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oladotun

Christianity & Mental Illness

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oladotun    0

For about two decades now I have srtuggled with severe clinical depression. When I was a fundie, I would go to ministers and spiritual mentors and ask for help, and they would tell me in essence that if I had enough faith, I would not be depressed. So I prayed, I fasted, I tithed and added a "benevolent offering" for good measure. I went to deliverance services and even once had someone supposedly "cast the spirit of depression" out of my soul. When I told someone that I was seeing a psychologist to address my issues, I was told that all I needed was to stand on the word of God (whatever that meant), so I started memorizing whole verses of Scripture to repeat to the devil whenever I felt depressed to show him that I was a serious Christian. NONE of this worked long term and this was the beginning of my dissilusionment with Christianity. It is a form of control and when you don't get the results that they say you should have, you are made to feel INCREDIBLY guilty with a sense of failure. Today, a combination of medication and talk-therapy has helped alleviate my depression and made my life more manageable.

 

Why does the church frown on mental illness as a spiritual weakness?

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Vixentrox    62

Christians suffer from mental illness period. They believe the most outrageous things, go through logical twists and turns to justify the barbarity of thier god and religion and to defend thier indefensible holy book. I don't know what the name for this mental illness is but it seems to be no less serious than depression or other things.

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Why does the church frown on mental illness as a spiritual weakness?

I may have more to say on this later, but the Church (in general) has not come to grips with mental illness because it is not addressed as an illness in the bible, but rather as "possession." Epilepsy was finally recognized to be something other than possession, but not so much will mental illness.

 

Mental processes are thought to be manifestations of the "soul", and so an aberration in thinking without any identifiable disease process would then be an aberration of the soul, and therefore amenable to religious "treatment."

 

Also, many priests don't receive specific training in dealing with mental illness either, so they are as frightened as a medieval priest, and what they do is frequently as ignorant.

 

I wrote something about this in greater detail, but it is at home right now. I hope this is helpful so far.

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Guest Davka   
Guest Davka

I suspect another part of the reason is that the church has seen what happens to people who get medical treatment for mental disorders: they often leave the church and become atheist or agnostic. Since this "fruit" is obviously evil, the entire practice of secular psychology/psychiatry must be evil as well.

 

Any thing that poses a threat to the Christian world-view or holds the potential to de-convert Christians must be guarded against. This includes mind-altering substances, SSRIs, Higher Criticism, secular psychology, and wild uninhibited orgiastic Harry Potter showings.

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OpheliaGinger    591

I grew up in the Church of Christ, so me going to a psychiatrist wasn't frowned upon, but then again, I never really brought my mental health up in conversations. It really does depend on what sect of Christianity you are from; I probably would have committed suicide if I had been raised Pentecostal as opposed to a church that doesn't mind people seeking out secular medical help.

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RaisedPB    0

I agree that I think it is that they mostly don't understand it because of their world view and views on self, the "flesh", the soul, and how all of that supposedly relates to god and the "holy spirit".

 

I am currently also seeing a psychologist and a psychiatrist (for meds) for depression and anxiety. Prior to realizing that I needed to seek professional help, I read the bible, prayed, bought all sorts of "christian" books on curing yourself of depression or anxiety, and none of it worked. Then, as you said, the guilty feelings from not seeing improvement just made it worse.

 

As Shyone said, they think it's a spiritual issue and jesus can fix it if you really have him living in your heart, blah, blah, blah....

 

The ironic thing is that the conclusion I have come to with the help of my "secular" psychologist is that a significant source of my symptoms (or worsening of them) was because of what I was doing to myself trying to hold on to my faith, not because I didn't have enough. Things have improved with the help of therapy and a SSRI, and I look forward to improving more as I shed the guilt and fear of fundamentalist christianity.

 

As Davka suggested, it is interesting how many people suffering from a mental illness are in christianity, and how many leave when they find help outside of it.

 

So my question is: Does the religion attract people with mental illnesses, or does it cause them? (tongue-in-cheek....sorta...)

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PaulQ    8

I think it has more to do with the fact that they all believe the path to getting over depression is to get closer to Christ. They have themselves utterly convinced that their religion is the only path to true happiness, so if you're depressed, you can't be a real Christian. Being depressed discredits their religion, so they'd rather not address it.

 

Personally, I've always found the Buddhist books I've come across to offer a lot of good advice on how to find happiness and to cope with depression. Not that I'd encourage anyone to become a Buddhist, just that they're a lot better at addressing this stuff than Christianity is or ever will be.

