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Possession Burnout

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Castiel: What's wrong with your vessel?
Lucifer: Yes, um... Nick is wearing a bit thin, I'm afraid. He can't contain me forever.

When a demon, ghost, or other body stealing/possessing force takes control of a body, it causes the body to rapidly decay and get the wear and tear of a lifetime over a few days or months. Removing the being isn't a guarantee of undoing the damage, and staying for too long in the same body will likely kill the host before long.


This is different from (but may happen in conjunction with) Transformation of the Possessed, which is where a body is changed to resemble (or become) the possessing entities' original body, and tends to be stable. It's more akin to Power Degeneration, and in fact use of superpowers can hasten the decay. This trope applies to both living, dead, and undead bodies; usually living bodies last longer and dead ones decay at a much faster rate, the trade-off being that corpses don't put up a struggle. One way to get around this is the creation of a Custom Built Host strong enough to resist it, though if that's impossible, mass production may be required.

Some stories may play with the trope and have undead beings like zombies or vampires or inanimate objects suffering little or no decay, but having dulled senses/finesse.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Blue Exorcist Satan is so powerful that there's no body in the regular world can contain him for more than a moment without destroying itself.
    • Some very tough people possessed by him will suffer Blood from Every Orifice; most people just catch fire.
    • Turns out to be a common issue for his children, the Demon Kings known as the Baal, as well who all suffer from it to some extent or another. Despite being the second most powerful son, Samael aka Mephisto suffers from it the least due to being King of Space and Time, letting him effectively stop the degradation of his body. His elder brother Lucifer is not so lucky.
  • Dante from Fullmetal Alchemist; that's the main reason she needs the philosopher's stone since she needs it every time she transfers to a new body. Also it's stated that each body lasts less than the previous one. And since Hohenheim has also swapped bodies at least once, it also happens to him; this is the main reason why he abandoned his family.
  • Bachilus in Birdy the Mighty is a parasite that requires a new body to inhabit every so often, due to this possession burnout. We see one of his bodies go to its limit and fall apart, after which he gets a new one, by consuming Geega, his (until then) boss.
  • Sailor Moon: Hotaru during the third season. It's not clear how much of this was Mistress 9's influence, given how she was an Ill Girl to begin with, but it's obvious that the possession certainly wasn't helping. Also a relatively rare case where it's implied that, had Hotaru indeed died before Mistress 9's resurrection, Mistress 9 would have died with her. The manga also implied that some of her illness was thanks to burnout on the end of cybernetic parts her father implanted her with.
  • Naruto: Orochimaru faces this issue after being forced to transfer into a body. While recovering from the transfer process, his body began to break down and required a constantly escalating regime of medication. Whether this was due to incompatibility or the damage done by the Third Hokage is unclear.
  • Claymore: Basic Yoma need to switch bodies quickly before their hosts die from the strain of flawed Awakening, so they force their hosts into extreme hunger for human bodies. It is not known if this type of yoma is actually sentient or just a worm.
  • An evil mask that served as an early Monster of the Week in Inuyasha causes its host to age and decay so fast that it's reduced to crude oil in under an hour. It sought a host that could sustain it full-time.

    Comic Books 
  • The X-Men villain Proteus "burns out" anybody he possesses; by the end stages, his victims look like walking corpses. This was censored in the television adaptation, where it was shown that possession by him caused extreme fatigue instead. In Exiles, it turns out that Morph's unique physiology means that he doesn't burn out as a result of being possessed by Proteus and ends up being his permanent host (after Proteus's personality is put to sleep).
  • In Final Crisis, Darkseid's minions are frantically bioengineering new bodies for the New Gods of Apokolips because they destroy the human bodies they possess fairly quickly.
  • The Supergirl villain Worldkiller-1 burns out any body he possesses if his host isn't strong enough to contain his spirit. In Red Daughter of Krypton he possessed a baseline human, and his victim's body melted in a matter of seconds.
  • In the crossover miniseries Batman/Judge Dredd, the Dark Judges team up with the Joker for a plan that involves one of their own possessing the Chief Judge to put out a warrant on Judge Anderson. The thing is, Judge Mortis' primary power is decaying anything he touches, so his host starts to fall apart within a few hours.
