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Traumatic Experience and Somatoform Dissociation Among Spirit Possession Practitioners in the Dominican Republic
AuthorSchaffler, Yvonne ; Cardena, Etzel ; Reijman, Sophie ; Haluza, Daniela
Published in
Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, Dordrecht, 2016, Vol. 40, Issue 1, page 74-99
PublishedDordrecht : Springer, 2016
Document typeJournal Article
Keywords (EN)spirit possession / somatoform dissociation / traumatic experience / dominican republic / psychometric characteristics / disorder / uganda / mediumship / symptoms / distress / violence / stress / trance
Project-/ReportnumberT 525-G17
URNurn:nbn:at:at-ubmuw:3-1923 Persistent Identifier (URN)
 The work is publicly available
Traumatic Experience and Somatoform Dissociation Among Spirit Possession Practitioners in the Dominican Republic [0.57 mb]
Abstract (English)

Recent studies in African contexts have revealed a strong association between spirit possession and severe trauma, with inclusion into a possession cult serving at times a therapeutic function. Research on spirit possession in the Dominican Republic has so far not included quantitative studies of trauma and dissociation. This study evaluated demographic variables, somatoform dissociative symptoms, and potentially traumatizing events in the Dominican Republic with a group of Vodou practitioners that either do or do not experience spirit possession. Inter-group comparisons revealed that in contrast to non-possessed participants (n = 38), those experiencing spirit possession (n = 47) reported greater somatoform dissociation, more problems with sleep, and previous exposure to mortal danger such as assaults, accidents, or diseases. The two groups did not differ significantly in other types of trauma. The best predictor variable for group classification was somatoform dissociation, although those items could also reflect the experience of followers during a possession episode. A factor analysis across variables resulted in three factors: having to take responsibility early on in life and taking on a professional spiritual role; traumatic events and pain; and distress/dissociation. In comparison with the non-possessed individuals, the possessed ones did not seem to overall have a remarkably more severe story of trauma and seemed to derive economic gains from possession practice.

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