as with many psychological issues, there are often both a physical and spiritual aspect of manic depression / bipolar disorder. While we believe psychologists often miss the true spiritual nature of the sickness, we strongly encourage anyone suffering with a mental illness to seek medical attention and counseling.
Bipolar Disorder, or BD, (formerly known as Manic Depressive Disorder) is a mental illness classified as a mood disorder. There are several forms of the disorder, some being more severe, and others emphasizing either the mania or the depression side of the disorder. In general, the disorder is characterized by extreme highs and lows in mood, which affect emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. The manic episodes are what make this mood disorder different from other forms of depression. Mania can include any of the following symptoms: a feeling of inflated self-importance, grandiose thinking, hyper speech, racing thoughts, increased energy level, risky behaviors, and wildly unrealistic judgment. The manic depressive is easily agitated or angered when these fantastic views inevitably meet reality. Thus, a manic episode is typically followed by an explosion of anger and a plunge into depression and despair.
The behaviors and mood swings are the primary indicators for diagnosing manic depression, as there is no organic or physical evidence of a chemical imbalance that causes this disorder. The research simply identifies areas of brain activity, not the precise neurochemical reactions to indicate a causal relationship to the symptoms (the brain activity could be a result of the disorder rather than a cause). Furthermore, medicine that targets brain chemistry is not an exact science. Medicine can reduce manic depressive symptoms for some, but not all patients.
The Bible does not use the term bipolar or manic. These are man-made terms used to describe behavior patterns and characteristics. The science of mental illness is a way to study and diagnose problems rather than find solutions for them. On the other hand, the Bible does provide answers to issues related to Bipolar Disorder; for example, a manic episode includes a prideful view of self, a strong desire to gratify wants, and uncontrolled, destructive anger. These are natural desires we are all born with, but we respond differently to them depending on our DNA, environment, and spiritual condition. These factors all play a role in how Bipolar Disorder can develop and take hold in a person’s life. Having Bipolar Disorder is not a sin, but blaming sin on BD is inappropriate. It is we who make sinful choices due to our sinful nature.
In summary, Bipolar Disorder is a type of human frailty that is ultimately caused by our sinful heart condition. BD does not determine a person’s identity, nor is it a life sentence that cannot be overcome. The answer to surmounting BD lies in the spiritual reality we face. We need salvation through Jesus Christ. Salvation sets the captive free from the chains of sin (Proverbs 5:22; Romans 6:6, 14). Without Jesus there is no hope of a redemptive work in our hearts to overcome human weakness.
The gospel is the first need of someone who suffers from BD. A relationship with Jesus is the first step and the only way to true, lasting healing. For those who are walking through this trial, the biblical advice is to examine what part they need to own and know how to respond biblically to temptation.
Having a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder will indicate an area of struggle, particularly with anger and pride (self-importance, selfish desires). A Christian who is dying to self and following Jesus must face these weak areas like he would any other temptation through the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 13:12-14; Ephesians 6:10-18). Discipling, biblical counsel, support from Christian friends, and personal Bible study are essential tools for spiritual growth and victory over habitual sin. Medication and psychiatric/psychological counseling can be helpful, as long as it is done in conjunction with spiritual guidance. Otherwise, such counseling is nothing more than a band-aid for BD’s symptoms and could potentially cause more harm if it keeps a person from seeing his greatest need is Jesus. Those who place their trust in Jesus will experience the hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:1-5).