  • Robin (1993): Johnny Warlock appears to die of a combination of the side effects of his superpower granting possession and a brutal beatdown by Robin, who knew he was outclassed and was desperate to keep Johnny from killing anyone else. While Robin feels horrifically guilty about this "murder", Johnny just gets back up and walks off after being delivered to the morgue. His possession burnout leaves him near skeletal and immobile on at least one more occasion but it's just a temporary setback for him.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Those Ares possesses start literally burning, and when he's done with them they burn up until all that's left is a smoldering pile of bones. It usually starts with their faces and skin melting off.
  • This is the primary trick of the Legion of Super-Heroes member Quislet: he's an Energy Being who can possess inanimate objects and shape them into combat-capable forms. However, he can't stay in something for very long (aside from his football-sized ship), and if he leaves something once, he's done possessing it, it crumbles to dust. He doesn't mind the downside, though, as it lets him deliberately jump between objects in rapid succession to disintegrate them.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Bug Alien from the first Men in Black movie. By the end of the movie he has grey skin, can barely talk or walk. In this case, it has more to do with the bug wearing an "Edgar Suit" made of flayed skin, so it is natural decomposition.
  • People possessed by Jason in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday eventually melt into goo.
  • The Egyptian god Horus runs into this problem in Immortal, as he can only successfully possess pure humans unaltered by genetic modification. As most of the humans in 2095 New York are augmented in some way, they eventually die after he takes over their bodies. Nikopol is suitable as a host body precisely because he's still unaltered, having spent time in a Cryo-Prison for several decades.
  • The Hidden: The reason why the evil alien needs to switch bodies much more frequently than its good counterpart is because of the drastic wear and tear it inflicts on its hosts. When it possesses an old man with a stomach ailment, it actually has trouble keeping it alive and simply covers its wounds with duct tape. It bleeds out within minutes after he ditches it for a younger one.
  • In The Dead Center, John Doe's body is a wreck — catatonia, amnesia, shaking, labored breathing, coughing fits, etc. — due to this, and it's possible that the demon transferred to Dr. Forrester because John's body was too badly damaged in their final encounter.
  • In Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, this is the fate of Palpatine after his first death in Return of the Jedi; he transfers his spirit into clone bodies of his original self, but none of them are able to contain his power and very quickly degrade, becoming more and more corpselike in appearance over time. Unfortunately, the exact specifics of this process are only detailed in supplementary material.
  • In The Empty Man, Lasombra is created as a new host for The Empty Man when the original host starts to degrade.
  • In Venom (2018), this is a hazard of hosting Symbiotes. If the host and Symbiote aren't compatible, the host suffers basically a whole-body transplant rejection. If they are compatible, they can stay together indefinitely, but if the Symbiote isn't fed properly, it will turn to cannibalizing the host.

  • H.I.V.E. Series: In the later books, this is what happens to bodies that Overlord possesss via the animus fluid.
  • In Harry Potter, Voldemort goes through several host bodies before he can perform a resurrection ritual that gives him a stable new form. He has to resort to things like drinking unicorn blood to keep his hosts alive.
  • In the YA Urban Fantasy Book Series beginning with The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, the heads of The Masquerade keep Mezentius House, a hospital/prison for bodies possessed by demons, which basically keeps the demons under control (chained up) until the body decays and dies. However, in the third book, a magician makes a deal with a demon who wants to possess her to share the body alternating days and nights, hoping to stave off this trope.
  • In Alan Garner's The Moon of Gomrath, an ancient Celtic demonic entity, the Brollochan, is released form its prison cell by human interference. The Brollochan is an entity that lives vicariously through the senses of people and animals it serially possesses — but no host can contain it for long without burning from the inside and crumbling to death.
  • Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel A Hat Full of Sky introduces an entity called the Hiver, which is surprisingly alike in description, purpose and occupation to Garner's Brollochan. (Although Garner says his conception is not original - he has updated it from Celtic mythology. Pratchett may have read the same root sources.) However, while the Brollochan possesses beings to experience senses, the Hiver possesses beings to dampen its senses, which would otherwise overwhelm it.
