“A Spirit of Bipolar”

Another common belief in the church is that mental illness has its roots in the demonic.  People who hear voices are hearing evil spirits that have somehow inserted themselves in their lives. I’ve heard about a “spirit of suicide” and a “spirit of bipolar”.  The Bible does speak to people being possessed by unclean spirits being mentally ill; witness the story of the Gadarene demoniac, whom Jesus healed by casing his unclean spirits into a herd of pigs.

However, the only problem with that belief is that voices, suicidal impulses, and bipolar symptoms do respond to medication.  The right medicine can make the voices go away. I’ve read this experience in testimony after testimony about the efficacy of drugs in helping paranoid schizophrenics silence their voices with anti-psychotics.  Evil spirits don’t respond to drugs. The brain does.  That being said, I don’t deny that miraculous healing can happen.  I’ve seen it over and over throughout my church experience.  And since bipolar disorder is a disorder of the brain, I don’t doubt you can be healed of it miraculously.

However, that is not to say that you should not pursue every medical avenue possible to aid in your healing.  That leads to another belief prevalent in Christian circles—that taking psychotropic drugs is a sign of unbelief or lack of reliance on God to bring you through a depression. Early in my recovery, I called a young lady I knew who suffered a serious clinical depression for advice on how to deal with my diagnosis.  She described some harrowing experiences, including such a deeply depressed mood that her husband considered committing her to the state mental hospital.

At that point, I believe I was taking an eight-drug cocktail to try to bring me out of my depression. So I asked her about her medication. She said she did not take any. She quoted the scripture that Israel, instead of relying on God to win a military battle for them, made an alliance with Egypt instead for help.  God told them that since they put more faith in the “horses and chariots of Egypt” than in him, that they were going to lose the battle.  And they did.  She likened taking medication to not having faith in God to heal you. She said that she simply “prayed without ceasing” and she believed that her show of faith in doing that led to her coming out of the depression.

Again I was crushed.  I felt put down and degraded where I had been looking for encouragement.  I could see the analogy she was making, but I felt that it was a misapplication of Scripture to liken mental illness to God’s relationship with Israel.  I wondered if she would tell a Type I diabetic to stop taking insulin.  Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is necessary for life.  The Type I diabetic does not produce any insulin and so has to take it in shots or pumps or risk death.  If bipolar disorder is a shortage of chemicals in the brain, and medication can stimulate their production, who in their right mind wouldn’t take the medication?  But suspicion of psychotropic medications is deeply ingrained in some Christians’ belief systems.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kitt O'Malley
    Jan 06, 2015 @ 17:58:54

    Ignorance, misinformation, misinterpretation and misapplication of the Bible is tragic and must be fought. God gave us the intelligence to find medical treatments and cures for many illnesses, including, of course, mental illnesses.

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  2. jdlwhitehead
    Jan 06, 2015 @ 18:40:28

    I just find it amazing that with all the evidence coming out nowadays about how the brain operates that people still hold psychotropic meds with such suspicion. Relying on God is certainly the most important thing, but doctors can be instruments of God in healing and education. Look at Luke, author of the gospel. He was a medical doctor. I just don’t understand it.

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  3. 4gazpacho
    Jan 07, 2015 @ 09:13:04

    If we applied this reasoning strictly, then no one should wear glasses, use canes, use over the counter cold meds when they have a cold, take meds to lower their high blood pressure, people with gout should not take their medications, and so forth. But the scripture was referring to a substitute belief and trust in something other than God. I take meds to keep my blood pressure and diabetes under control because God allowed people to discover chemicals that can do that. It hasn’t replaced my dependence on God one bit. The Bible says in I Samuel that God looks upon the heart, so he knows our motives intimately. He can tell where we put our trust and where we don’t. I’m so sorry you felt put down!

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  4. jdlwhitehead
    Jan 07, 2015 @ 12:32:02

    I agree completely with you. That’s not to say God can’t heal us miraculously. But it’s his choice to do so. What struck me as weird about the whole situation was that the girl in question was once a psychiatric social worker. She didn’t have ignorance as an excuse. Can doctors be wrong? Yes. But you’re right. It’s an attitude of the heart and who you’re trusting in .

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  5. Tony
    Mar 19, 2016 @ 16:53:02

    1 John 5:19. I am filled with the holy spirit and have bi-polar.
    The apostle Paul had a huge ministry and a demon also.
    Hello there, we just want truth, this is my truth, the truth for me is Christ, Jesus said “I am the truth!” He also said; You shall suffer hardships as good soldiers in Christ !! I am a target because Christ in me threatens satan’s kingdom.
    Jesus said: I shall build my church AND THE VERY GATES OF HELL shall not prevail against it !

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