Undiagnosing St Joan: She Does Not Need a Medical or Psychiatric Diagnosis

James Phillips, Brian Fallon, Salman Majeed, Keith Meador, Joseph Merlino, Hunter Neely, Jenifer Nields, David Saunders, Michael Norko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article traces the history of Joan of Arc through her brief life that includes leading an army in defense of France at the age of 17 and ending with her death at the stake at the age of 19. In her activities, St Joan reported that she was guided by voices and visions in which she communicated with venerated spiritual figures such as St Michael and St Margaret. Questions have arisen about the nature of these experiences, and various medical and psychiatric diagnoses have been offered by contemporary experts. In our effort to evaluate the diagnostic proposals, we have examined the incidence of voices and visions in the Middle Ages, and we have followed that with a review of nonpathologic voice-hearing in our own era. We then move on to an analysis of some proposed medical and psychiatric diagnoses, all of which we find unconvincing. With this background, we argue that St Joan does not warrant a medical or psychiatric diagnosis. Such a conclusion, however, leaves us with another issue, that of Joan's achievements. How do we understand an adolescent being able to lead an army? Addressing this question proves more difficult than deciding whether St Joan warrants a diagnosis. In addition to her achievements in the war against Britain, Joan of Arc stands out as both the most documented person in Western civilization up until her era, and as the only person who has been both condemned and canonized by the Catholic Church.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-565
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nervous and Mental Disease
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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