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I dealt with my depression/ptsd via Buddhist meditation for years after Christianity failed. It's better than nothing, but drugs are better yet. Well they are less work anyway. I refused the drugs for years, figuring that they were a spiritual cop out at best. Maybe they are, but I got tired of being spiritual.

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PaulQ    8

I dealt with my depression/ptsd via Buddhist meditation for years after Christianity failed. It's better than nothing, but drugs are better yet. Well they are less work anyway. I refused the drugs for years, figuring that they were a spiritual cop out at best. Maybe they are, but I got tired of being spiritual.

 

I wonder how much Christianity contributes to the problem of depression? I also wonder if Buddhist type meditations and teachings from a young age could help curb depression?

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Guest Davka   
Guest Davka

I dealt with my depression/ptsd via Buddhist meditation for years after Christianity failed. It's better than nothing, but drugs are better yet. Well they are less work anyway. I refused the drugs for years, figuring that they were a spiritual cop out at best. Maybe they are, but I got tired of being spiritual.

 

I wonder how much Christianity contributes to the problem of depression? I also wonder if Buddhist type meditations and teachings from a young age could help curb depression?

 

I was raised with Buddhist- and Hindu-type meditation: repetition of a mantra, awareness of thoughts and/or breathing, watching a candle, etc. Anything to create awareness of the here/now, and to get outside yourself so as to see who you aren't. Zen ideas were part of my upbringing, as was Daoist philosophy. None of it really did the trick.

 

I find now, however, that combining SSRIs with meditative practice and awareness is more effective than SSRIs alone. Maybe for some people, meditation by itself would re-train the brain sufficiently. For me it was not enough.

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I don't have any real way to prove it, but I really think my Dad's bipolar disorder was facilitated/exacerbated/triggered by hardcore fundamentalist christianity. I feel that I could've easily gone down the same road if I'd held on to the fairy-tale.

 

Because the way I see it, to adhere to Christianity with the beyond life or death seriousness that it claims to require, you have only a few choices:

 

1. You can nurture a studied, deliberate ignorance.

 

2. You can lie to yourself- some people call it "compartmentalization".

 

3. Or you can drive yourself mad trying to force it to make sense, and fuck up your life trying to make unworkable principles 'work'.

 

My Dad went with the third option, and I might have done the same.

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I don't have any real way to prove it, but I really think my Dad's bipolar disorder was facilitated/exacerbated/triggered by hardcore fundamentalist christianity. I feel that I could've easily gone down the same road if I'd held on to the fairy-tale.

 

Because the way I see it, to adhere to Christianity with the beyond life or death seriousness that it claims to require, you have only a few choices:

 

1. You can nurture a studied, deliberate ignorance.

 

2. You can lie to yourself- some people call it "compartmentalization".

 

3. Or you can drive yourself mad trying to force it to make sense, and fuck up your life trying to make unworkable principles 'work'.

 

My Dad went with the third option, and I might have done the same.

I'm probably wrong here, but I think religion facilitates and perpetuates mental illness and attracts the mentally ill. I don't think it causes it though.

 

Most mental illness has a chemical imbalance of some sort (the reason SSRIs and Lithium help as well as other drugs), but religion provides what looks like a solution (to the person who's ill and those who worship with him or her).

 

There is something about the mindset that takes those who are susceptible to the message and takes them in hook, line and sinker. They have some trouble distinguishing between reality and unreality as it is, and the promises sound like something they need - salvation, eternal life, etc. "Just do this, and you will be forgiven." For someone already in the throws of depression, guilt is a powerful motivator, and forgiveness sounds like peace and a cure. George Sodini is a good example. This is what he wrote before massacring a bunch of people at a fitness salon:

 

“Be Ye Holy, even as I have been Ye holy! Thus saith the lord thy God!”, as pastor Rick Knapp would proclaim. Holy ****, religion is a waste. But this guy teaches (and convinced me) you can commit mass murder then still go to heaven. Ask him.

 

Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.

 

I think.

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John09    3

 

Why does the church frown on mental illness as a spiritual weakness?

 

Because they think that mental illness is the result of sin. They want to think they are so victorious that they have overcome stuff like this. Believe me, more christians struggle with mental illness than you know. They are just too fearful to be honest about their weaknesses, since all the other christians around them will criticize them and tell them they are sinful.

 

I am so glad you got the help you needed. I'm so glad you didn't keep buying into their madness.

