Letters to the Editor: No, psychiatry doesn’t recognize demonic possession

Illustration of a priest exorcising demons from a person.
(Roberts Rurans / For The Times)

To the editor: Lynn Hightower, a self-described “thriller writer” whose latest novel involves exorcism, began her op-ed article with a reference to her research on “demonic possession.” (“Exorcism is something we can’t quite quit,” Opinion, May 7)

This term is immediately followed by her writing that “possession” is recognized in the American Psychiatric Assn.’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or DSM).

This is a misleading juxtaposition, since any DSM reference (like “possession trance disorder”) is merely to label it and describe its criteria. It does not suggest or validate that “possession” actually occurs.


There is absolutely no DSM recognition of “demonic possession.”

Eli Comay, M.D., Los Angeles

The writer is a retired psychiatrist who practiced in Westchester for more than 30 years.


To the editor: Hightower relies on some usual suspects in the selling of snake oil — appeals to religious authority, majority belief, anecdote and pseudo-science as substitutes for real evidence. OK, to each their own.

But in an era when similarly promoted conspiracy theory-based thinking battles truth for the future of our nation’s health and democracy, couldn’t we at least remove the Dark Ages’ fable of demonic possession from our list of 21st century challenges?

Stephen Nowlin, Altadena