do so because either 1. someone else turned it on and I'm too lazy to leave the room or procrastinating or 2. I go looking for logical fallacies and things to laugh at.

But... do you know what I don't find funny about those shows? Exorcisms! Why do these people call exorcists? Usually it seems to be because their family member is acting strangely in a destructive way and their religious beliefs tell them that the most likely cause of such behavior is demonic possession.

So... exorcisms are fine in movies and fiction... but in the real world, in the 21st century.... people should know better! People can have their religious beliefs... but they should STILL know better.
Shouldn't it tell them something that the catholic church is "iffy" about exorcisms now-a-days and most catholic priests won't perform them?

Exorcisms belong in the 1600s, when people had no knowledge of psychology and mental illness.
Sure... yeah... it's in the Bible... but! Again, the people of the Iron Age didn't understand mental illness any better than the people in 1692 Salem, during the infamous witchcraft trials!

So... I'll admit, the science of psychology is still rather new, but the advances made in the century that it has been around are incredible enough to make anyone seeking exorcisms or prayer ALONE to "cure" a person acting abnormally, EXTREMELY irresponsible!
In fact, these people aren't helping their "patients" at all... they're hurting them. Same goes for the people, like scientologists and many fundamentalists who denounce psychiatry.

Science isn't perfect, but it is the best we will ever have... and unlike faith healing and exorcisms... which haven't really changed since the stone age (besides which gods/ spirits are invoked of course) psychology and psychiatry are always updating themselves. They come up with solutions to psychiatric issues the way real science does... experiment through the scientific method, careful meticulous research, brutal peer review, demanding replication of results by a different party, and years of case study by countless clinical and research psychologists. THAT is how the truth is found.

So... if you are considering calling an exorcist to "drive the devil out of your child" you should consider that psychiatry and psychology are the best solutions to these type of problems that we have... the least harmful... the most reliable... and the most likely to make your child a functioning member of society again.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) - currently used is the DSM IV - but scientists are looking forward to the DSM V which is set to come out in the next couple of years or so - is the "Bible" of scientific psychology and psychiatry that is compiled by the American Psychological Association and updated on a regular basis... note again that the DSM V the newest update is due out soon and will once again revolutionize our understanding of Mental Illnesses and other Psychiatric Disorders. This is what all credible psychiatrists (the ones with a medical degree who diagnose mental disorders and prescribe medications) use in their practice. Everything is done on the best available scientific knowledge and on an individual basis - taking note of the patient's age, sex, medical history, current medications, etc. This is why psychiatry is reliable... it is as reliable as any other form of medicine, and psychiatrists aren't quacks or agents of the devil... they are certified medical doctors (as much as your family doctor) who genuinely care about their patient's welfare and take their Hippocratic Oath very seriously.

So... if you find that you child is screaming profanities, talking to themselves - not an imaginary friend but truly "psychotic talking to self", speaking nonsense syllables, writing profanities or nonsense or symbols on the walls, undergoes a sudden personality change, engages in self-injurous behavior like obsessive cutting, scratching, pulling out hair (btw, psychologists call this problem "trichotillomania"), or trying to commit suicide, refusing to eat, unusual mood swings, refusing to get out of bed, etc.
Well... when you pick up that phone DO NOT call an exorcist or "faith healer"! Find the number of a psychiatrist and get an appointment so that your child can get the help he or she deserves from a loving parent.

This is a heart-felt plea from a student of psychology.

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