"There was one woman who was like 90 pounds soaking wet. She threw a Lutheran deacon who was about 200 pounds across the room," he says. "That's not psychiatry. That's beyond psychiatry."
Gallagher calls himself a "consultant" on demonic possessions. For the past 25 years, he has helped clergy distinguish between mental illness and what he calls "the real thing." He estimates that he's seen more cases of possession than any other physician in the world.
Psychiatry now professionally recognizes demonic possession. It’s medically diagnosed as dissociative identity disorder (formerly multiple personality disorder)/demonic possession. See the Merck Manual description here.
In the possession form, the identities usually manifest as though they were an outside agent, typically a supernatural being or spirit (but sometimes another person), who has taken control of the person, causing the person to speak and act in a very different way. In such cases, the different identities are very overt (readily noticed by others). In many cultures, similar possession states are a normal part of cultural or spiritual practice and are not considered dissociative identity disorder. The possession form that occurs in dissociative identity disorder differs in that the alternate identity is unwanted and occurs involuntarily, it causes substantial distress and impairment, and it manifests in times and places that violate cultural and/or religious norms.
Symptoms and Signs
Several symptoms are characteristic of dissociative identity disorder.
In the possession form, the multiple identities are readily apparent to family members and associates. Patients speak and act in an obviously different manner, as though another person or being has taken over. The new identity may be that of another person (often someone who has died, perhaps in a dramatic fashion) or that of a supernatural spirit (often a demon or god), who may demand punishment for past actions.
If a patient comes in for treatment and says they are possessed by a demon or a devil, psychiatrists don’t tell them that they are not …. instead they do whatever psychiatric treatment they think is necessary, often including strong medication. And they sometimes will bring an exorcist in.
If indeed the cause is demonic, while medication may often alleviate the symptoms, it merely suppresses the underlying cause. The root cause is not dealt with and the patient often lives in a fog. Any ultimate true healing must address the root cause and must be spiritual.
The gospel is light by nature and suppresses the darkness of demonic activity; this is why demonic activity became much rarer in western civilization as the gospel spread (in contrast to pagan geographical regions). But now as the culture largely rejects the gospel and darkness descends like a wet blanket, demonic possession is becoming more widespread particularly as it is fueled by uncontrolled drug use, blase' prevalence of human sacrifice (abortion), rampant growth of the occult, gender identity confusion, skyrocketing homosexuality, escalating sexual immorality and hyper-sexuality.
From the early church writings, we know the early church fathers believed mental illness was distinct from demonic possession. John Chrysostom wrote, “Physicians, when they are kicked, and shamefully handled by the insane, then most of all pity them, and take measures for their perfect cure, knowing that the insult comes of the extremity of their disease …. If we see persons possessed by devils, we weep for them; we do not seek to be ourselves also possessed” (St. John Chrysostom, 1978, p. 127).
They also believed anyone who was not a Christian was automatically "insane" in the sense they could not perceive or respond correctly to reality. This corresponds to the explicit Biblical teaching that unbelievers are deceived by the enemy and blinded to truth. All the historical Ecumenical Councils denounce heretics as insane.
A male who thinks he's a female (and vice-versa) is technically insane no matter what political correctness decrees, but the 9/11 terrorists – who thought that they could go to Paradise by killing thousands of innocent people and committing suicide in the process – are oddly considered sane by many because they were simply acting on beliefs held by their entire subculture. To the early church Fathers however, both are insane. But the terrorists are insane in a very different and far worse way because they were wrong about the most fundamental reality - about who God is. Anybody who willfully and prolongedly sins is technically insane because they are acting against God who is the fundamental reality.
In the video at the top of this entry, I do not know if the defendant is insane or demon possessed. Clearly though, his behavior is not normal. While psychiatric treatment may be of some benefit to him, ultimately only the gospel can bring him out of delusional darkness into the light and reality.
Watch this disturbing encounter with an abortionist ...
In my 4+ decades of walking with Christ in the West, I encountered a handful of people who were truly demonically possessed. But that number is now surely rising as the culture rejects the light of the gospel en masse. With our culture descending into darkness and once-rare demonic possession becoming widespread, only the true gospel can restore sanity and light. The church is empowered by Christ to free those in demonic bondage, but must be willing to act as needed and use the gospel with love, wisdom, discernment, maturity and above all - faith.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt 16:18-19, ESV)