 

Way to go.

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bolianbob    7

I'm beginning to suspect that christianty played a huge role in the development of my depression and anxiety disorder. Now, depression runs through my family, so there is a genetic predisposition there; however, like I stated above, I believe the religious belief that I grew up in exacerbated my mental illness. I don't blame my mother for any of the mythical things she taught me, she has anxiety issues as well, and religion gave her comfort, so naturally she passed on those beliefs to me; the thing however, was she took things to the extreme. It was a high crime to watch care bears, inspector gadget (because the bad guy sounded like satan), anything that was remotely evil, like a 'innocent' child-like witch on a kid's afternoon show was deemed of the devil, because those evil things existed and I should not partake of that. This was all when I was around 4-6. But as I grew older, not only did these fears of hers extend to 'demonic' things on tv, but also anything remotely sexual was utter wrong and damnable. I still struggle with these thoughts that flutter through my mind on a whim.

 

I look back at it now and how I sooo internalized those fears...how they became apart of my OCD, the endless nights of anxiousness, thinking that a thought would lead to demonic possession...evil, evil, evil, seeing a cartoon devil brought about the thought that I was going to get possesd, and that I 'wanted' to get possessed. The fear was always evil,sin based. I remember having these obsessive thoughts, and I would run to the bible hoping to make the demon flee... I ran to my safe place, and that was the bible, it was God and his reassurances that he was with me. Now, thankfully my mom had great sense to send me to a doctor, he was a christian, but he helped me immensely, by sending me to psycho therapists who put me on medication, and who gave me rational steps to curb my anxiety. But yeah, my whole anxiousness revolved around the evil that was going to get me, or how I internalized the words of the pastor that we are evil people who cannot do good things, but only by the grace of god; so naturally what was an anxious, impressionable teenager to think? This disorder is still with me. Some people can have a silly thought and it won't phase them in the least, but me, I internalize it and have compartmentalize it, I don't know why.

 

For instance, the last couple of weeks have been really up and down in regards to my anxious level; it all started when low and behold, I went to a movie. The trailers to the movie were not that great, one was Legion, the one where God sends angels and demons to judge the world. Well, seeing those demons or creatures or whatever, just sent me off a wave of anxiety...then that led me to an existential nihilistic crisis of my own, but, guess what, I made it through with rational thinking. I'm still by no means out of the clear, but I sense myself getting stronger within my mind to conquer mythic based fears. I can't believe it. This is very lethargic letting this all out.

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I don't have any real way to prove it, but I really think my Dad's bipolar disorder was facilitated/exacerbated/triggered by hardcore fundamentalist christianity. I feel that I could've easily gone down the same road if I'd held on to the fairy-tale.

 

Because the way I see it, to adhere to Christianity with the beyond life or death seriousness that it claims to require, you have only a few choices:

 

1. You can nurture a studied, deliberate ignorance.

 

2. You can lie to yourself- some people call it "compartmentalization".

 

3. Or you can drive yourself mad trying to force it to make sense, and fuck up your life trying to make unworkable principles 'work'.

 

My Dad went with the third option, and I might have done the same.

I'm probably wrong here, but I think religion facilitates and perpetuates mental illness and attracts the mentally ill. I don't think it causes it though.

 

Most mental illness has a chemical imbalance of some sort (the reason SSRIs and Lithium help as well as other drugs), but religion provides what looks like a solution (to the person who's ill and those who worship with him or her).

 

There is something about the mindset that takes those who are susceptible to the message and takes them in hook, line and sinker. They have some trouble distinguishing between reality and unreality as it is, and the promises sound like something they need - salvation, eternal life, etc. "Just do this, and you will be forgiven." For someone already in the throws of depression, guilt is a powerful motivator, and forgiveness sounds like peace and a cure. George Sodini is a good example. This is what he wrote before massacring a bunch of people at a fitness salon:

 

“Be Ye Holy, even as I have been Ye holy! Thus saith the lord thy God!”, as pastor Rick Knapp would proclaim. Holy ****, religion is a waste. But this guy teaches (and convinced me) you can commit mass murder then still go to heaven. Ask him.

 

Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.

 

I think.

 

 

I think we pretty much agree- just a difference in semantics. My understanding is that the genetic component of mental illness in and of itself won't NECESSARILY cause a problem. But it will definitely cause a tendency or propensity to develop these sort of problems. Reason I say this is that the more hard-core (but still common) mental illnesses like bipolar or schizophrenia can just show up on their own for no apparent reason- but are often triggered (or at least hastened) by traumatic events or assorted nasty situations. I hate cliches- and what I hate MOST about them is that they're all too often true. But this really does boil down to the nature/nurture question.

