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 Marcia Purse

Are Your Religious Beliefs Affected by Mania?

By March 31, 2013

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SunburstA reader says: "I was manic a few months back, and I had many weird and strange beliefs. One was it was the end of the world, another that the moon was going to fall, and another it was the rapture and Jesus was coming. I really believed in them all, and now since I'm back to earth and reality, I am really confused about everything I've been taught in church. Has anyone felt as I did, leading to confusion about what you've been taught?"

One of the possible symptoms of mania is increased religious zeal and/or involvement. One study of patients with schizophrenia found that 24% of the subjects had religious delusions, and those that did appeared to be more severely ill than those who did not. Another study found that one-third of patients with psychosis, including patients with bipolar disorder, had religious delusions. Still another concluded, "Religious delusion is among the central symptoms of severe psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective, and bipolar disorder at the acute phase."

So if you've had a religious experience during mania, you're not alone. Did you, like the reader above, find yourself confused about your beliefs afterward?

Read more on religion and mental illness: The Bible Supports Mental Illness Treatment

Photo: Billy Frank Alexander

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Comments
October 4, 2010 at 5:06 pm
(1) Ryan says:

During a time when I was manic I felt that I was so close to God that at any time I might be taken up to him. I thought that the verses in the Bible that talk about the rapture could have really been talking about an event that happens when someone was as close to God as I was.

When I started coming down some I started thinking about how this was just brain chemistry. I knew I wasn’t really that close to God, it just felt like I was.

This experience totally changed my beliefs. It was a battle, I wasn’t able to just shrug off old beliefs easily, but through a lot of thought and study, I was able to change my beliefs to something that was more in-line with what I learned from my manic experience.

October 5, 2010 at 5:50 am
(2) newfie34 says:

I am Schizoaffective and have this illness since my late teens and now I am almost 35 . I have struggled with religion or beliefs in God all my life . Even though I come from a christian family . I went to Bible school has a child and even a few church services in my early 20′s ! I use to love God I thought that I was a born again christian for a few weeks . After that I hated God and everything about him and the Bible . Right now I have no belief in God or any religion . I even hate the preachers who come on TV and I thing they are out to do anything for money ! I also you might say that i am rebellious against the chruch . So I really don’t know what to believe in Christiany or Islam or other religions ! I think that all people in different relgions are as good as the next , no matter what religion they might come from .

October 5, 2010 at 6:38 am
(3) Ariel says:

I can identify with all the comments made. I think it’s important to get really grounded after such an episode, physical activity is the best of all for this(plus what meds you are taking). Then it is very helpful to talk to an understanding priest, minister, religious sister or a lay person who is theologically educated. They can help you clarify the reality of God’s love for you – no matter who you are or what you are like – you are loved without a pause. Then some reading on the subject matter that puzzles you is the next most helpful thing to do, in my experience. Go well!

October 5, 2010 at 11:02 am
(4) Sharon says:

Right before I went to the hospital, I took a small cross and slipped it into my pocket. I knew God would get me through. But I still want to know when mental patients are manic why religion is such an issue.

October 5, 2010 at 11:54 am
(5) Lori says:

I agree with Aaeril. Once you come down from the mania, you need to get grounded, no matter what thoughts you had prior.
I always have Religious episodes. So far, not the rapture or the moon falling, etc. But, I always feel very close to God and feel I am “more of a child of God than others” and was sent here as an Angel to help others through life. I still feel “that way” constantly. Is it because I’m very sinsitive or is it because God really is closer to us?

October 5, 2010 at 12:23 pm
(6) becca says:

my mental illness experience and treatment were a major factor in my conversion to atheism. I always feel an upsurge in religiousity – even conventional religions – when I’m going manic, it’s one of my warning flags. Proper medication decreases religious feelings in me. I think it all boils down to neuro-chemestry.

October 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm
(7) EliElio says:

I have thought many times that I hear God speak directly to me. Then what I heard turns out to be just the voices in my head.

I believe in God, and angels. However, I do not beleive that if I pray hard enough God will ‘cure’ my bipolar, something my religious friends believe.

