National Paranormal Society NPS FOCUS June 2016 - Page 50

It is vital to both the interview and referral processes to first understand that there are a significant number of medical and mental conditions with symptoms easily misinterpreted as paranormal activity. During the initial meeting with a potential client, an investigator must ask detailed questions regarding the physical and mental state of the client, as well as other members of the household. Responses which may indicate the presence of a condition, should be referred to the proper professionals. This more than a recommendation. It is a responsibility, as is follow-up, to be certain that these conditions have been explored prior to moving forward. Too many teams, whether due to lack of knowledge or lack of integrity, will tell a client, for example, that they have a demon then leave them with that. This is not only irresponsible; it is unethical. This individual may have a treatable condition causing them to have such experiences; many of these conditions are hereditary, which may explain other family members sharing the experiences. In order to do no harm, one must not attempt to treat the issue outside of their area of expertise, but rather refer to the appropriate medical or psychological professional. Likewise, declaring the presence of

paranormal activity or advising on how to rid the site of activity is likely to add extreme fear to the equation, worsening symptoms and risking stability further. For this and other reasons, an investigation should never consist of a single visit.

Medical conditions that should alert investigators when interviewing potential clients are too numerous to be sufficiently covered or even listed within the confines of this article. Such claims as apparitions, phantom smells, hearing sounds or voices, seeing shadows, feeling watched, feeling of being held down immobile in bed, personality changes, changes in thought process, altered states of consciousness are among those commonly encountered. These all have potential medical explanations which must be vetted prior to taking on an investigation. Arguably, the most commonly seen medical category is sleep disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States, 50 to 70 million people have a sleep/wakefulness disorder. Sleep related disorders which manifest with symptoms mistaken for paranormal, include but are not limited to chronic insomnia, sleep apnea, circadian rhythm disorder, narcolepsy, night terrors, parasomnia, and sleep

paralysis. Studies show that lack of sufficient REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement, which occurs during deep sleep) may manifest in the form of hallucinations, uncharacteristic behaviors, altered consciousness, to name a few. Hallucinations are the perception of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch sensations which to the individual are real, though they are not actually present. The individual may resist any logical explanation provided for the perception. Night terrors, parasomnias and sleep paralysis may cause extremely unpleasant, even frightening experiences, such as the feeling of being held down and unable to break free. While this is often attributed to spirit or even demonic activity, it is in truth a medical condition. While numerous other medical conditions may mimic these symptoms, these will be detailed in later issues.

The effects of environmental factors must be explored extensively in each and every case. Factors such as radon, asbestos, molds, lead paint, environmental allergens and the medications taken to relieve them, tick bites – these are just a few of the factors that come into play. A common environmental concern is electromagnetic fields or EMF. Most paranormal enthusiasts are