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Trance and Possession Disorder

Possession trance is characterized by a transient alteration in identity whereby one's normal identity is temporarily replaced (possessed) by a spirit, ghost, deity, or other person. The experience of being "possessed" by another entity, such as a person, god, demon, animal, or inanimate object, holds different meanings in different cultures and therefore the diagnosis for this disorder may be culturally bound. While possession is a common experience in many cultures, in Western industrialized cultures, such experiences are not the norm.

Associated Features:

Subjects often complained of a variety of associated symptoms:

Loss of control over one's actions.
Behavior change or acting differently.
Loss of awareness of surroundings.
Loss of personal identity.
Difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy at the time of the possession.
Change in tone of voice.
Wandering attention.
Trouble concentrating.
Loss of sense of time.
Loss of memory.
Belief that one's body changed in appearance.

Differential Diagnosis:

Some disorders have similar symptoms. The clinician, therefore, in his diagnostic attempt, has to differentiate against the following disorders which need to be ruled out to establish a precise diagnosis. Currently 'trance and possession' disorders under the general rubric of dissociative disorder (ICD-10) implying a psychological causation of symptoms. However, there is evidence that brain damage is also a causal factor.

Delirium which involve cognitive impairments.
Major Depression.
Post Trumatic Stress Disorder
Head Trauma. - temporal and frontal lobe lesions .
Alcoholism associated with memory loss.
Dissociative Amnesia.
Tourette Syndrome.


This condition is multifactorial, in which spiritual, social, psychological and physical factors may all play an aetioIogical role. It is also commonly accepted that dissociative identity disorder have their aetiology in an early history of repeated trauma and abuse, often to horrific degrees. However, as yet, there are no biological theories concerning the origin of these disorders. Therefore, besides screening for common medical and psychiatric conditions, the clinician should also examine the particular cultural context in which the patient presents.


A consideration in the treatment of Trance and Possession Disorder is determining whether the person is in the midst of an episode of mental disorder or having a spiritual problem. Therefore treatment currently revoles around assistance to cope with the physical aspects of possession.

Counseling and Psychotherapy [ See Therapy Section ]:

Supportive therapy and psychotherapy may be helpful in certain situations. Family therapy is often helpful to assist relatives in coping with the affected individual. Behavioral techniques used in a therapeutic setting, or in the home can help a person learn behaviors that will lead to social acceptance.

Pharmacotherapy [ See Psychopharmacology Section ] :

Typically the treatment of this pstychosis is similar to that of Schizophrenia and therefroe the following may be used:

Antipsychotics (typical).
Chlorpromazine (Thorazine).
Thioridazine (Mellaril).
Trifluoperazine (Stelazine).
Thiothixene (Navane).
Fluphenazine (Prolixin).
Haloperidol (Haldol).

Antipsychotics (atypical).
Risperidone (Risperdal).
Olanzapine (Zyprexa).
Clozapine (Clozaril).


DSM Code

300.15 Dissociative Disorder NOS

F44.3 Trance and Possession Disorders

Disorder Sheets

First Person Plural
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Recommended Book

The Unquiet Dead: A Psychologist Treats Spirit Possession - Click Here to View


Trance and Possession Disorder

Misc Information


Dissociative Disorders