 

I don't have any experience with this (first or second hand), but my psychologist (aka wife) tells me that to further confuse the issue- situational depression can BECOME chemical over time. I wonder if other disorders can behave similarly- but I don't know.

 

No doubt billions of people would disagree with me here, but I think of religion as a contagious form of mental illness. I mean, it directly results in delusions, anxiety, cognitive distortions, and causes problems in coping with everyday life. Combine it with a genetic propensity to develop some mental disorder, and you could end up with a synergy of crazy.

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I'm beginning to suspect that christianty played a huge role in the development of my depression and anxiety disorder. Now, depression runs through my family, so there is a genetic predisposition there; however, like I stated above, I believe the religious belief that I grew up in exacerbated my mental illness. I don't blame my mother for any of the mythical things she taught me, she has anxiety issues as well, and religion gave her comfort, so naturally she passed on those beliefs to me; the thing however, was she took things to the extreme. It was a high crime to watch care bears, inspector gadget (because the bad guy sounded like satan), anything that was remotely evil, like a 'innocent' child-like witch on a kid's afternoon show was deemed of the devil, because those evil things existed and I should not partake of that. This was all when I was around 4-6. But as I grew older, not only did these fears of hers extend to 'demonic' things on tv, but also anything remotely sexual was utter wrong and damnable. I still struggle with these thoughts that flutter through my mind on a whim.

 

I look back at it now and how I sooo internalized those fears...how they became apart of my OCD, the endless nights of anxiousness, thinking that a thought would lead to demonic possession...evil, evil, evil, seeing a cartoon devil brought about the thought that I was going to get possesd, and that I 'wanted' to get possessed. The fear was always evil,sin based. I remember having these obsessive thoughts, and I would run to the bible hoping to make the demon flee... I ran to my safe place, and that was the bible, it was God and his reassurances that he was with me. Now, thankfully my mom had great sense to send me to a doctor, he was a christian, but he helped me immensely, by sending me to psycho therapists who put me on medication, and who gave me rational steps to curb my anxiety. But yeah, my whole anxiousness revolved around the evil that was going to get me, or how I internalized the words of the pastor that we are evil people who cannot do good things, but only by the grace of god; so naturally what was an anxious, impressionable teenager to think? This disorder is still with me. Some people can have a silly thought and it won't phase them in the least, but me, I internalize it and have compartmentalize it, I don't know why.

 

For instance, the last couple of weeks have been really up and down in regards to my anxious level; it all started when low and behold, I went to a movie. The trailers to the movie were not that great, one was Legion, the one where God sends angels and demons to judge the world. Well, seeing those demons or creatures or whatever, just sent me off a wave of anxiety...then that led me to an existential nihilistic crisis of my own, but, guess what, I made it through with rational thinking. I'm still by no means out of the clear, but I sense myself getting stronger within my mind to conquer mythic based fears. I can't believe it. This is very lethargic letting this all out.

 

For what it's worth, problems with anxiety and OCD seem REALLY common on this forum.

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Marty    830

I've suffered from depression for years. I've sunk into a really low self-loathing place over the last few days. I blame most of it on the church. There is a genetic propensity for mental illness in my father's side of the family, but I am convinced the church made it far worse than it could have been. Tonight I felt like I was losing it...I hate the church with every fiber of my being.

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I think we pretty much agree- just a difference in semantics. My understanding is that the genetic component of mental illness in and of itself won't NECESSARILY cause a problem. But it will definitely cause a tendency or propensity to develop these sort of problems. Reason I say this is that the more hard-core (but still common) mental illnesses like bipolar or schizophrenia can just show up on their own for no apparent reason- but are often triggered (or at least hastened) by traumatic events or assorted nasty situations. I hate cliches- and what I hate MOST about them is that they're all too often true. But this really does boil down to the nature/nurture question.

 

I don't have any experience with this (first or second hand), but my psychologist (aka wife) tells me that to further confuse the issue- situational depression can BECOME chemical over time. I wonder if other disorders can behave similarly- but I don't know.

 

No doubt billions of people would disagree with me here, but I think of religion as a contagious form of mental illness. I mean, it directly results in delusions, anxiety, cognitive distortions, and causes problems in coping with everyday life. Combine it with a genetic propensity to develop some mental disorder, and you could end up with a synergy of crazy.