My feeling is that God made me this way for a purpose, maybe to educate others about the disorder.

I do not go to church, as I find that many churchgoers are judge’mental’, and only “Sunday Christians”. I have enough judgement and preaching in my life, I do not need more. My siblings are gay, religion does not allow them to be who they are.

October 5, 2010 at 1:21 pm
(8) Julie says:

My father and brother are bipolar. Both have had multiple manic episodes if a religious nature. What’s frustrating is my father really believes what is happening and will write and send 20page emails in the middle of the night to hundreds of people all with the intention of converting them to his extreme beliefs. This behavior has really impacted my view of God. It’s nice to hear there are people with bipolar manias like this that take responsibility and don’t stay in denial.

October 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm
(9) Richard says:

Spiritual experiences are a reality and nothing to do with being mentally ill.If god exists then we are a part of god, which is love.There is nothing wrong with experiencing love,spirituality in the form of lightness, a desire for peace, and people who label all spiritual experiences as delusion either have never experienced true spirituality which exists, or a giultily trying to deny the existence of the possiblity that they are close to god.When one is meditating serotonin and all good neurotransmission of the pleasure giving hormones are produced=which make us feel good,and in touch.These are not selusions-however delusions do exist,and I tink mature investifgation is needed.Before critical condemnation of the experience.

October 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm
(10) S King says:

Looking back, I know I was manic when I was led to join a cult.

I was at the top of my career when I was attracted to a commune led by a guru. I left my husband, my family, my job, my car and all of my friends to join this group.

I thought I was devoting my life wholly to God. What could be more important in life than pursuing God continually. Unimaginable things happened during this experience. I tried to escape twice, before being released after they realized they couldn’t keep me.

My mother took me back. I was a thin as a rail. I had lost everything. Soon after, I was led to the truth that God didn’t require all of this of me. That what I had been taught all of my life was true. That I can’t “work” my way to heaven. Only by trust in God can I have assurance that my life now is pleasing to Him.

It was just one of the extreme experiences I’ve had with this disorder called bipolar. Today, I am unable to work and have retired on disability at 48.

October 5, 2010 at 6:57 pm
(11) Lost.Cause says:

My last hypomanic episode included a distortion of my religious views. When I returned to “normal” I found that my view of religion had changed.

October 7, 2010 at 12:04 am
(12) Meghan says:

I think this should ask, “Do your religious beliefs affect your mania?” I don’t get any religious delusions or hallucinations. I am not religious, never have been, was raised to believe that organized religion is brainwashing. I do believe in a spiritual connectedness with the rest of the world, animal, mineral, vegetable, cosmic. This belief intensifies with mania & at one time I did begin to believe there really was a connection between me, one person, and another person as the Earth, the moon, and the sun were connected and then later, that we were personifications of them here on Earth.

October 7, 2010 at 9:49 am
(13) Liz says:

When I have been severely manic (bipolar 1), I have lost touch with reality and had many religious delusions, positive and negative. I am a Christian, and of course this is very disturbing. But I have found that given time and recovery from those episodes, I have always come back to my core beliefs of faith in God. During recovery, I have found that I don’t have it in me to pray for a few months. But, I just try to relax and know that one day I will be able to pray again. I praise God now for my current health, and hope for the best for the future while staying on my meds.

October 8, 2010 at 3:21 pm
(14) Bill J says:

Religion & bi-polar have one thing in common; their BOTH neurological disorders, in fact if BOTH aren’t kept under control, dangerous situations CAN occur. Points of fact; bi-polar people with or without treatment, can be promiscuous which can be very dangerous, they can spend frivilously, which can lead to bankruptcy & can have episodes of grandeur. Religion can be dangerous, in fact there’s been more people maimed, crippled & killed in the name of “God” for their beliefs, & lifestyle just because other people thought that what they were doing was an “abomination of God”, even though their bible says in Matt 7:1 “judge not lest you be judged”. Isn’t it funny that when you’re talking to God/Jesus you’re praying, but, if they talk back,…you’re schizophrenic, I’m not saying that to make fun of people that have that illness, but people who say that they hear voices & there’s nobody physically there, are usually considered schizophenic. Speaking of religion; some people who are religious, say that the adult industry should be banned, but, they’re convieniently forgetting that their bible has passages that contain; incest Adam & Eve & their family, Noah & his family (think about it, there HAD to be something going on there, everybody else on the planet DROWNED because the whole earth was flooded!) Attempted murder; Abraham & his son, to prostitution; the lady that was going to be killed with rocks, but Jesus saved her, remember “those of you without sin, let him cast the first stone”? The way I figure it is, if Jesus didn’t condemn someone for their “sins”, then why should we? Put that in your bible religious people!!…..Oh yeah, I forgot, it’s ALREADY THERE!!!!

October 9, 2010 at 11:18 am
(15) Becka says:

I am bi-polar Christain and I do have times I feel closer to God. In the depressed state I cry out and question his reasons for allowing me to have this disorder. In my manic states I feel that answers to lifes mysteries are rolling through my head. Why this and why that. There have been times I just knew I was some kind of tortured soul doomed to live out some sentence of punishment. Then again I know in my heart and soul that this disorder is not from God but from humanity and the science that is the human body. I find if I remember that this is a medical disorder in the way the brain works, it answers my questions about why I must endure it. God didn’t give me bipolar, he sees that I am affilcted with a problem and loves me anyway. I’ve been up and down enough to know that God never leaves my side no matter my mood. It comforts me and gets me through it. When I return to “normal” I can look back and see how God helped me. Its not hard to see and its not my imagination. You either believe in God or you don’t. Its always your choice wether to pursue Gods help or not. For me its the answer to getting through. Granted there are some that go way out into left field with religion. But God didn’t create religion. Humans did. Just as humans also created doctrine and rules. Getting past all the “humans” and their opinons and steeling in to studying the bible for myself was the best thing I ever did. You have to apporch God on your on. One on one to know what he’s really like. While pastors and teachwer are a great help, its no subsitute for a personal journey.

October 11, 2010 at 6:11 pm
(16) Michelle says:

It didn’t help for me that after being in what I thought was a prayer group for about 16-1/2 years actually turned out to be a cult. The leader really messed with my mind and my spiritual beliefs so badly that any delusions I had I didn’t know if I’d had them or whether they came from the leader. We were always trained (in 3 forms of martial arts) on what to do for the end of the world. I started seeing ninja-type people sneaking into church to attack and I was on the “ready” to take them down. Of course no one else saw them. I saw a missile crashing all fiery down on I-35. Even now, 10 months since my escape, I am in “ready” in case my parents ask me to leave if I don’t do chores or something right. I don’t feel very settled, excuse the pun. I fear that if they really knew how I fear that they’ll ask me to leave, they might really ask me to leave. I have seen statues move in church. The first time it happened, the cult leader knew it without my saying it and told me that she prayed I’d experience it like she’d been experiencing it. Even after my escape, I continue to experience this, even though I don’t want to. I’m afraid it’s a delusion or maybe just the fact I’m like the cult leader, and I can’t handle that. I’m pretty confused.

September 27, 2011 at 11:33 am
(17) shaun says:

Michelle:
I feel your pain. You’re a little confused right now and guess what, that’s ok. It sounds like you’ve been through a real nightmare. Give yourself a little credit first of all. You made it out, you escaped. You went back to the safehouse – HOME. Your parents are not going to make you leave over chores. Talk to them, tell them what you feel, explain the fears you have. Since I’ve been there – I think you’re experiencing a little break with reality, like the statues moving. I think you know that this is not “normal”. You’re already questioning those events. Good. Maybe you need some medication, or just some therapy to talk things out. Remember though, give yourself time to heal and to put the pieces back in order.

November 9, 2010 at 9:51 pm
(18) Martin Jones says:

I am a mental health support worker, and I believe the rapture is real (will be real), and I think I know what it is.

It’s not crazy to think of these things.

