Can Bulimia be Caused by Demonic Activity?

In a word, no.

The following is a brief synopsis from Jay Adams regarding how we may be sure, Biblically, that a believer cannot be possessed (or "oppressed") by a demon. Note: while I do not completely agree with Dr. Adams' amillennial views, including the teaching that Satan is currently bound and therefore demonic activity during the Church era is non-existent, he is certainly correct in that addictions and life-dominating sins are not due to such possession. I have counseled many women who actually believe they are inhabited by "demonic forces" compelling them to starve/purge/cut, but this is nothing more than an esoteric dodge of personal responsibility.

Yes, Satan is ultimately at the root of all sin; and eating disorders are certainly sins of both thought and behavior. However, demon possession in the Gospels was a malady - Christ cast them out as a ministry of mercy. Where sin was involved, He called men and women to repent. His answer to habitual or besetting sin is the same now as it was during His earthly ministry. There is absolutely no Scriptural warrant for attributing addictions or strongholds of sin to demonic forces.

"There is no Biblical reason to think that demonic possession (or oppression) can occur in the life of a Christian. The simultaneous presence of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within every true child of God, and an "unclean spirit" is impossible. This is clear from the utter antithesis of the two noted in Mark 3:20-30.....I have seen incompetence in counseling excused by resorting to the diagnosis of possession by demons, sometimes with very damaging effects. If, for example, one's problems are the result of his own sinful behavior, and they are instead charged to possession by an evil spirit, those problems may be complicated rather than solved by efforts to cast out a demon. Not only will such efforts fail, leading often to hopelessness and despair, but they will shift the focus from the counselee's own responsibility. He will be viewed as a helpless victim rather than a guilty sinner. The results are likely only to confirm him in his sinful life patterns, and the frustrations of counselors who are reduced to fruitless prayer and pity are likely to encourage deeper depression and even despair." (Jay Adams, "The Big Umbrella", currently out of print)

While I do believe demons still hold an active influence over this world, tempt believers to sin and believe lies, and can inhabit non-Christians, they cannot compel anyone to start or stay stuck in an addiction (despite what Nancy Alcorn claims). If we follow the Biblical model, we have to take responsibility for our own behavior before God - and stop giving the enemy so much credit.

Also see my posts on true spiritual warfare, and why "deliverance ministries" are not biblical:


  1. Hey friend! Great article! I don't know anything about bulemia, but I know a thing or two about addiction... and I totally agree with what you are saying here. I do believe demonic forces come in with guilt, shame, and condemnation at just the right times to try and keep us bound up in sin. However, we can fight those lies with the Word of God. With our lives (thoughts AND actions) anchored in God's Word, ALL things are possible... and we are FREE!

    Love ya!

  2. Hi Jen!

    Thanks for commenting. That's right; you know about this, too. And you're exactly right - it all comes under the Lordship of Christ. What we people often tend to forget is that, while we're helpless to change apart from the Holy Spirit, God still expects us to do our part in terms of obedience. There's that interplay in our sanctification. It can be hard to break a habit of deep-rooted sin (very hard); but through Him all things are possible! If He commands it (putting off sin), it must be possible. And it is. :)

    I don't know if you read my reveiew of Ed Welch's book (previous to this one), but his analysis was spot-on regarding the lies we believe that don't originate with God and hinder us from overcoming our addictions. (or any sin, really).

    Yeah, regarding the demonic....insofar as we're talking about application to Christians and how to counsel them over life habits/patterns, I agree with Adams - but not to the extent that he claims Satan is currently bound because the Church age = the millenium. His whole teaching about demonic activity not existing today is tied to his eschatology, which I just don't get into. Remember the verse 42:3 in Job? Some things are just too "big" for me and I don't think we should try to (or pretend to) explain every mystery and be an expert on things that are less than crytal-clear, Scripturally. I do believe that there is demonic activity. I've heard from sound sources of cases of demonic possession of unbelievers. It's rare, but it does seem to happen. But not among true Christians; we have the Holy Spirit. That's why a lot of what those "deliverance ministries" are doing is so unbiblical - intercessory pray (and fasting) is good, but when you claim you're casting the spirit of this or that sin out of someone....be careful. I just watched a lecture on that, and he cited Acts 8:5-24 and 19:11-20 as indications Christ did not intend for this to continue after His ministry. But again, this is a bit of a mystery so who knows to what extent demons are active.

