OCD or demonic obsession?

Hi everyone,

I am trying to understand the difference between OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and demonic obsession.

Fr. Armoth, the Vatican exorcist, has said:

*]“4. Diabolic obsession. Symptoms include sudden attacks, at times ongoing, of obsessive thoughts, sometimes even rationally absurd, but of such nature that the victim is unable to free himself Therefore the obsessed person lives in a perpetual state of prostration, desperation, and attempts at suicide. Almost always obsession influences dreams. Some people will say that this is evidence of mental illness, requiring the services of a psychiatrist or a psychologist. The same could be said of all other forms of demonic phenomena. Some symptoms, however, are so inconsistent with known illnesses that they point with certainty to their evil origins. Only an expert and well-trained eye can identify the crucial differences.”

My question revolves around his statement that "Some symptoms, however, are so inconsistent with known illnesses that they point with certainty to their evil origins."

However, no one goes on to say what these symptoms are that separate OCD from demonic obsession. :frowning:

Can anyone elaborate?

I guess the untrained among us (that would be the non-exorcists) would have to figure it out by process of elimination. There are certain kinds of intrusive thoughts that are common to people with OCD, and if the problem falls outside of that group of things, it could be demonic. He probably omits the details because it’s not something a person can self-diagnose anyway. Better to leave it to the professionals.

Thanks for the reply.

Yes, I agree that it is a good idea to leave it to the experts. However, isn’t that really the problem, that there are no experts to handle it?

In Europe, for example, there are entire countries without one exorcist to help the population. (Italy is an exception.)

In America, I think there are something like maybe 30 exorcists in the entire country (and I may be overestimating). That would not be enough to handle one state, let alone all the states “from sea to shining sea.”

To further emphasize the problem, many priests and even bishops today do not believe in the devil, demonic obsession, oppression, possession, etc. In fact, most of them want nothing to do with it and want to send anyone who complains of such phenomenon packing to a shrink and to never come back.

Yet reports of such cases appear to be on the rise based on reports in the news.

So who is going to handle all of this?

And what really has me concerned is the sheer volume of people who are not educated about it.

For example, take a lay person suffering from such phenomenon who goes to a priest that does not believe in it, and there is no exorcist anywhere within a 200 mile radius. The priest may send them to a shrink, who will diagnose them, and then they spend years trying to get therapy.

Yet the problem with this is that, as some exorcists have said, the longer the problem persists the more the demon “attaches” and is harder to get rid of. The case of Anelise Michel is a case in point - for years she was sent to shrinks until the exorcisms were started, and they could not rid her of the troubles and she eventually died.

Yet had they started much sooner, could she have been saved? The demons would have been far less attached, and maybe easier to rid her of.

And even amongst the experts, there are major disagreements. For example, Fr. Armoth says that he finds it a waste of time to wait through shrinks but would rather perform the exorcism, and he can tell in 20 minutes if the case is real or not.

20 minutes versus weeks, months, years of psychoanalysis only to end up having a demon more attached than ever and harder to rid seems wise to me, but many of the “experts” cannot even agree on that. Many say they would rather have the patient spend all that time seeking therapy first.

With the rise of the occult, and cases of possession, and a lack of experts amongst us generally, I think it is a good idea for the laity to be more well educated on the matter and able to recognize the signs.

Then, if they have a friend, colleague, relative, or even if they find themselves in the situation, and end up before a rationalist priest who has lost his faith and has no expert knowledge himself, the laity will have the ability to know something is wrong and continue seeking someone with better knowledge. Not that they want to be prideful and think they know all, but they should at least be knowledgeable enough to know which direction the signs seem to be pointing so they can sift out the good vs. the bad advice they may receive.

Also, it is good for the laity to be educated because we also have a responsibility to our priests, just as they have one to us. And if they are failing to uphold their priestly ministry by recognizing evil exists and educating themselves to be prepared to handle it, then perhaps the laity need to be able to educate the priests in a sense and help point them in the right direction.

It is a real problem that is on the rise in our culture. The bishops and priests are not responding to the call to have an exorcist in every diocese, and more than most do not even want to educate themselves on such problems. I think this calls for further education on the part of the laity to change the tide.

