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Faith Healing and its Reality

Updated on December 17, 2017

In a time when medical science hadn’t advanced as much as now and the people weren't as familiar with science, a kind of practice evolved that could only be described as fraud. I am sure many of you would be familiar with 'Faith healing'.

Faith healing has been around for a long time, way before people had started studying medicine as a science and introduced thousands of techniques for identifying and treating the illness people suffer. Even though there are treatments available for almost everything these days, there are some factors that are holding people back from pursuing them. One of these factors is faith healing. It's the act where the 'faith healer' uses gestures and recitations to cure the ill with the help of divine power. It has been known for a while that faith healing is nothing but a fraud, but there are still some that reject the modern medicine and go with faith healers. The reason could be anything, from their religious beliefs, poverty or just their will to try something out, that led to needless deaths of a number of people, mostly children. This was not just in the past, such cases are still seen today.

Let me share with you a real life event. This is the case study of a young schoolgirl who had complaints of fainting during classes. She was just 11 years old. So they took her to the local clinic, but the doctor couldn't find anything wrong with her. He suggested they take her to a bigger hospital where modern technology was available so they could get a proper diagnosis. They knew that modern technology would cost them a lot more than they could afford. So they took her to someone they knew for some suggestion. This person had scarce medical knowledge. He was not a qualified doctor. This person saw the girl and told the parents that there was something wrong with her soul, and that a demon had taken over her body. He suggested that they take her to a faith healer. The parents believed him and took her to a faith healer, and surprisingly, it worked and the girl didn't faint for a few weeks. The parents were glad that it ended cheaply. Nothing could've boosted their belief in faith healing than this.

But the symptoms came back. They had no idea of what was happening. The girl would faint at odd times for varying ranges of periods. And there was a new symptom too, she went blind. Her teachers were concerned. Her parents took her to the same faith healer, and he repeated his chants and gestures and tried to fool the parents again. But it hadn't worked this time. And the faith healer made the excuse that the devil had taken over her body entirely. The girl stopped going to school and the parents were desperate for help. Her teacher came forward and offered to provide them financial help. And so they took her to a proper hospital. After talking to multiple doctors and numerous check-ups, they found out what was wrong with her. It was a case of conversion disorder.

Conversion Disorder (CD) is a condition where the patient presents symptoms without its actual physical cause. This disorder allows the psychological trauma suffered by the patient to manifest in physical ways mostly in the form of blindness, deafness, numbness or paralysis. It is a way of the body to defend itself or dissociate itself from what was causing distress. The girl, even at her young age, possibly had stress from her school work and parental pressure. This led her brain to try to dissociate itself from the reality by shutting the body off at random times. And when that was not enough, it blocked off her vision.

To explain how the faith healing worked, we have to understand how the disorder worked. Her brain, whenever it felt like it was overloaded, shut itself off in order to not face the reality. When the faith healer tried to 'heal' her, she believed that what he would do would actually work and she would be okay. It was the power of suggestion that worked. When she was stressed once again, her brain acted more aggressively. It made her shut-down at random times and also made her blind. This time, the girl was doubtful, and she wasn't so sure about the powers of the faith healer, and once there was doubt, his tricks didn't work.

To make sure that it was indeed what they thought it was, the doctor told the girl that she would faint as soon as he counted to ten. He was assertive and it made her think that what he said would surely happen. And once she believed, she fainted on the count of ten as told. It was the power of suggestion. The diagnosis was right, and it was to be followed by the treatment. The parents, though not happy to find out that their child had suffered from something like this, were thankful to have found what was wrong.

To say that the faith healing was entirely ineffective would be false. It had as much effect as a placebo does. Both use the same component for cure, faith. But most of the times, it's not enough. This is just one instance of what the faith healers can do to take advantage of people's naivety. There are millions of those who don't trust medical science and turn to faith healers for things that can be perfectly cured through medicine, and the faith healers are always ready with their vast array of tricks.


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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 18 months ago

      Thank you.

    • Rafa Baxa profile image

      Rafael Baxa 18 months ago

      Thanks for the comment, Robert. I don't have the exact details as the case was seen by a friend who is a junior resident in psychiatric department.

      But there definitely is a lack of awareness regarding such disorders, as the patients and their family more readily believe faith healers than the doctors.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 18 months ago

      A good recounting of an incident of 'faith healing' vs medical science. Do you have more details that you can give about the principals involved?

    • Rafa Baxa profile image

      Rafael Baxa 2 years ago

      Thanks for your comment Vabbu!

    • profile image

      Vabbu 2 years ago