    Best to err on the side of caution, though, I think...and look to our own sin before looking to blame it on the devil! :)

  3. What if it's not a believer, though? Could they be possessed and made bulimic or anorexic?

  4. Hi Anon,

    While I truthfully don't know the answer to that question, I would think that it would be possible, yes. An unbeliever does not have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, so my guess is that any door to life-dominating sin could be wide open.

    My pastor, a very down-to-earth cessationist type, told our congregation about a young woman (in another state) he had ministered to who was severely anorexic....and something clearly demonic was going on. (When she came to Christ, the demonic oppression stopped.)I did not find this hard to believe, from his description and the first-hand accounts of others. I believe Satan is alive and active.

  5. I was both anorexic and bulimic for approx. 9 years. Im 21 now and have been healthy for almost two years. When i was sick, there came a time that i actually stopped putting faith in Him....Ive known the Truth since birth. Coming back to my faith saved my life. I am positive the eating disordered thoughts were not my own. I have since gained quite a bit of clarity with regards to the interworkings of my mind. I did not benefit from therapy....i stopped going and went on a spiritual journey of sorts. Came to terms with a lot of things. And began to understand my purpose here. Now, i want nothing more than to serve my glorious Father in Heaven by helping my fellow man wake up before it is too late. Honestly, i know this probably sounds wacky but im of the opinion that eating disorders are in part a symptom of a persons subconscious understanding of the sinful nature of the world. Meaning that the afflicted are sensitive to the fact that the world is messed up and evil. I think demons take advantage of that fear and oppress sensitive individuals.

  6. If I understand correctly Adam's objection to the idea of demonic involvement stems from the refusal of counselees to face their own depravity and sin. I too though don't agree with the idea that there is no demonic activity now as it doesn't square with several salient verses such as our enemy going about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, or the warning by the apostle not to give the enemy a foothold. If there is no enemy, how can we give him a foothold? This was written after the resurrection of Christ.

    So at this point my understanding is that we can suffer demonic harassment as believers though we don't have to. Its sin that gives place to the evil one. Its still a permission thing though, not a legal rights thing I think, as some deliverance ministries teach. Satan was stripped of his righs or authority by Christ. So he gets influence in our lives by our listening to his lies and temptations and going with them. Doesn't scripture speak of us becoming slaves of whatever whoever we chose to obey? If we fall back into sin its only because we said yes to something we should have said no to. Regarding thoughts, i do believe satan injects thoughts into people's minds sometimes disguised as their own voice. Probably because he knows our personal affinity for ourselves and our tendency to worship ourselves and give ourselves crediblity above all others. For instance, Peter said to Ananias and Sapphira that satan had filled their hearts to lie. He didn't say that they had come up with that all on their own, but they were the ones held responsible because they took the bait. Same with King David, when it says in scripture that satan rose up against Israel and incited David to number the fighting men against God's command. Satan was involved but David was held responsible.

    I've read some of Jay Adam's nouthetic counselling stuff and one thing I recall him or one of the NANC counselors saying is that they would have counselees who were certain that they were suffering demonic oppression but when sin problems were taken care of, the demonic stuff went too. They seemed to think that this proved that they were right that the problem was a sin problem, and NOT a demonic problem, but perhaps what it really proved was that sin opens us to demonic stuff. Which would mean that yes, you could be having demonic interference issues but sin is still ultimately the issue.


Thanks for visiting! Please leave me a message, share your testimony, or feel free to ask questions. Anonymous comments are welcome. Or e-mail me privately at marie4thtimemom@yahoo.com.