Can Dementia be the Result of Demonic Influence?

How Does Satan Work? 

What is Satan's purpose?  The Bible says that he is both "the evil one," and "the great deceiver."  He wants to do evil.  He also wants evil to prevail on the earth, so he wants others (everyone) to do evil.  He is clever and he uses deceptive means to accomplish this, and he has many demons to assist him.  1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." 

Satan wants to do the opposite of what God wants to do.  God is righteous and loving while Satan is evil and hateful.  The Bible tells us what God wants us to do, and warns us against Satan's ways.  If we could summarize what the Bible wants Christians to do, we would say that He wants us to know His Word, and to do what it says, not the least of which is to pray.  God wants us to learn about His grace; love; humility; salvation; newness of life; pleasing Him; the Church; judgment, the End Times; and, prayer.  In other words, God wants us to learn Bible doctrine and to pray to Him.  On the other hand, Satan wants us to focus on anything other than Bible doctrine and prayer. 

What does Satan redirect our focus to?  Maybe he directs our focus to TV or the movies, where we can sit trance-like for two or more hours with no thought of Bible doctrine or prayer.  Maybe he directs our focus to sports, when he knows we can sit through a four-hour ball game with no thought of God.  Maybe he directs our focus to our jobs, where he can control us 8 to 12 hours every day, even convincing us that we're providing for our family, when we actually have no time for them after such a long day at work. 

Demonic Influence and Mental Disorders

But how drastically can Satan affect one's mind?  Mental disorders can be due to psychological, physical, or spiritual problems; or, a combination of these.   Until the end of the nineteenth century, demon possession was a widely accepted explanation for disturbed behavior.  It was then that the scientific revolution gained momentum.  Now, in modern times, we're too smart for that, and we must attribute all mental disorders to the naturalistic view.  Psychiatrists leave no room for supernatural or spiritual possibilities.  As a result, what had, for centuries, been viewed as demonic influence became "nothing but" mental illness or mental disorders. 

The Modern View

In reading about the modern view, it quickly becomes obvious that there is much that is unknown and unexplained about the symptoms and causes of various mental disorders.  There is little agreement on which ones affect the mind, which ones affect the will, and which ones affect the emotions.  However, the Bible scholar will quickly see that all affect the soul, which is comprised of the mind, the will, and the emotions. 

Since the world of science is largely theoretical rather than factual, modern scientific articles often demonstrate their own ignorance.  For example, they frequently state how certain disorders "are believed to be" the result of certain factors.  They cite how "studies have shown" that certain conditions are "strongly linked" to these factors, and how these "suggest" certain psychotic manifestations.  Certain disorders "may be" the result of organic causes such as toxic chemicals or a stroke, while others "may" result from nonorganic causes such as psychosis, depression, etc.  They state that certain things are "likely," "unlikely," or have a "high probability" of being the truth, all while admitting that there is "considerable controversy" in modern science on such things.  However, the reader who cites the Word of God as the truth comes to different conclusions. 

Consider the following mental disorders: 

- Antisocial Personality Disorder - Characterized by a wide variety of irresponsible and antisocial acts, such as lying, stealing, instigating fights, and cruelty.  These people typically feel no remorse, and often feel justified in their actions. 

- Narcissistic Personality Disorder - Characterized by an extreme need for self-importance, insensitivity to the needs or feelings of others, extreme sensitivity to the least slight from others, and a strong desire to be "special."  These people are extremely self-centered and they are quite subtle in devaluing, exploiting, or harming others.  Some psychiatrists refer to them as "truly evil people." 

- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - Characterized by an idea, obsession, or involuntary act that controls the person.

- Multiple Personality Disorder - The appearance of two or more distinct personalities, sometimes using different voices for each one. 

Each of these modern day disorders (and others) could be related to one or more of the accounts of demon possession in the Bible (Mark 5:1-20, Acts 16:16-18, 2 Corinthians 4:4). 