Many of the things that the reader says they believed before they came back down to Earth I would agree with, in a sense, and I am neither insane not fundamentalist in any religious doctrine.

You are not alone.

Love
Martin

March 30, 2012 at 5:52 am
(19) wayne says:

mania,schizophrenia they all seem related to me,i found god at about the same time i had my first schizophrenic episode,seems that a belief in miracles,devine healing,signs and wonders and all other supernatural occurances when believed enough with a mania can contort a mind so much that anything is possible,i saw jesus in the clouds,heard voices ,had visions,and numerous other supernatural things happen to me,everyone ageed upon by anyother religious nuts that i associated with at the time,seems to me that to follow the bible correctly,to love the poor,sick,lame etc leads you to an environment which is ahaven for the mentally disturbed

April 18, 2012 at 10:24 am
(20) Travis says:

I have had three acute psychotic episodes and each time there has been a religios element.

In 2009, i had a nervous breakdown from stress at work and called to the Lord for help. A year later when weeding myself off the meds with a doctor i ended up in the hospital, and i was religious. I then took myself off all medication for a year and lost 35 lbs. I relapsed, but believe the holy spirit entered into me and that I had a religious experience in a hotel. I believe that mental illness and religoun has crossed paths in my life – and I believe that I spoke with a a spiritual version of my God Father.

Nobody can judge your experiences. Either they are mental illness, religous experiences, or perhaps a bit of both. At the end of the day God will decide you fate.

Good luck everyone and keep the faith.

Travis

April 2, 2013 at 11:30 am
(21) Cheryl says:

Marcia, great article on mental illness and the Bible. I totally agree that the Ryans are wrongly exegeting when they say the Bible doesn’t support medication for mental illnesses. This is especially true in light of current research which illustrates the damage that mental illnesses can do to the brain.

April 2, 2013 at 7:06 pm
(22) Liz says:

I had a mania episode 5 years ago where I thought my boss was Jesus. 3 1/2 years ago I had another episode that left me very confused about what I always thought to be true with regards of my religion. I reconnected with my 1st love on facebook & had an affair on my husband of 20 yrs. During this episode, I thought my lover was also Jesus. During this time he showed me the Zeitgest religion story on youtube. He also told me about “the secret” audio book where it talks about the law of attraction. After it was all said and done, I don’t understand how such a “loving” Jesus could allow my illness ruin my marriage. I don’t know that I really believe in Jesus being our savior or the bible. If you watch the video on youtube (find the one for 25 minutes-part 1) maybe you can better understand why Im so confused. I know there is a higher being, but “the secret” book tought me that we attract what we believe and if we believe and think positive things, that’s what we’ll get. So why do we need to pray??? Can anyone else relate to this?

June 16, 2013 at 8:15 am
(23) Staycalm says:

I’m a 22 year old male and I had a strong faith until my symptoms got fully unhinged. Now what I have is disgust for all religious ideology, and pity for all believers. I look at the world around me and can’t help but hold back a laugh about this sickening misuse of Earth and life. I feel no emptiness, or church-dealt addiction to Certainty. I feel no guilt from my loss of faith, relieved, if anything. I sometimes entertain the idea, but I just feel like a foolish piece of livestock and that ridiculous human need is a serious mental illness all it’s own. Polar opposite of the long lost pre-BP me.

July 12, 2013 at 10:04 pm
(24) Grant says:

I am currently 28 yr old male

I’ve had two manic episodes…and never have taken prescription medication

I studied various religions and tried to push Christianity on myself but something just wasn’t clicking….so I fell away into lust/alcohol/drugs/lewd speech….

But after a second episode (~2 hours long) I’ve gained better understanding

Here is what I’ve concluded….first let me say I believe bi-polar is exactly what is states….a “double minded” condition

James 1:8 ESV
“He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

1. Our mania is onset by pride, ego, self worth; thinking we know it all, what does the Bible say? It says to think others better than yourself.

2. The opposite end is a false sense of the value of what we have…or to say “God where are you, I can’t “feel” you”
what does the Bible say? God is always with us….not based on feelings….

