7 grim facts about ‘exorcist syndrome’

Exorcist syndrome

Most of us have seen some sort of horror movie clip featuring someone being exorcised of their contortion-causing demons or a YouTube clip of someone writhing around in the street while people chant and pray around them. The people suffering with possession in programs and movies might just be actors, but what about the real sufferers that display all the symptoms and can’t control them? And what about those people being exorcised in the street?

  1. It can happen to ANYONE

Affecting an estimated 1 in 200 people, PANDAs (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infection) – also known as ‘exorcist syndrome’ – is a somewhat rare infection but can affect anyone… and for the strangest reasons.

Beginning as a standard infection, the antibodies that the body releases to fight the infection instead attack the brain and the dramatic changes can happen out of nowhere. It can affect anyone at any age in life and has even been diagnosed in babies.

  1. It’s like a devil possession from a horror movie

A young boy named Cameron developed a severe form of the condition in 2013, while his body was fighting off a streptococcal throat infection. His sore throat turned into scarlet fever and ultimately lead to PANDAs. Even the most common illnesses, such as catching the flu, can render him unable to do the unthinkable.

The symptoms of PANDAs include head and neck tourrettes-like ‘tics’. The disorder gets progressively worse, leading to dangerously high temperatures, hallucinations, and the body uncontrollably twitching, seizing up and even contorting. “It was very, very, very frightening because it really felt like the devil had taken possession of my child.” The mother of a 9 year old girl named Amelia also explained that it’s like her daughter acts “as if she’s possessed”.

  1. Grim hallucinations

Cameron reportedly believed he saw violent figures in, and around, his home. “Adolf Hitler, Kernel Markeloff, they would have been waiting outside the window, and they would have been coming into the living room, and they were stabbing him, or they were shooting him, or they were telling him that he couldn’t talk to us because they would kill him.”

  1. It can be triggered by tonsillitis

A girl named Amelia had her first outburst when she began “smacking her lips, she then started screaming and shouting” in a local supermarket at 9 years old.

And how was the condition triggered? Recurrent tonsillitis – an extremely common condition. The condition became worse by the day. “Her temperature soared to 40°C and she was hallucinating.” And Amelia just never fully recovered.

  1. The sufferers hurt the people around them as well as themselves

The extreme mood swings of sufferers affect everyone around them. Amelia’s illness led to her lashing out and even throwing things at her mum and sister and she uncontrollably licked layers of skin from her lips, while Cameron’s hallucinations became so bad that his mum and grandma had to “wrestle a bread knife from his throat”.

Cameron told his mum – who videoed the horrific moment – “I want to die. I want to kill myself” as he lunged at the knives in their kitchen drawer. During his worst moments, he has given his mum “black eyes, bruised ribs and broken her fingers.”

  1. Possession = exorcism?

The consequences of living with PANDAs are severe enough when it IS diagnosed. It’s likely that children and adults living in countries without adequate medical diagnoses – especially those surrounded by people with religious beliefs – are assumed to be possessed, leading to a lifetime of exorcisms instead of the medical help they need. Some people even try to beat the demons out of the ‘possessed’.

There is exorcism footage all over the internet (and in countless TV programs and movies), but maybe there is a more logical reason for the spasms and contortions?

  1. There is no known cure

Despite progressive and continued research, the cure for PANDAs is still unknown. From steroids to plasma therapy treatment and other drugs, it is so far believed to be antibiotic-resistant, however the doctors are trying everything they can to cure sufferers of exorcist syndrome.

The ‘This Morning’ interview with Cameron and his mum

Amelia’s story: https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/rare-exorcist-syndrome-makes-nine-14377593

Cameron’s story: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/722826/Exorcist-syndrome-what-is-it-This-Morning-PANDAS-strep-throat

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