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Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide

 
The Angel
03/27/2005 11:37 PM
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Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
from About.com [link to paranormal.about.com]

The Myth

A reader writes:

About a year and a half ago, I was awoken in the night by a strong, warm breeze. I could not move and could not scream. It lasted about 30 seconds and was gone. I saw nothing. Last week it happened again. I was lying in bed and again was awoken. I felt a very strong force holding me down. I could not sit up. I tried to scream for my daughter and could not get any noise to come out. I tried to hit the wall with my arm and this force would not let me. It again lasted about 30 seconds and was over. I really don´t believe in ghosts and didn´t see anything at all. I am just really scared and confused.

Have you ever had a similar experience? The above incident is a classic example of what has become known as the "old hag" syndrome and is one of many such letters I receive from readers each month. The victims awake to find that they cannot move, even though they can see, hear, feel and smell. There is sometimes the feeling of a great weight on the chest and the sense that there is a sinister or evil presence in the room. And like the above reader, they are often quite frightened about what is happening to them.

The name of the phenomenon comes from the superstitious belief that a witch - or an old hag - sits or "rides" the chest of the victims, rendering them immobile. Although that explanation isn´t taken very seriously nowadays, the perplexing and often very frightening nature of the phenomenon leads many people to believe that there are supernatural forces at work - ghosts or demons.

The experience is so frightening because the victims, although paralyzed, seem to have full use of their senses. In fact, it is often accompanied by strange smells, the sound of approaching footsteps, apparitions of weird shadows or glowing eyes, and the oppressive weight on the chest, making breathing difficult if not impossible. All of the body´s senses are telling the victims that something real and unusual is happening to them. The spell is broken and the victims recover often on the point of losing consciousness. Fully awake and well, they sit up, completely baffled by what just happened to them since now the room is entirely normal.

The Old HagConfronted with such a bizarre and irrational experience, it´s no wonder that many victims fear that they have been attacked in their beds by some malevolent spirit, demon or, perhaps, an alien visitor.

The phenomenon occurs to both men and women of various ages and seems to happen to about 15 percent of the population at least once in a lifetime. It can occur while the victim is sleeping during the day or night, and it is a worldwide phenomenon that has been documented since ancient times.

"In the 2nd century, the Greek physician Galen attributed it to indigestion," according to The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits by Rosemary Ellen Guiley. "Some individuals suffer repeated attacks over a limited period of time; others have repeated attacks for years."

Another example:

I am a 27 year old female and have been suffering for the past 12 or so years. It started just being unable to move, like someone was on top of me, pinning me down. And although I was trying with all my might to move or to scream, all I could do was barely wiggle my toes and faintly murmur. In the beginning it was very frightening and I would try with all my might to wake up. Upon waking I would be unable to resume sleep for at least a few hours. Now I have become somewhat used to them. Sometimes I even lie back and see how long I can take that awful, overpowering feeling. In the end, I always try to wake myself up. Over the years this "thing" has kind of metamorphosized into a dark being, something who is doing this deliberately to me for some reason. I guess this is something that I may have invented in my head to deal with it. I am not really sure. After I got used to it, I never really questioned it. It still occurs about every 2 months or so. Sometimes once a night, other times it can happen several times in one night.

What´s going on? Is there a rational explanation for these freaky experiences?
The Angel
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
The Science
from About.com [link to paranormal.about.com]

The medical establishment is quite aware of this phenomenon, but has a less sensational name than "old hag syndrome" for it. They call it "sleep paralysis" or SP (sometimes ISP for "isolated sleep paralysis").

So what causes it? Dr. Max Hirshkowitz, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Houston, says that sleep paralysis occurs when the brain is in the transition state between deep, dreaming sleep (known as REM sleep for its rapid eye movement) and waking up. During REM dreaming sleep, the brain has turned off most of the body´s muscle function so we cannot act out our dreams - we are temporarily paralyzed.

"Sometimes your brain doesn´t fully switch off those dreams - or the paralysis - when you wake up," Hirshkowitz told ABC News. "That would explain the ´frozen´ feeling and hallucinations associated with sleep paralysis." According to his research, the effect only really lasts from a few seconds to as long as a minute, but in this half-dream half-awake state, to the victim it can seem much longer.

In her article, "Help! I Can´t Move!," Florence Cardinal, About.com´s Guide Sleep Disorders, writes: "Sleep paralysis is often accompanied by vivid hallucinations. There may be a sense someone is in the room, or even hovering over you. At other times, there seems to be pressure on the chest, as though someone or something perched there. There may even be sexual attacks associated with the hallucinations. The sound of footsteps, doors opening and closing, voices, all can be a very frightening part of sleep paralysis. These are known as Hypnagogic and Hypnopompic Experiences and they are what make people dread an episode of sleep paralysis."

