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Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1993 Dec;88(6):447-50.

Spirit possession and healing among Chinese psychiatric patients.

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Department of Psychological Medicine, National University of Singapore.


This is a study of the illness behaviour of 100 Chinese psychiatric patients referred consecutively to the psychiatric unit of a general hospital in Singapore. More women than men felt that their illness was due to spirit possession; but belief in possession was not related to educational status. Thirty-six patients or their relatives had consulted a traditional healer before going to the hospital. Duration of illness, sex and educational status were not associated with the tendency to seek help from the traditional healer; there was also no significant difference between psychotic or neurotic patients. The majority of depressed patients (72%) presented with somatic complaints of chest discomfort, headache and abdominal discomfort. Somatization was not related to the educational level or sex of the patients.

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