    • Further Discworld example: The Cunning Man from I Shall Wear Midnight, whose rage is so intense that it literally burns out whatever unfortunate person it chooses as a vessel.
  • This happens to everyone who's possessed by the ancient evil Tak in the Stephen King novel Desperation. Tak is so powerful that it causes any body it possesses to expand and grow more powerful, but it also amplifies any physical ailments they have. A host with cancer will die within hours, a staph infection in days and even something as simple as being easily sunburned will cause a body's skin to blister and drop off within a week, yet again leading to death. With animals it's even worse: They last an hour at most even if it's a strong, healthy animal. They might even explode.
  • In Walter Jon Williams' Metropolitan and City On Fire, there's a type of disembodied spirit called an "iceman", formerly human. It possesses people so it can experience physical sensation again, but because it doesn't belong, everything feels "muted", so it wears its hosts out with physical excess. Sucks to be the host, sucks even more to be the iceman.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Palpatine's spirit possessing clone bodies made them degenerate really fast, which provided a limit on his resurrections.
    • It was later revealed that this was not the case, and that someone had tampered with the genetic sample for Palpatine, which is what actually caused the clone bodies to degrade so quickly. The fresh bodies start to degrade before they are even ready for possession, and Palpatine can't fix it because even the original genetic material used as the template is damaged.
  • Played very literally on rare and usually momentous occasions in Perry Rhodan. If a Cosmocrat wishes to pay the "standard" universe a visit and a 'mere' Projected Avatar (already indistinguishable from a normal life-form and potentially quite badass in its own right if challenged) won't suffice, there exists an alternative in which the entity possesses a specially prepared host body, typically drawn from a servant species of physically extremely tough and naturally long-lived cyclopean giants, which allows it to bring a significantly larger portion of its power to bear directly — but which also results in said almost preternaturally durable host body immediately starting to smolder and then burn, held together and kept moving only by the willpower of its possessor. Cosmocrats using this approach will generally arrange to have several spare bodies available because they can go through them fast even in the course of a slightly extended conversation.
  • In the Hush, Hush world, it's said that this happens when fallen angels possess humans. This is why they generally aim to possess immortal Nephilim — those bodies don't wear out, so the Nephilim can look forward to an eternity of being possessed.
  • This happens to most living people that the eponymous Eight Million Gods inhabit, which is why most of the more benign ones inhabit inanimate objects.
  • In A Darker Shade of Magic, bodies possessed by Vitari gradually char and eventually crumble to ash.
  • This happens in Journey to Chaos when high level deities inhabit mortal bodies. Order, for instance, can possess any ordercrafter of sufficient power and piety but they all quickly implode from the strain of his power. Those possessed by Lady Chaos explode or turn into monsters. It turns out that defying this trope is the entire point of the series. Lady Chaos wants a vessel that won't explode when she inhabits it, so she sent Tasio to fetch Eric and mold him into someone who could withstand her power indefinitely.
  • Patternist: Doro the Body Surfer can't inhabit a body for more than a year without it dying, and that's with him actively, carefully looking after it. Since he generally doesn't bother, his bodies usually only last a few weeks. Justified because he's also devouring his victims' souls and needs the sustenance.
  • A variant of this occurs in the Dresden Files novel Skin Game. Harry's brain has been infected with a parasite which Mab is keeping at bay, in order to keep him under her thumb. If it keeps possessing him, it will cause him to degenerate wildly, starting with his brain. Except that it's not — not exactly. Rather, that's a spirit of intellect which is the end result of the thought patterns of Harry and Lash, and could be construed as his daughter. Yes, he's pregnant. None of which means that it'll be any less detrimental to him when he, ahem, gives birth.
  • In Skulduggery Pleasant Darquesse plays this trope straight as a rod, describing in detail her organs melting whilst in the process of killing Stephanie whilst she is possessing the body of Obloquy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The demon in the Angel episode "Lonely Hearts". It had to keep body jumping because the bodies wore out and died.
    • Also Illyria, the initial infestation and death of Fred might count, but then there's also the aftermath-she was wearing out the body and the team had to zap her with a Frickin' Laser Beam to drain some of her power away.