Regardless, a balanced approach in healing is needed, mind, body, and spirit.

As was correctly pointed out, there is a problem. An exorcist, or any priest who has an understanding of demonic influences, can be beneficial when trying to solve problems. The problem is a lack of priests. Of the priests that we have, many seem to underestimate Satanic influences.

I don’t know, but I suspect that the “official” policy requiring psychiatric exams before an exorcism may be rooted in financial liability. The exorcists know that it is not necessary, but the Church may need it to avoid law suits. Society is soooo litigious.

I don’t believe that helping with demonic obsession is the exclusive responsibility of exorcists. Any priest can perform an exorcism. People can also help themselves.

I like the idea of the laity trying to educate priests, but I don’t see a lot of future in it… I don’t imagine many priests interested in learning from us. :shrug:

one is a psychiatric disorder which may have a component of chemical imbalance, so is natural in origin and explanation, the other is demonic in origin so is supernatural in origin and explanation. Obviously that also governs effective treatment.

The role of the exorcist is to enlist the aid of competent professionals in the psychiatric and medical fields to first rule out disorders with those origins before even considering demonic activity. No, people with psychiatric or mental disorders are not possessed.

Some symptoms, however, are so inconsistent with known illnesses that they point with certainty to their evil origins. Only an expert and well-trained eye can identify the crucial differences."

that is what the priest is saying, psychiatric disorder is not possession and vice versa and it takes experts to see the difference. Symptoms of OCD are NOT inconsistent with known illness so it is not even on the table in reference to this quote. So I have trouble understanding your question.

The exorcist not trained in the clinical diagnosis and treatment of those disorders will not even attempt to proceed in his investigation without the help of professionals who are.

But isn’t obedience one of the key ways to dislodge a spiritual problem. Granted, it is a longer process, but how many people are affected by this in a ultimately positive way. Maybe some shrinks are being converted…:o

Sadly, the mental health field is sorely lacking “clinical” expertise. The truth, it is more of a he said, she said…ok we’ll try this med…If there was a test to check my own chemicals for an imbalance, I would have surely taken it, but I know of none.

Hi Fairia-

It is extremely hard to find precise information on demonic obsession. Part of the reason is because no exorcist wants you to diagnose yourself. Another is that mental illness is more likely the cause of the ailment, rather than the demonic. Yes, the amount of possessions and obsessions are going up in recent years, but they are still rare. Possession itself is very rare.

Father Jordan Aumann has the most detailed explanation of demonic obsession that I’ve seen. Here’s the link: domcentral.org/study/aumann/st/st14.htm.

Again, never try to diagnose yourself. And when you visit an exorcist to determine a demonic problem, they are going to want to have a pysch history anyway. So yes, it is unfortunate that people have to suffer sometimes for years and years to find out whether they were suffering from the demonic, but on the other hand, there is a real delicate balance between mental health and demonic forces at work. Often the two coincide, so that the person will have to see both an exorcist and a psychologist. Hope that helps a little. :o

I’m not sure that is fair towards the mental health field. They have made great strides in understanding how the human mind works and generally how the brain responds to certain treatments and drugs. Mental health, like medicine, can only work in most instances, in some cases no matter what drug or treatment is chosen little or no progress can ever be made. Researchers spend time and effort trying to help those who can’t respond to treatment by researching other drugs or therapies.

For whatever reason, and this is a mystery to them too, some people respond better to certain treatments compared to others. A med that appears to be a miracle cure for one patient does nothing for another.


I wonder when an exorcism is performed, does the demon actually leave completely before the exorcism starts, by the desire of the exorcist to perform said prayers, after it is over, at some point during the ceremony, and is it possible for the same demon to be in two people at the same time, and if so, can one exorcism fail because of the same demon in another? I am not at all familiar with father A or any of his works, but I’m fascinated with exorcisms because I once thought I was exorcised, but now I’m feeling like I am being repeatedly and constantly. I can’t say why. I used to have terribel, vile, disgusting and destructive thoughts during Mass, and the only way I hid behind them was to “vent” to myself while playing the piano for people to sing. It makes me feel better, but I’m afraid that something is going to go too far and I won’t be able to handle my music. My psyciatrist said he was amazed that I was even able to keep my (only one I still have) job given the condition I was in?


