Christianity and Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness, and mental illnesses in general are disputed in many Christian circles. Although physical disabilities are readily accepted in Christianity, bipolar disorder is a "hidden disability," and not as readily accepted.
For example, when psychotic symptoms of bipolar disorder – such as hallucinations and delusions (and even paranoia) – are exhibited during a manic episode, the person may be accused of "having demons" and, in some churches, attempts may be made to cast out such demons.
In other churches, bipolar disorder may be denied as a valid illness altogether, while in others the person with the disorder may be accused of "making it up," causing confusion for the person who was diagnosed with certainty by their doctor or psychiatrist.
Should word be known in the church that the individual has bipolar disorder, that person may feel the ugliness of stigma that surrounds anything people fear or do not understand. The stigma that surrounds mental illness far surpasses the stigma surrounding fears of old – such as race, creed or color – as education and time have replaced these older fears. In some churches, the person may be shunned and, in other churches, the person may even be asked to leave, because people are simply afraid and ignorant of mental illness in general and bipolar disorder in specific.
Even concerned friends and fellow church members might ask the person such questions as, "Are you sure that you have bipolar disorder?" At that point, the individual with bipolar disorder might even question their own diagnosis.
"Maybe you should pray about it," they may further offer, and the individual might do so; however, when they are not "healed" from their disorder (as there is no cure for bipolar disorder, divine or otherwise), they may begin to question their own faith.
"I am a good Christian," they may wonder, "so why hasn't God healed my bipolar disorder?"
They may further ask themselves, "If I have so much faith, why do I still have this disorder?"
Then the questioning their faith (a fundamental tenet of the Christian church), may cause further confusion on the part of the individual with bipolar disorder. It has caused some to stop praying, and others to turn away from Christianity entirely.
The worst problem with Christianity, however, is when a religious leader tells the dutiful Christian to stop taking their medication, assuring them, "God will heal you." This can be a matter of life and death for the individual with bipolar disorder. Should they go off their medication, they stand a good chance of going into a bipolar episode, and a greater chance for suicidal ideations (and even possible carry-through of those thoughts).
Having demons cast out of them that do not exist, being accused of not having something for which they have been diagnosed, questioning their own faith, being stigmatized, and (worst of all) possibly going off their medication at the bequest of their religious leader – these are the some of the problems that a person with bipolar disorder must grapple with if they are a Christian.
David Oliver is the nation's leading experts on helping and supporting a loved one with bipolar disorder. You can get learn about many of David's little known, yet effective strategies to cope and deal with your loved one's bipolar by clicking here right now. View all articles by David Oliver