    • The Bodysurfing human wizard Marcus from "Carpe Noctem" can only stay in his host bodies for a short time before they combust, killing the victim. He is pleased to discover that when he possesses an already-undead vampire (Angel), this kind of body is immune from the combustion.
  • In an episode of Blood Ties (2007), the disembodied spirit of a cop Vicki knows visits her and asks her to investigate his death. In fact, she finds out that his body is still walking around. Her assistant figures out that her friend's body has been taken over by an ancient entity that Body Surfs every few days because of this trope. By the time they force the entity out of the body and destroy it, the cop's body is too far gone, and he dies minutes later.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "New Earth," Lady Cassandra uses a psychograft to forcibly possess Rose Tyler's body. Upon finding out the truth, the Doctor mentions Cassandra's psychograft is an illegal device "banned on every civilized planet" and that she's "compressing Rose to death", suggesting the process is unstable. This is made clear from Rose's discombobulated state and increasing fatigue every time Cassandra stops possessing her. When Cassandra leaves her body for good at the end of the episode, Rose is so worn out she literally collapses in the Doctor's arms, but recovers shortly thereafter. Cassandra's manservant Chip isn't so lucky. Due to the ordeal of the day's events and his shortened clone lifespan, his heart is already under a lot of strain when Cassandra takes over his body, and he ends up becoming his mistress's final host.
    • Exploited in "The Doctor's Wife", wherein the "soul" of the TARDIS is forcibly transferred to a human body — which is reported by its new occupant to be fast falling apart due to its inability to long hold the energy of the TARDIS. This will kill her and leave House unopposed in her true body.
    • And in the TV Movie, the Master's stolen human body decays rapidly. (This didn't happen to his previous Body Surf victim from the classic series; the Daleks' attempt at EXTERMINATION early in the movie seems to have altered him.)
  • The alien leader Mabus from First Wave was able to possess humans, but the process was often fatal, sometimes within seconds. He eventually realized the host's physical health was unimportant, but rather high intelligence was the key to prolonged survival. The aliens knew that from the start, which is why they initially grew a husk from Cade's DNA, figuring that someone like Cade would definitely be able to contain Mabus's consciousness. His final body is that of Cade and Jordan's son, whose growth was artificially accelerated.
  • In The Flash, when The Thinker starts Body Surfing through the bus metas, it turns out that his incredible intelligence starts doing the same kind of damage to these bodies as it did to his original one, which isn't helped by him constantly adding new powers to his repertoire. He seeks out Ralph Dibny to become his final host, as the elastic hero can shapeshift into an undamaged form no matter what harm he suffers.
  • In an episode of Lois & Clark, a man switches bodies with Clark. Soon after, the Kryptonian's body starts becoming vulnerable.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Ripper" and "Better Luck Next Time", the Energy Beings can only stay in each host body for about a day before they decay and become useless to them.
  • In Smallville, any host for a particular escaped Phantom Zone criminal dies in 24 hours. Naturally, a Kryptonian body can withstand it much better, but somehow, trying to possess Clark results in the creation of a new, cloned body (with the same clothes Clark is wearing, too, though the color of his jacket becomes the color of his shirt and vice versa.) He becomes the series' version of Bizarro.
  • Happens in Stargate SG-1 when Anubis possesses a host. The host develops sores and various ailments, eventually dying, forcing him to look for a new host. This is because he's not an ordinary Goa'uld (who normally can make their hosts last for centuries) but partially ascended. This is why Anubis used a containment suit instead of a conventional host, until its destruction in the 7th season finale.
  • In the TOS Star Trek episode "Return To Tomorrow", when the consciousness of Sargon and the other two aliens take over the bodies of Kirk, Spock, and Dr. Mulhall, their metabolic and heart rates shoot up to dangerous levels.
  • Supernatural:
    • Demons are the premier example in the series as they can possess people against their will. Any normal wound they receive while possessed is ignored, but once exorcised the wounds take their toll on the host, frequently killing them. It is unclear if there would be any burnout from an injury-free, long-term possession as no such cases arise.