The Biblical View

The Bible clearly states that demons are real and that they are evidenced in powerful and dramatic ways. In the New Testament, Satan was involved in mental disorders, and he still is today.  Mental disorders, like any other human malady, came with the Fall and the entrance of sin into the world.  All human suffering can be traced, in part, to that momentous event.  Satan's role in the fall, and thus in all earthly ill, must be acknowledged.  Whether a mental disorder is due to psychological, physical, or spiritual problems, Satan is unmistakably involved in them--some, if not all--though the means of his involvement may vary. 

For example, what the Bible scholar may cite as supernatural knowledge or strength in demon possession, the psychiatrist may refer to as hallucinations in psychotic disorders.  A biblical event of a demon possessed person going about naked might be called "deterioration of appearance and social graces" by the psychiatrist.  When a demon possessed person appears to encompass more than one personality and / or use different voices, the psychiatrist may call this Multiple Personality Disorder.  When a demon causes a person to be mute, deaf, or blind, science may call this a conversion (hysterical) disorder. 

Satan is smart and clever, and the Bible calls him the great deceiver.  He uses a variety of methods to accomplish his ends while hiding his working.  Perhaps he has us right where he wants us:  unable to distinguish between demonic influence and mental disorders. 

Demon Possession

There is widespread debate as to whether or not demons can possess a believer.  The Scriptures aren't definitive on this.  What we do know is that unbelievers can be demon-possessed.  We also know that believers can be influenced by demons, as the Bible warns Christians to be on guard and to arm themselves for protection from the evil one (Ephesians 6:12-17, 1 Peter 5:8-9).  Also, faith in God and faithful obedience to God are important factors in protection from the power of Satan and his emissaries (Revelation 12:11).  Spiritual warfare is real. 
In Frank Peretti's series of novels (Piercing the Darkness, etc.), he notes that we would be astounded and horribly frightened if we could see all the demons around us.  Although his books fictionalize this truth, it is the biblical truth just the same.  

Satan's Strategy

As noted above, Satan's main strategy is to get us to focus on things other than Bible doctrine and prayer.  How would mental disorders accomplish this?  Well, obviously the person with the disorder is preoccupied with the disorder, so he will often not devote his time to Bible study and prayer.  Of the people you know with such a disorder, how much time do (did) they spend learning Bible doctrine and praying? 

Then there are the people around the person with the disorder, including caregivers and relatives.  They often spend so much time in caring for (and worrying about) the person with the disorder, that they too direct much of their focus to this person and the disorder, thus allowing less time for Bible study and prayer for them as well. 
 
Modern medicine is increasing our life expectancy, but at what cost?  The elderly are living longer but with less quality of life.  Satan could be using this situation to bring more mental disorders upon the elderly, whether or not they are diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer's, etc.  This results in even less quality of life, especially less quality of our spiritual lives, for the elderly as well as their children, grandchildren, and other caregivers.  Meanwhile, medical professionals convince us to just write-off demonic influence as "normal" old-age dementia.  If I were Satan, "seeking someone to devour," what better target could I find than an elderly person with a weakened mind, body, and spirit?  Perhaps dementia and Alzheimer's are Satan's diseases (dementia / demons).  

It's too easy for caregivers to play into Satan's hands by being consumed by the sinful and hurtful things that can be done or said by someone who is influenced by a demon.  This, in turn, causes more subtle problems, such as a husband and wife becoming envious of each other's time because they are spending more time consumed with caring for mentally unstable parents and less time with each other.  An otherwise harmless little old lady can hold an entire hospital staff captivated while adversely affecting the marriages of each of her children. 

The Bible is clear concerning how we should react to the influence of Satan and his demons, although we may not like the implications.  We are warned not to participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead to expose them (Ephesians 5:11).  We are commanded to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness by adhering to the words of the faith and of sound doctrine, but to have nothing to do with worldly fables (1 Timothy 4:6-7).  We are told to avoid those who hold to a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:2-5).  We are commanded to have nothing to do with those who are perverted by repeatedly being divisive, warped, and sinful (Titus 3:10-11).  It can be difficult for us to obey God by rejecting these demonic characteristics in people that we love and care for.  However, even if this means minimizing our time around our demon-influenced loved ones, this would be better than letting Satan influence our own lives as well. 

Sources include "Counseling and the Demonic," George Fox University. 


Owen Weber 2017