Those whom are consumed or taken control over by the deceased are said to suffer from ghost sickness or illness. The individual is possibly obsessed or consumed by the thought of death or a specific deceased individual whom may be the reason for their suffering. Symptoms include fatigue, sleeplessness, appetite decline, digestion, the inability to breath, shortness of breath, hallucination, paranoid activity, and overall sense of danger.
The study I analyzed recorded thirty-eight cases in which demographics and biographical information was related to ghost illness (victims would not mention name of any ghost in fear of being summoned by such ghosts). According to Hindu beliefs, the soul of a person becomes a ghost following death and then lingers in the village for thirteen days, is then judged by Yama (who rules the land of the dead), or Bhagwan (God). The soul is then either reborn or alternatively becomes a traveling ghost. The three main reasons given by villagers for traveling ghosts are: (1) dying before time allotted the soul to live; (2) death by torture; and (3) dying after actions contrary or against village customs.
Ghost illness was primarily defined by fever, convulsions, or other body movement as sign of pain and discomfort. Choking and shortness of breath are seen as the ghosts attempt to take the living soul. Infants can be victim with incessant crying whereas older victims link more with fever during which a voice speaks from within them.
Ruth S. Fred and Stanley A. Fred, “Ghost Illness In A North Indian Village”, Social Science Medicine 30 (1990): 617-623.
Ghost possession is seen as alteration of the mind and body due to the ghosts controlling abilities. After recovering from this semi unconscious mindset, the victim is said to not remember what took place and sometimes have been known to attempt suicide by jumping in front of a train or drawing themselves in a well. Wives whom committed suicide or died a torturous death are said to haunt the second wife, husband, or infants or the second wife.
Many men from the village whom were interviewed believed ghost belief was due to fear and that only women had enough fear to suffer from ghost possession (however, the number of interviewees was not given). Psychological stress was often a strong factor of the belief which held true through a family of four in which all had problematic stressors in their daily lives.
Some people for example, Mrs Fence Sitter turned to Western biomedicine for the cure to treating ghost illness. Modern remedies of the time relieve fever (which is one the primary symptoms). This approach is used more often these days, as people turn to hospitals, clinics, and other indigenous curers however, biomedicine cannot replace these people’s traditional beliefs or curing practices.