July 12, 2013 at 10:05 pm
(25) Grant says:

This is what I physically do to keep my mind/soul/body in check

1. Get out of bed in the morning…wake up….thank God for what you have and whatever senses you can enjoy e.g., sight, touch

2. Physical exercise…any form (Go for walks in the morning/evening….humans in times past didn’t sit on the couch all day)

3. Read a daily proverb/psalm…and a small study in the evening….(Don’t think beyond what is written, understand the context and what is going on in the passage….help your faith grow in wisdom and understanding)

4. STAY AWAY FROM ALCOHOL, DRUGS, COFFEE, NICOTINE, SUGAR etc….
I can’t stress this enough…I’m not being legalistic…it creates false highs in your body and then hard lows…..are any of these substances beneficial? ….don’t get me wrong, I’ll have a small glass of wine/beer here and there…..but do this….fast from these substances for a week……and if you decide to use them again…..see how it affects your body…..Alcohol is a depressant…..coffee is a stimulant…..Nicotine is addictive and gives you a high…..sugar spikes your blood sugar levels and makes you moody…….

5. Eat healthy…..someone recently told me…..I don’t really eat healthy…..but I will only eat what I can make myself…….Currently I’m a health nut, but I’m not going to kill myself if I have a cookie here and there

6. Sleep….you have to sleep…..if you feel awake and it’s getting late….turn off the TV/Computer…..go do some stretches and prayers…..meditate on sleep and slow your mind/breathing

7. Trust God….He does love us…..it’s us that changes….not Him

I have one question though……or rather request…….could someone explain how they actually got into their manic state?

For me, both times were onset with the use of marijuana…..but I also know it had a lot to do with pride and a high image of self……Pride is so demonic I hate it and realize it now……

Jesus Christ is God in the flesh

November 3, 2013 at 7:38 am
(26) Paul says:

Grant, God bless you my man and thanks for your encouraging posts. I was diagnosed/had my first episode shortly after turning 20 in 2002. Religion (specificially Christianity) was intrinsically a part of this as it is for many. However, rather than drive me away from God after the episode ceased, it cemented my faith and for that I’ll be forever grateful. Firstly, I was raised with an intellectual belief in Jesus Christ. If you’d asked me anytime prior to that episode if I believed in Him it would’ve been like asking if I believe I’m the product of a human father & mother. ‘Well, duh?’ would’ve been a likely response :) But I spent that year leading up to the episode growing in curiosity and interest, reading the Left Behind series that was surging in popularity at the time, praying, etc. But it was a dead faith. There was no conviction of sin and although I was occasionally attending an evangelical, Bible-believing church, I never once remember “hearing” the Gospel and so know I was still blind. It was only in the midst of the episode that I recall a specific, decisive moment where it FINALLY broke through and that head knowledge translated to heart knowledge as I truly believed for the first time: “Jesus is the Son of God.”

February 8, 2014 at 7:39 pm
(27) Christian says:

Great article thank you. Hold on, someone said about living in denial when not rejecting their faith out-and-out. I’m not in denial if I don’t destroy my faith and join the crowd in hating my faith as some sad apparently intelligent atheist who’s looks down on those of faith. I have accepted the effect of bipolar on my opinions and delusions. But I don’t call mine bipolar anyway, its the demon trust me you wouldn’t believe what happened to me in my crisis, the severity of my situation and the unexplained phenomena I experienced. Ah doesn’t matter they all predict the worst for me anyway, and i’ll die proving them wrong. Theres a thin line between genius and insanity. I’ve had the psychosis, I’ve changed religion to Christianity, I’ll forever question myself and my true reasons being Christian sadly due to existential despair as opposed to what I believe about someone who looked out for me. I’ve also seen all the bullshit and left the church, but i remain strong in my faith, I’ll never judge anyone else for being atheist or whatever, and i won’t join the Christian convert the world bandwagon either, my faith is it’s own walk, and so yes, you can see the profound improvement in me from my recovery from psychosis and it’s benefits if you know me. But, wouldn’t this be the case for anyone who suffers a crisis and survives, they’re stronger for it right?

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