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Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society

"Le doute n'est pas une condition agréable, mais la certitude est absurde."


Psychics and Mental Illness

Illness or psychic gift?

While it may be easy to lump all psychics into a group and label them as frauds, sometimes this isn't always true. Some people truly believe that they are psychic, even when confronted about obvious "misses" in readings. They may blame negative energy, or a disruption of their psychic vibrations. (Whatever that means.) Some of these indefatigable people may have deluded themselves. It should be noted here that no psychic has ever predicted a future event. The ones who aren't just trying to be special or helpful or different, the ones who aren't scamming for money, the ones who clearly think they are predicting the future may actually be mentally ill.

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that affects about 1% of the population of the United States. The symptoms are divided into both "positive" and "negative" categories, though this doesn't mean you'd be pleased to have either. The "negative" symptoms bear striking resemblance to the symptoms of depression, and may include an inability to enjoy everyday life. The "positive" symptoms, however, are much like the powers claimed by psychics.

The positive symptoms include: hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders, and movement disorders. Hallucinations may involve seeing something that is not, in fact, there. These are visual hallucinations. There are also auditory hallucinations, like hearing voices. Delusions are beliefs that remain in spite of indisputable proof that the claim is false. For example, if I believe that I can predict the future and write down ten predictions that will occur within the next year, and they are all proven false yet I still believe I can predict the future, I may be schizophrenic. This is very interesting in that many self-proclaimed psychics have been faced with evidence that their predictions were false, and yet still sell themselves as bona fide psychics.

The PRIME Early Screening Test for Schizphrenia which is online as a research tool for Yale Medical School, has many questions about psychic beliefs.

You can take the test here:

Five questions on the test (Numbers 2, 5, 6, 8, and 10) can be directly linked to supposed psychic abilities (there are others that fit into what psychics claim to be able to do, but these five questions are directly connected to psychic ability), and if, on the test, you answer those five questions with "strongly agree" and every single other one with "strongly disagree", the test yields a positive result and suggests seeking medical help.

Again, while it may be easy to say that psychics are misdiagnosed as schizophrenics, no psychic on the planet has ever correctly predicted the future. If they were being misdiagnosed, then the visions wouldn't constitute hallucinations or delusions. They would be fact. And they are not.

Another possibility is Schizotypal Personality Disorder. This is very much like Schizophrenia, but has more emphasis on "magical thinking".

Part of a profile on Schizotypal Personality Disorder from

High Openness
Preoccupation with fantasy and daydreaming; lack of practicality; eccentric thinking (e.g., belief in ghosts, reincarnation, UFOs); diffuse identity and changing goals: for example, joining religious cult; susceptibility to nightmares and states of altered consciousness;

While this doesn't mean that everyone who believes in ghosts has Schizotypal Personality Disorder, it is a symptom. If you combine that with the belief that you can tell the future, then you are a strong candidate for the disease.

These are categorized as diseases and not gifts because thus far there is no proof that any paranormal claim is valid. These are absolutely not misdiagnoses. If the patient ever exhibited any signs that what they saw of the future was real, or predicted something that would happen correctly, they would not be classified as mentally ill. But this has never happened.

Take the Personality Disorder Quiz:

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