    • Angels are so powerful that they will do this to any host that isn't specifically suited to them, doubly so for Archangels. Sam and Dean are the result of generations of breeding to produce viable hosts for Lucifer and Michael. Satan is forced to settle for his "second choice", and as the page quote shows, his raw power caused the host to slowly decay/burn despite the large amount of demon blood he was drinking. The implication is that any other host would be vaporized outright. Even Sam isn't fully immune to this, and has to drink a couple of gallons of demon blood to survive Satan first possessing him. Whether or not he had to keep drinking it is never made clear, as the issue is resolved before long. Even Raphael's true vessel is left catatonic after being his possession. It may just be he didn't care to heal him, as Michael promises Dean he wouldn't leave him a "drooling mess" after possessing him. Bloodline are also important, and can help avert this. Michael's chosen host was Dean, but he at one point possess John Winchester, and later uses Adam (Dean's half brother) when it becomes apparent he can't use Dean.
    • The Leviathans' combined power is too much for their first host Jimmy after they booted out/killed Castiel forcing them to disperse.
  • Ultra Series: Though this is usually not in play for the Ultras. A few of them and other beings throughout the franchise play it straight.
    • Ultraman Nexus: One of the reasons the titular Ultra had to switch hosts often was because the injuries of battles kept piling up and taking a strain on his host's bodies.
    • Ultraman Z: The space parasite, Celebro can take over the bodies of other living beings but the longer he stays on one the more he and his host weaken, forcing him to seek out new ones to take over after a while.
  • Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger: After losing Utsusemimaru as a host, Animated Armor villain Dogold is forced to use Cambrimas. Unfortunately for him, they only last a month, forcing him to keep moving on to a new Cambrima when the current one perishes. They melt when he leaves them. His goal for some time is getting Utchy back, then it's finding a new host. Eventually, the new general Endolf makes an ass out of Dogold once too often, and so once weakened by King's Super Mode, Dogold kills two birds with one stone, getting rid of him and getting an even stronger host than Utsusemimaru. Unfortunately for Dogold, he eventually gets a case of Demonic Possession himself due to Endolf influencing his personality to the point where it becomes too much for him to handle, resulting in Endolf breaking free of Dogold and making an ass out of him once more.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Monster Manual III, introduces the Effigy, a fiery undead spirit that literally immolates its host.
    • The AD&D 2E psionics supplement includes a power called Switch Personality that enables its user to literally exchange minds with another, effectively possessing them. However, both swapped bodies degenerate over time (represented as a temporary Constitution loss per skill check failure) unless the caster switches back to their original body; if either body hits 0, both are doomed. A creative player, though, could just swap to a creature with no Constitution score, hence auto-passing the skill check!
    • Forgotten Realms has deities very strongly involved in the world's affairs. They are known to possess people sometimes, but can't keep the body in a good shape for long even in the perfect circumstances — it's simply Too Much for Man to Handle.
      • In the backstory, Elue Silverhand voluntarily got possessed by Mystra, in order to give birth to the innately Semi-Divine Seven Sisters. Her husband noticed that something very unhealthy was going on, and with an expert's help managed to determine that "some very powerful entity" was riding her, but not who — naturally, if the goddess of magic tries to keep a personal secret, everything else is down to guess-work. Since nothing else was working, Dornal decapitated his wife to "free" her from the possession. From this point it all got more awkward for everyone involved, of course.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, this happens to daemonhosts, along with (and partly because of) the Transformation of the Possessed.
  • Deadlands: Hell on Earth inverts the trope; the cyborgs are robotized dead bodies possessed by demons, which are being used as fuel for the mechanical body.
  • Vampire: The Requiem: The strix can possess mortals just as well as vampires, but possessing a mortal outright kills the host, which means the body doesn't really keep all that well.
  • Princess: The Hopeful: In a pinch, a Goleanu spirit can possess Stormwracked humans, but this damages both the spirit and its host. This is one of several reasons why Goleanu prefer to use their golem-Vessels if given a choice.