For all their explanations, however, the sleep experts still do not know what causes the brain to screw up like this, or why some people experience it more than others. But there are some theories:

* "Episodes of paralysis can occur when the body is in any position, but happen most frequently when the sleeper is lying flat on his or her back. Intense fear is common, but sometimes other strong emotions, such as sadness or anger, are present," says Florence Cardinal in "The Terror of Sleep Paralysis."
* For some, SP is often brought about by not getting enough sleep or being overtired.
* Likewise, disrupted sleep schedules or circadian rhythm disturbances can produce an episode of sleep paralysis.
* It is more common in people who suffer from severe anxiety or bipolar disorder.
* Some research shows that SP is five times more likely to occur with people who are taking such anti-anxiety drugs as Xamax or Valium.
* A study found that 35 percent of subjects with isolated sleep paralysis also report a history of wake panic attacks unrelated to the experience of paralysis.

How can you prevent sleep paralysis? According to clinical research, you may be able to minimize the episodes by following good sleep hygiene:

* get enough sleep
* reduce stress
* exercise regularly (but not too close to bedtime)
* keep a regular sleep schedule

"For some people this may not be possible, however," says Florence Cardinal, "so instead let´s look at ways to escape from the grip of sleep paralysis. The best remedy is to will yourself to move, even if it´s only the wiggling of your little finger. This is often sufficient to break the spell. If you can manage it, scream! Your roommate may not appreciate it, but it´s better than suffering through a long and fear-filled episode. If all else fails, seek professional help."

Sounds like good advice. The bottom line is that you really have nothing to fear, in a paranormal sense, from sleep paralysis. That old hag you feel perched on your chest may be nothing more than the anxiety of living in a stressful world.
flip
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Ah yes the night terrors, I suffer from this about 4-5 times a year. As well as being paralysed i also regularly feel an evil presence as well as being thrown around the room (expecting to come to on the floor) and being hit in the groin repeatidly (not nice!). It used to really freak me out until I did some research and found it was quiet common. Lately when it happens I´ve been trying to keep myself calm and explore the state ,(with limited success when it feels like you are being repeatibly hit in the groin you try to wake up as quick as possible) hoping that it will lead to lucid dreaming, whilst I understand the science behing what is happening (to me it usually occurs after a weekend of raving when I skip a nights sleep) I am intrigued by the common feelings of the evil presence and the associated violence. I am interested to here other peoples experience with this, has anyone else tried to ´explore the state´?
The Angel
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Hi, flip. On the myth side of Old Hag it is also associated with the Shadow People and Alien Abductions. You may also want to check out the Shadow People thread I started.
flatbed
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Hi Angel. I have had this happen to me quite a few times. It feels more like a male in my case than an old hag. It started when I was around twenty and has came and went since then. I hardly ever get it anymore.
The Angel
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
My ex-wife gets it. She´s even sworn that she´s seen the hag straddling her chest or standing at the foot of her bed screaming at her.

I just marked it off as her being her regular psycho stuff until I read that this syndrome is also associated with shadow people. I´ve seen sp´s all my life and not just the ones that like to dart out of the corner of your eye either.
Anonymous Coward
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Incubus/Succubus?
The Angel
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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The incubus/succubus does seem to be the common link between Old Hag Syndrome and the shape shifting shadow people.
Anonymous Coward
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
this is diet/ stress related.
they can be cured by moving from the standard american diet to one with more fresh fruits and meats(without buns).job stress or life stress may be more difficult to change but realise that this has an impact and try to relax more.
The Angel
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Actually, 490, reports of Old Hag Syndrome goes back to ancient times. The early Hebrews attributed the disorder to attacks of incubi/succubi or their mother Lilith. In medieval times it became known as The Old Hag because attacks were often accompanied with visions of an Old Hag straddling the victims chest squeezing the breath out of them.
Anonymous Coward
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
the egyptians ate the same as we do(lots of grains and field vegtables as well as processed starches and sugars, they definately had some of the worst things...like breads) and had high incidence of coronary diseases as well as many other diet related problems(cancers ect.), just like us.notice they usually died pretty young as well.

daniel(from the bible) warns not to eat the rich food but to stick with fresh stuffs.

the apparition always changes to the mindset of the afflicted.

