Ms. Lassez acknowledged that most people's embarrassment about the behavior keeps them even from disclosing it, let alone seeking help. She said she found it absurd that a belief system so at odds with critical thinking could gain so strong a pull in her life. "I really believed in it, even though most of the predictions weren't coming true," she said.

In her willingness to suspend disbelief Ms. Lassez is not alone, even among educated and intelligent people, psychologists said. James Alcock, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto, who has studied the belief in the paranormal, considers himself a confirmed skeptic but pointed out, "If you look at the Gallup polls, the majority of people believe in the paranormal."
Others who say they have suffered from the affliction consider the consequences negative. Cheryl Hardy, a corporate communications executive in Austin, Tex., recalls being so overcome with career anxiety on her graduation from the University of Pennsylvania a decade ago that she "maxed out" her credit cards paying telephone psychics for job advice. 

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