  • Human bodies don't last long when possessed by an Elder Demon in Hunter: The Vigil. There's even a mechanic to track the process of the bruises turning into actual rot. Elder Demons can avoid this by possessing objects, but that restricts their powers. What they really want is to become an evil Genius Loci...

    Video Games 
  • Zato-1 from Guilty Gear is an assassin who relies on a shadowy beast named Eddie to help him fight (as Zato sacrificed his eyesight to gain control of Eddie), which includes Eddie possessing his body at times. Until he died at the end of GGX, that is. In the XX installments, Eddie has to deal with controlling Zato's decaying corpse in combat until he can find a new host (or, in one Accent Core Plus ending, realizes he's capable of surviving on his own just fine). This is also a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, as it was the way the creative team found to write around Kaneto Shiozawa's death, as he voiced Zato-1. note 
    • Zappa from the same series wakes up with more and more damage to his body every time he is (very frequently) possessed by S-Ko, although in this case it's less that the possession is inherently harmful and more that S-Ko's Hair-Trigger Temper causes her to get Zappa in fights with just about everybody they come across.
  • In FEAR 3, when you're playing as Paxton Fettel, you can only possess a body for a while before it explodes and you're expelled. You also destroy the body if you willingly leave it.
  • In Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, the Light Side ending has the ancient spirit of Marka Ragnos possessing the Big Bad, Tavion, with the help of an ancient artifact that Tavion had used to resurrect him in the first place. Once the artifact is destroyed and Ragnos' spirit leaves Tavion, there's nothing left but her body.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In the first game, Saren's corpse is possessed by Sovereign, burning away all tissue until only the cybernetic components remained.
    • Mass Effect 2; while there's no gameplay consequences, the fact that Harbinger-possessed Collectors crumble into ash on their defeat while regular ones leave corpses suggests that there's something like this going on. Also notable is that their health bar is replaced with an armor bar, indicating they're no longer really alive. Collectors are implanted with Reaper tech, that allows Harbinger to override their nervous systems, effectively driving the implants into overdrive. As Shepard wears them down, the implants work harder to keep the Collector alive, until they burn out, taking the corpse with them.
    • Extended Leviathan channelling in the DLC of the same name can be seriously bad for your health. Passive control seems to be sustainable indefinitely, with one area being under Leviathan control for ten years, but when they actually speak through you it can cause serious damage quickly, as Ann Bryson will demonstrate if you take the Renegade interrupt. Even if you don't, and she's saved, it's pretty much explicit in her War Asset writeup that she sustained a bit of damage, although most of her faculties are intact.
  • In Messiah, whenever Bob possesses someone, that person's physical health is drained to replenish Bob's own health.
  • In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, Dracula can possess people by sneaking up behind them and turning into blood that enters his victims' orifices. His hosts can barely do anything but move slowly as their health slowly deteriorates.
  • The Body Snatcher race known as the Ing in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes usually possess hosts with little trouble, though it is apparently a power that requires a little practice according to Samus's scan notes. Younger Ing sometimes form imperfect possessions that cause permanent damage to the host form. Ing can also possess fresh corpses, but the bodies are still dead so they are slow and zombie-like. If inexperienced Ing bite off more than they can chew and try to possess powerful creatures, the creature can reject them or even kill them from within. The Space Pirates figured this out and began to look into how to prevent possession, though it mainly devolved into Unfriendly Fire or suicide.
  • In Dishonored, Corvo has the ability "Possession" which can be used on either animals or humans, neither of which respond kindly to the process. Animals die once the possession ends (with some, like rats, winding up as Ludicrous Gibs), while humans puke their guts out.
  • Vincent Olmstead from Borderlands 3 "Guns, Love and Tentacles DLC" is a Lovecraft-style cultist trapped inside the heart of an Eldritch Abomination that can turn anyone who puts a ring made from a piece of the heart into a copy of himself that he can control. The twist is that Vincent got put in the heart in the first place because he was terminally ill and that was the only thing that could stop the disease from killing him and since the ring can only recreate his body exactly as it was all the clones are terminally ill too but don't have the heart to keep them alive.
  • Super Mario Odyssey features a "capture" mechanic that lets Mario possess enemies by flinging his partner Cappy onto their heads. He can't possess a T-Rex for too long, though...