Yep, we're on the same page. It is complex because not everyone with a predisposition for mental illness will become mentally ill (manifest symptoms). And situational depression can become chemical - permanent.

 

The only ones that would disagree about religion are mentally ill.

 

I love that phrase: Synergy of crazy. Wow.

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I've suffered from depression for years. I've sunk into a really low self-loathing place over the last few days. I blame most of it on the church. There is a genetic propensity for mental illness in my father's side of the family, but I am convinced the church made it far worse than it could have been. Tonight I felt like I was losing it...I hate the church with every fiber of my being.

Hate isn't a healthy emotion either. When you can look at a church and see an interesting building, you will be in the right frame of mind. One of my hobbies is collecting pictures of abandoned churches. (I wonder why).

 

For yourself, if you're still depressed even though you have "seen the light" then it may be time to consider seeking treatment. I have seen many people who were in a real funk who were literally transformed with treatment. It's really hard to "pull yourself out of it" when your in really deep. Maybe you need a helping hand.

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Marty    830

I've suffered from depression for years. I've sunk into a really low self-loathing place over the last few days. I blame most of it on the church. There is a genetic propensity for mental illness in my father's side of the family, but I am convinced the church made it far worse than it could have been. Tonight I felt like I was losing it...I hate the church with every fiber of my being.

Hate isn't a healthy emotion either. When you can look at a church and see an interesting building, you will be in the right frame of mind. One of my hobbies is collecting pictures of abandoned churches. (I wonder why).

 

For yourself, if you're still depressed even though you have "seen the light" then it may be time to consider seeking treatment. I have seen many people who were in a real funk who were literally transformed with treatment. It's really hard to "pull yourself out of it" when your in really deep. Maybe you need a helping hand.

 

I'm looking for a new therapist. My last one happened to be a fucking catholick that kept trying to convince me that the church is not a malignancy on society. I have not found a new one yet because hardly anyone charges on a sliding scale. Everyone wants to bilk insurance, and if you don't have it, better deal with it yourself.

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oladotun    0

So my question is: Does the religion attract people with mental illnesses, or does it cause them? (tongue-in-cheek....sorta...)

 

That's an excellent question!! I wish I knew the answer to that one. I realize now that one of the things that was making my depression worse was the constant striving to be "perfect" like Jesus was "perfect". constantly striving to be a better Christian who was living a "holy" life.

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oladotun    0

To be completely fair, I have noticed that this seems to be a US Protestant thing. I have been in and out of the Catholic & Orthodox churches as a lifelong chronic sufferer of severe OCD; and I was never once told that I was "possessed", or that my illness made me weak or sinful. I was encouraged to seek treatment. I have many, many other criticisms of both of these denominations; however, I have to admit that their pastoral response to psychiatric and neurological illness is many cuts above that of the Protestants.

 

oladotun, I hope that you are doing okay and that your depression is under good control! Best wishes for a good recovery.

 

I would agree and say that this is probably more of a US Protestant thing. I don't have much experience with the Catholic church, so I can't say that I know what their response would be, but with the Protestant church, in my experience, it has been really negative, to the point, where I just did not talk about it outside of my doctor's office.

 

Thanks for the best wishes...

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oladotun    0

I'm probably wrong here, but I think religion facilitates and perpetuates mental illness and attracts the mentally ill. I don't think it causes it though.

 

I believe you have a point here. I remember when I became a Christian by accepting Jesus as my "Lord and Savior." I was searching for something, for some sense of peace and tranquility. I was also somewhat scared into Christianity by the fear of going to hell after I died if I did not confess my sins, repent and accept Jesus. But I would say that the main factor that attracted me to the faith was a longing for peace, joy and all the other stuff that we are usually promised if we simply "accept Jesus into our heart." And then the cycle of madness started...trying to obey Biblical principles, which are not exactly free from contradiction, trying my best to live "holy" (which usually means, not sinning) and yet having to deal with my own fallibility and struggles with my own mental struggles and pain that was already there before I became a Christian. I can't tell you how frustrating this process is, and then to constantly be given more Bibical principles that would supposedly "free" you of all this bondage, only to be dissapointed in the end...

 

I came to the conclusion a long time ago that to successfully live what many people call the Christian life, one has to be delusional and have the uncanny ability to lie to oneself about the realities of life. I got sick and tired of doing that....

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