There may be few priests designated or willing to serve as exorcists, but there is a growing number of lay catholics who have been trained in deliverance ministry and my be able to help discern the difference. I am a skeptic by nature but I have received delilverance prayer from a mature and gifted catholic and can tell you it can be very very helpful if done properly.

Brother Joe, I can’t exactly say why, but your post really struck me hard. Are you at liberty to share the prayer? If not, I understand. I don’t need your answer; I just needed to ask.


Will message you privately after work. Peace

" I wonder when an exorcism is performed, does the demon actually leave completely before the exorcism starts, by the desire of the exorcist to perform said prayers, after it is over, at some point during the ceremony, and is it possible for the same demon to be in two people at the same time, and if so, can one exorcism fail because of the same demon in another?

  No,  because  they for what ever it is want to possess their victim.  Exorcisms  sometimes  fail. Even exorcisms of  infested places sometimes fail and these places remain  occupied  by demons.    Why would a demon  suffer  and fight for these places is not well understood.   At the End of Time though  they will be  so defeated that even the memory of what a demon is will be deleted from the  Mystical Body of Christ.

 Presently  we the Church Militant are engaged in a terrible battle against evil.  The responses in posts and the subject matter of some threads here in a  forum on Catholic Spirituality reveals this.   There is no middle ground,  one is either for Christ or against Him.    You can identify  the enemy though  because they will cling to sinful ways with the death grip of someone who is drowning.   This is the same way a demon possesses those who willingly want to be possessed  or  even a place, area, or building.

   Here in a forum devoted to Catholic Spirituality  they attack  Church.  They will try to get you to  see  things their way and it will be anything  but reflect Holy Scripture,  Teachings  &  Traditions  that offer true Honor and Holy Worship to God.   Of course  it will be veiled and it might be a baby step in the wrong direction; but that is how one walks away from God in little steps.    Then one day they find that uphold  something that is grievous sin.    It is the same old trick but colored a bit differently and presented in a slightly different angle.    Often it is presented as if  the  Church is lacking in something in regards to prayer or Salvation.    

    That is how the devil tempted Christ the 3rd time.  Satan offered his plan for salvation but it was different from God the Father's.    He tempted Christ with a plan that had  no Cross and Crucification.   Only "worship me" and   I will give you all this.  Christ you want to save Souls,  you humbled yourself and became a Man.  Humble yourself a little more   and  "worship me"  because  your  Father's Plan is too hard.   

   Only God can change people.  Only Jesus Christ  can Save  anyone.  Have you ever heard of Nature forgiving anyone of sin?  No, only Jesus Christ can.   We  surely can't change ourselves if we cling to sinful ways let alone another person. We have the Promise of Victory from Jesus Christ  in everything; but God works in His Time and according to His Plan.   That was the second temptation to  test God by speeding up His Plan  instead of  following His Plan.

That is why we have to pray humbly, kindly, and with great patience and never doubt the Power of Prayer. And, as Christ says we have to work taking out the logs out of our eyes before trying to take the splinter out of other people. Especially if they want the splinter. We have to divide up things into two buckets. One bucket we put the things we can do ourselves or with others for Christ. The other bucket we have to give to Jesus Christ because we are not the Savior. We can pray for these things and that is what I mean by giving to Christ. We have to trust in God.

    If  we live  in  obedience to God and to the tenets of  our Catholic Faith  we have nothing to fear.  The devil can come with temptations, influences, obsessions, infestations, diseases and  make us suffer but if we are united to Jesus Christ  we will win.

Our Lord promised that He will be Present with His Church until the End of Time. “Follow me, deny yourself, and carry your cross daily” Christ exhorts. Jesus Christ is the Object of the Gospels and the Author of Salvation. If there is one thing that is complete it was Christ’s Mission on earth and this is reflected in His Mystical Body, the Church.