the commonality is the paralization and the panick attack. the feeling of extreme paralyzing horror.
Carlos
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Don Juan calls the shadow in the corner of your eye, "Allies". One has good and bad allies.
It´s all in how you harness your allies that makes the difference.
Read "journey to Ixlan" or any of the first 3 Castenada books for further descriptions.
Anonymous Coward
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
im not sure what you mean by incubus/succubus but,
i think a succubus(my definition would be a whore who is constantly draining your life juice, or sperm) could add to these problems. your best telomerase(this determines the lifespan of your individual cells) is in the sexual organs (so your offspring can start from the very best, freshest dna youve got). so if your constantly freshening the sexual organs other parts/organs get deprived of proper nutrition.
Garibaldi
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Other informations:

Sleep paralysis
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Sleep paralysis is a term either used to describe the normal paralysis of the body that occurs during REM sleep, or the disorder in which awareness is maintained when the body becomes paralysed when entering sleep (known as hypnogogic paralysis) or remains inappropriately paralysed when awakening (known as hypnopompic paralysis). To differentiate normal sleep paralysis and the disorder, the term for the sleep disorder is often referred to as awareness during sleep paralysis.


Normal sleep paralysis

Normal sleep paralysis is thought to be due to mechanisms in the brain stem, particularly the reticular, vestibular, and oculomotor neurons, which prevent bodily movements, block sensory input and provide the forebrain with the internally generated activity that characterises brain activity during REM sleep. This is thought to be necessary to prevent the body from moving in response to dream stimuli. Eyes however are not paralyzed by this system, and this exception was used to prove that lucid dreaming was an objectively verifiable phenomenon


Awareness during sleep paralysis

The disorder known as "sleep paralysis" occurs when the brain is awakened from a REM state into essentially a normal fully awake state, but with the bodily paralysis still occurring. This causes the person to be fully aware, but unable to move. In addition, this state is usually accompanied by certain specific kinds of hallucinations. This state usually lasts no more than two minutes before a person is able to either return to full REM sleep or to become fully awake, though the sense of how much time has gone by is often distorted during sleep paralysis.


Accompanying hallucinations

Many report hallucinations during these episodes. The features of these hallucinations generally vary by individual, but some are more common to the experience than others:

Most common:

Vividness
Fear

Common:

Sensing a "presence" (often malevolent)
Pressure/weight on body (especially the chest)
Impending sense of doom/death

Fairly common:

Auditory hallucinations (often footsteps or indistinct voices, or pulsing noises)
Visual hallucinations such as people or shadows walking around the room

Less common:

Floating sensation (sometimes associated with out-of-body experiences)
Tactile hallucinations (such as a hand touching or grabbing)

Rare:

Falling sensation
Vibration

Possible causes

Little is known about the physiology of awareness during sleep paralysis. However, some have suggested that it may be linked to post synaptic inhibition of motor neurons in the pons region of the brain. In particular, low levels of melatonin may stop the depolarisation current in the nerves, which prevents the stimulation of the muscles.

There is also a significant positive correlation between those experiencing this disorder frequently and those suffering from narcolepsy. However, various studies suggest that many or most people will experience sleep paralysis at least once or twice in their lives.

Some report that various factors increase the likelihood of both paralysis and hallucinations. These include:

Sleeping in a supine position
Irregular sleeping schedules; naps, sleeping in
Increased stress
Sudden environmental/lifestyle changes
In my own personal experiance, if you experiance sleep paralysis. Then you can avoid it a second time in the night by changing your sleeping position.

If you spy a shillouette that looks like a living creature during sleep paralysis, it can cause you to be filled with terror and panic. When this happens, you might hear your heartbeat very loudly.


Cultural references

In Japan, awareness during sleep paralysis is referred to as kanashibari (literally: "drawing out sadness"); in Canada (Newfoundland), as a visit from the "old hag" (Ag Rog); in Mexico, as subida del muerto (the dead getting on top); in Turkish, as karabasan (black buster).

In medieval times of Europe, attacks of sufferers of sleep paralysis may have given rise to the belief in incubi, succubi, other demons and witchcraft.

In traditional Russian belief symptoms reminiscent of sleep paralysis were attributed to the anger of domovoi, the home spirit, punishing people for bad husbandship or betrayal.

The combination of paralysis and hallucinations has led to speculation that the phenomenon might be a cause of some alien abduction reports, out-of-body experiences, and other seemingly paranormal events.

