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458384 tn?1295720656

Spirituality & Bipolar Disorder

The Spiritual Life and Bipolar Disorder
Having bipolar disorder doesn't mean you can't also have a spiritual life.  In fact, it may help.






I don't think I'm romanticizing my bipolar disorder in saying that my real faith, the engine that propels me to love better and be better, was born during my severely ill days, that my mood disorder has been a helping hand in teaching me what I'm made of.

Not only can bipolar disorder act as a refiner's fire, purifying the faith of a believer, but manic depression itself, can mimic the behavior of someone growing in her spiritual life. That's great news for me! The next time I get manic and tell an inappropriate joke to a colleague, I can say that I'm just getting closer to God, that's all. A confusing statement, but a true one, I believe.

Carmelite scholar Kevin Culligan, O.C.D., explains this concept in his fascinating essay that was published as part of Dr. Keith J. Egan's book, "Carmelite Prayer: A Tradition for the 21st Century":

"The spiritual life can also easily mask a bipolar disorder or what has traditionally been called a manic-depressive condition. As a mood disorder, depression has usually been linked in systems of classifications of mental disorders with mania, an agitated mood that is at the other end of the affective continuum opposite a depressed or dysphoric mood. Manic symptoms are many: inappropriate elation, excessive irritability, severe insomnia, grandiose notions, increased talking, disconnected and racing thoughts, heightened sexual desire, markedly increased energy, poor judgment, and disruptive social behavior. These symptoms may suddenly appear in a person committed to the spiritual journey and life of prayer as making dramatic prophetic gestures, for example, standing on the street corner denouncing abortion or announcing the imminent Second Coming, or giving away one’s financial savings to charitable causes.

"Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross both stress that social consciousness and service of others are effects of genuine contemplative prayer. However, the sudden extreme, and, to one's family and friends, embarrassing character of a manic episode makes it easily distinguishable from the social fruits of contemplative prayer. Two or more of the manic symptoms noted above continuing over a two-month period can be an indicator of a bipolar disorder.

"As with serious depressive symptoms, evaluation and, if necessary, treatment are recommended. Just as we suspect something wrong when a person is continually down, with low energy, and withdrawn, so we also suspect something amiss when a person is on a continual high, with boundless energy, and talking incessantly.

"The diagnostic rule of thumb with mood disorders is balance between ups and downs. When we observe someone at either end of the mood continuum, higher or lower than we expect in normal everyday life, we may suspect a bipolar condition that is possibly in need of treatment."
4 Responses
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Avatar universal
I have had trouble in the past with being overly talkative and have said things that are very hurtful. Recovering from the repurcussions is difficult as well. Have you ever went through something similar and if so what did you do to help yourself?
Right now I am scared to leave my house. What can I do about that also?
Helpful - 0
505907 tn?1258369340
  I rarely leave the house any more - hell, I hardly leave my bed! I feel that I'm a circus sideshow attraction when I go out in this town. Do you ever notice tht there are plenty of people out there who also say strange upsetting things but are blessedly unaware of how their words effect others and how people think about them. I wish that I too was deaf to the repercussions of my own actions. You wrote this comment some time ago - have things changed for you?
Helpful - 0
458384 tn?1295720656
God Bless & best wishes!  I have been fighting this disorder for years.  I was on meds for a while, then went off of them.  I think it is time for me to get back on the meds.  I think I have been house bound for the last 3 years basically.    I think I might go back to the meds becuz that is the only time I can think of that I had any kind of a "NORMAL"  existence.   I wish you all well. God Bless!
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
Good posting.

If you are staying home bound for the last 3 years, you aren't living as you could.  Talk to your pdoc about good mood stabilizers.  I take Lamictal and it's a life saver for me.  

We can be more effective Christians when we can think more clearly and be a tribute to both prayer and asking for help - including our doctors.

Good luck.
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