Dude, you are SOOOOO right.

I’ve always been told that, and want to believe it, and understand it, but I just realized something.

If I have to understand it before it will work, or even before i believe it will work, then I cannot drive a car unless I know exactly how it is designed and built. And I don’t know that, so why do I need to understand prayer for it to work?? :confused:


As if I shouldn’t have known that. I’m an engineer, not a scientist. I don’t need to know what the “absolute” truth is, I just have to learn enough about how to do things to accomplish a certain result, and then try it in faith and if it doesn’t work, try it a different way. Like, I can’t believe I have a maaster’s degree en electrical engineering adn didn’t realize all that… :doh2:


I think you’ve given me a key to what I need to help my wife and my own relationship. :heart:

Thanks again. :thankyou:


Hi Alan, Blues and others :slight_smile:

Alan asked if a demon can possess multiple people simultaneously. I never thought of it, but I don’t think that it happens. I suspect that there is an abundance of demons. There are more than enough demons to go around. They don’t have to work that hard. The opposite seems to be common - multiple demons possessing a single person.

Our exorcists tell us that demonic possession can appear similar to mental illness. It makes sense that the devil would cause such problems. He wants to create suffering, chaos and havoc. He is a discreet enemy. Satan is more like a terrorist than a uniformed soldier. If the symptoms were obviously unnatural, he could be easily detected. Symptoms of mental illness seem like an effective camouflage for the devil’s work.

The term rare is commonly used to describe possession and obsession. The exorcists never seem to talk that way. I suspect that many people think about possession as depicted by Hollywood. Although mostly accurate, Hollywood uses extreme examples of possession. Most possessions are less extreme. The possessed can walk among us undetected. Famous examples are Hitler, Stalin, and David Berkowitz. These three are still extreme examples, but demonstrate the possessed living among us.

As far as I can tell from reading books, interviews, articles, etc. from exorcists, the exorcists don’t send people to psychiatrists. Non-exorcist priests and bishops do that. Exorcists believe they can identify a diabolic problem within minutes.

Thank you to everyone for the replies :slight_smile:

Sorry I did not reply sooner - I have been busy and neglected to check back until tonight.

I appreciate all the suggestions and comments.

I guess in the end what I was trying to say in regards to “educating priests” was that I hope the faith of the ordinary lay person will eventually “force” the clergy to stop denying the existence of evil.

The clergy sometimes try to “shame” us into thinking there is no evil or that we are wrong on other topics that are loyal to the Church. Some pull out their degrees, claim authority, and then try to make us feel like we are the backwards elephant in the room. Well, I hope one day that the laity turn the tide on them, and make them realize THEY are the elephant in the room! :thumbsup:

It can be done, but only when the church is filled with laity who are loyal to the faith and refuse to tolerate a priest who tries to teach them to be otherwise on any topic - including that of evil. Right now, the pews are still filled with products from the 60s and 70s, and far too many Catholics who are not educated enough to know the faith and catch a heresy when they hear one. And if someone can catch a heresy, everyone wants them to stay quiet. We need more people who want to speak up, and back up those who speak up, for things to change in so many areas - including this one.

Thanks again for all the comments!

I don’t know about this. My parish priest has worked hard to tend his flock. He has listened to my rants until the early morning hours and has worked with me quite a bit. I’m thankful for his insight. He could have done a few things differently to meet my wants, but in the long run he chose a wiser path. Samson.

I am not sure I understand :hmmm:

If you are saying that I am suggesting priests should do what we want, that is not it at all. Quite the opposite. Many good but misled priests need to stop doing what they want and start doing what God wants.

The belief in the devil is a Catholic belief that we are required to hold as Catholics. It is not something that I want - it is what the Church asks of us. Priests who do not believe in that and tell others that the devil is not real are guiding the flock according to what they think, not what the Church teaches.

If there is debate over that between anyone, then it shows we are not one in heart and mind as we are asked to be. We should not be debating the basics of our faith that have been established. And I am not sure on this, but I believe I once heard that anyone who holds serious doubts against any doctrine of the faith is automatically excommunicated.

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