[link to en.wikipedia.org]
Anonymous Coward
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
ive heard that you lose a steaks worth of protein in one ejaculation.
Nathan´s Son
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
In all my dealings with these "symptoms", invariably they are connected with some kind of abuse that has been repressed. In females, it is being forcibly held down while an "evil" person does unimaginable things (to the child), time dilates, the feelings of impending death and being unable to take the next breath is prevalent; and the panic one felt, recurs, usually without the associated images that the mind captured while suffering the abuse.

In males, it is usually an attack on the maleness of the individual--for abuse is really about power, especially power over the hated/loved urges that drives the abuser. Conservatively speaking, there are hundreds of thousands--perhaps millions of unknowing victims who still suffer the effects of the former abuse they have long repressed.

It is a miracle, in itself, that the mind can create such defense mechanisms to prevent itself from going mad. Once recalled, the road to healing can begin--for understanding the problem goes a long way towards correcting the problem. Therapy helps.
The Angel
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Interesting theories. Can you guys elaborate on them a bit more?

For the person who isn´t quite sure what an incubus/succubus is.

Incubus = male sex demon
Succubus = female sex demon

The Hebrews believed these were some of the offspring of Lilith that visited their victims while they slept. Just recently have they been linked to the shadow people phenomenon because of certain similarities but unlike the incubus/succubus the shadow people can appear at any time, in any lighting and take many different forms.
Walter X
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Sheela Na Gig

---From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.-------

Sheela-na-Gigs or Sheela Na Gigs are figurative carvings of naked females displaying an exaggerated vulva. They are found on churches, castles and other buildings in Ireland and Britain, sometimes together with male figures......
writes that the name is an Irish Gaelic phrase, possibly arising from Sighle na gCioch, meaning "the old hag of the breasts", or Sile-ina-Giob, meaning "sheela (a name for an old woman) on her hunkers"......

[link to en.wikipedia.org]
idol harobed
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Myths have been out of scientific discussions since Thales of Mileto.
angelica(nli)
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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I have had a number of those episodes, although not recently. My worst was when a skeletal being was trying to pry my mouth open. I knew that if it ever entered through my mouth that I would be possessed by this thing. I struggled with it and kept my mouth tightly clenched. He had a terrible odor, much like death. I knew I had to wake up. Finally, I felt myself beginning to surface. The thing grabbed me and pulled me down again. I finally said the 23rd. Psalm(mentally). It vanished. I sat up on the side of the bed trying to collect my thoughts.My husband who had been beside me this whole time, finally woke and asked what was wrong. I think it can have a heredity componet as my father had these on occasion. No drugs or alcohol.
The Angel
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
"Myths have been out of scientific discussions since Thales of Mileto."


Something to contribute, Idol?

As a matter of fact myth has always played a big part in science. Pluto was discovered because of the myth of Planet X and Nemesis. Many medicines were "discovered" by listening to old wives tales. Even to this day great breakthroughs in physics and technology are achieved by following the myths created by science fiction writers.
Anonymous Coward
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Idol
The Angel
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Angelica, my mother was being plagued by the cloaked variety of Shadow People and used the 23rd Psalm to drive them off. She still saw them but never in the house after that. The worse one was an apparition of my dad walking up to the house through the orchard covered in blood while he was visiting me in the hospital during detox. The day after I got out of the hospital he suffered a major heart attack that eventually killed him.
angelica
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Angel, this particular episode started out as a nice dream. My sister and I were talking in bed. She had her back turned from me. I ask her a question and for the life of me, I can´t remember what it was. Anyway, she turned over and it was not her. It was that thing. The thing is, my sister had died years earlier. I think that is how it got so close to me-by tricking me into who it was.
The Angel
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Oh, Idol. I´d also like to remind you that several large species of land mammals were discovered in Cambodia while investigating a myth that turned out to be real.
The Angel
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
The important thing, Angelica, is that you were able to drive it away and are safe. It could have been a number of things from a waking nightmare to a dream demon (yes, Idol...I said a demon).
angelica
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
Angel, I have not seen him since. We fight against powers and principalities not of this world.
The Angel
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
The Lord´s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm work rather well for keeping things at bay from what I´ve been told.
angelica
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
From personal experience, yes. Sometimes it is even hard to formulate the words in your mind, though. It is such a struggle: heart pounding; mind numbing fear; along with the sense of not being able to move. Truly terrifing!
Anonymous Coward
12/08/2005 10:15 AM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
lord is my shepherd?
j
User ID: 676823
United Kingdom
05/11/2009 01:12 PM
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Re: Old Hag Syndrome -- Myth and Science collide
All the entities i have seen terrified me apart from the man with the hat cloaked, i laughed at him LOL...

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