  • In Street Fighter this is M.Bison’s main problem. The strength of his Psycho Power is so great that his own body can barely handle a portion of his full power without starting to rapidly breakdown, which has caused his power to fluctuate between games. One of his main goals is to find or create a body capable of handling the full might of his Psycho Power.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has the Ascians, a race of beings that can possess bodies. It takes quite a bit of energy to possess a living host and doing it too much can put a strain on the Asican doing the possessing. Lahabrea was severely weakened due to him hopping from one body to another constantly, which made him weak enough for the primal Thordan to absorb his soul. Emet-Selch had many clones of his host body made so he can retain his full strength due to him possessing the "same" body every time.

    Visual Novels 
  • Individuals unlucky enough to be possessed by Michael Roa Valdamjong in Tsukihime die instantly once he leaves and possesses the next body. The only exception to this rule is Ciel, who somehow managed to survive and gained all the advantages of Complete Immortality as a result.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Zouken Matou is constantly suffering from this. His method of prolonging life is by possessing and molding other bodies by filling them with worms, but each body lasts for a shorter time than the previous one; by the time the game starts, he can only remain in a body for a few months at most. It turns out that the problem is not so much the degenerating quality of his stolen bodies, as it is the fact that his very soul is decaying. This is why he wants the Holy Grail, as it can allow him to achieve immortality not through a wish, but through its true function, the creation of the Third Magic.
    • In the Heaven's Feel route, Shiro is implied to be suffering from this. Having Archer's left arm grafted onto him grants him Archer's stronger projection magic, but various scenes imply that Archer is actually still alive through the arm and dominating Shiro's mind whenever his powers are called upon (making this a case of Powers via Possession). Because Servants have much heavier souls than normal humans, Shiro suffers from backlash whenever he uses the arm - eventually, when he uses it too much in a small time frame, it inflicts brain damage and causes swords to start growing out from under his skin, and in one Bad End Shiro outright becomes a vegetable due to using it too much too quickly. Even right after he receives the arm, Rin and Kirei need to put a magical seal on it to prevent it from causing this trope due to merely being attached to his body. And it's only thanks to the fact that Archer is the potential Future Badass version of Shirou that the grafting procedure worked at all in the first place.


    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-035 is a malevolent comedy mask that takes control of anyone who wears it. The host bodies don't last long since they undergo accelerated decomposition until they become mummified corpses. SCP-035 has expressed interest in SCP-682, since 682's regenerative powers could theoretically allow the mask to use it as a permanent host. The Foundation of course is keeping them separated at all costs.
  • In Noob: La Quête Légendaire, Dortös implies this applies to his Grand Theft Me victims to an extent, due to talking about using his first host until his ressources run out. It however seems to be slow enough that he can actively search for a more compatible host and the video-game context implies his Player Character host will get out of it with lower Hit Points rather than outright dead.
  • Tales from My D&D Campaign: The Dark Ancients are Warforged who have escaped the inevitable degeneration of their living construct bodies by learning to detach their minds, stealing the bodies of younger Warforged. However, stolen bodies burn out three times faster than the normal rate. True constructs are even worse, lasting for mere months before the neural circuitry is burnt out beyond repair.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Legend of Korra, Wan wanted to be able to bend multiple elements to fight Vaatu. The Lion Turtle explained to him that humans lack the energy needed to bend more than one element at a time. To get around this problem, Wan allowed himself to fuse with Raava every time he needed to bend multiple elements. Holding a spirit and its extra power inside his body was extremely dangerous. Raava warned Wan that if she stayed inside him for too long he would die. In the end they solve the problem by making the fusion between their spirits permanent by tapping into the Harmonic Convergence, starting the Avatar Cycle.
  • X-Men: The Animated Series: As mentioned in the comics section, hosting Proteus is not easy on the human body. However, while in the comics it's invariably fatal, in the show he naturally never gets to stay in one body long enough for irreparable damage to be done.
  • When the gods of Onyx Equinox possess mortals, their hosts' bodies quickly warp and degrade under the divine influence, ultimately crumbling into dust or melting into a puddle.