Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

The Spiritual Life and Bipolar Disorder

woman praying.jpgAccording to Kevin Culligan, O.C.D, manic depression can mimic the behavior of someone growing in her spiritual life. Hey, 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.


Here’s what he has to say, Keith 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 Just as we suspect something wrong when a person is continually down, with low energy, and withdrawn, so we also suspect something amiss when a person is on a continual high, with boundless energy, and talking incessantly.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.

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  • Joe Gonzalez

    Do all those ‘ deadly, derogatory, inflammable and invalidating ‘ symptoms come from Mr. Egan’s book ? He cites Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. Does he know anyone else ? Does he know that Teresa of Avila was psychologicall crippled for along span of her life? How about St. John Bosco, who was declared ‘ insane ‘ by the measurers of his time ? How about Dimas, who accompanied Our Lord on the next cross that fateful Friday, and was crucified as a thief, & confessed to it, but was Jesus last Comforter and the first to win the Prize ? How about all the visionaries ( the ones who SAW real visions, who HEARD real voices…) where would they fit in his – apparently all-inclusive categorization ? How about the beggars who gave everything away, and now are considered saints ? How about the kings who would feed 20 poor people daily at table, and are also considered saints ? How about all the popes who made miserable and horrid mistakes, and the church still considers holy ? What is he trying to say…that within the categories God chooses, cause it’s always He who chooses ( Jesus ” You didn’t choose me, it was I who chose you…” ) there can’t be Holy Spirit inspired bi-polars and bi-polar saints ? i think he bites off much more than he can chew.

  • Deborah

    I take exception to Mr. Egan’s comments. To focus on the spiritual aspect of one’s human experience and link that to a mental health disorder, can cause one to question their sincere spiritual connection. We are spiritual beings and mental health professionals have been dramatically lacking in recognizing this. The focus is on the mental, physical and emotional facets of a person with little or no regard for our deep spiritual needs (independent of religion). Mr. Egan furthers this by linking spiritual expression to mental illness. When I first saw this article, I had hoped it would be about spiritual healing and expression in the presence of bipolar. I am bipolar and I am also a spiritual healer. The only difficulty I have embodying both of these aspects of myself is the ignorance of health care professionals that do not value my entirity as a human being. Having said this, I do believe that change is happening, albeit slowly, and take heart at those few that are coming into an understanding of the value of healing at this most sacred level.

  • John

    Please visit and see investigative report web vidio streaming;
    The Marketing Of Madness, Psychotropics On Trial, and “the rest of the story”…

  • Teri A

    I went through what I thought was a “spiritual awakening” when in a manic phase of my bipolar disorder. As evidenced by all the different colored “highlighted” passages in my bible. Checking all cross-references, the meaning of certain words, etc. I can’t make heads or tails of what I was trying to accomplish now when I look at my Bible. My memory sucks, and basically 1997-2007 is a complete blur.
    I haven’t lost my spirituality, but it is much more calm. Not spending hours in the Bible, trying decifer what the meaning is. I KNOW I was in a manic bipolar phase. I would write page after page of what I was “gleaning” from the Bible. But most of it is now gone. I used it against my parents, to show what horrible people they were when they were raising me. I remember feeling “superior” to those, who weren’t with me on this journey through the New Testament and Old.
    A lot of wasted time, I wasn’t myself and I wasn’t on medication. So in way I agree with Mr. Egan.

  • K

    I have been through a three year journey of being diagnosed, on medication trials. Through a myriad of emotions and thoughts that no one should ever experience. The ONLY thing that kept me going personally was my spirituality. It had been so strong my entire life, completely unwavering; until a therapy session. My doctor told me that everything that I knew in my spiritual life was imagined or a distortion caused by Bipolar. That every aspect of me wasn’t me, it was the disease.
    It has taken me over two years to overcome such a horrid statement that destroyed so much belief in myself.
    If anything, it’s made my faith stronger.
    What I am really sick of is that everyone is so quick to judge us. How we feel, how we talk, how we sit, how we relate, what our spiritual beliefs are; I could go on.
    If any “normal” person were to go on a spiritual quest, it would be looked upon as beautiful journey. If I get a spiritual calling, my meds aren’t working and I have to be monitored.
    It’s as if our spirituality is discounted because of a chemical imbalance in our brains. And what if, in some way, Joe is right? What if our “condition” does make us more sensitive to everything? Sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell have all become much sharper for me since I’ve been medicated. I suppose that’s in my head too.
    Like I don’t have enough to deal with as it is… let me have my spiritual life at least. Everything else has been taken away.

  • Elizabeth

    Hmm, well, I prayerfully and silently “denounce abortion” on the sidewalk, I am also a person of faith (Roman Catholic) and I am not bipolar.
    Why is it that when someone stands up for what they believe in, they *must* have mental disorders? Yep, we’re just maniacs if we have the courage to stand up and be heard about what we believe is right and fair.
    Now because I mentioned the word “courage” in relation to my own actions, I guess I must have grandiose notions…
    This is too extreme, as usual. We over-analyze everything so much, too much.

  • Ray

    King Saul in the Bible was bipolar.

  • Lean on God

    After I had my 3rd child I went through a time in my life that was truly horrible, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I went to a psychiatrist who prescribed a whole bunch of drugs for me: anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, mood leveler, sleeping pills, and amphetamines. I was literally living to take drugs all day long. The Dr. kept tweaking my prescriptions because I never felt quite right-even on all those drugs I was depressed and anxious. It was a long journey into darkness, and all along I stayed close to God (I kept thinking how His light would get me through these dark times)- I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t kill myself (even when I really wanted to) because I believe in Him. My faith kept me going, and one year to the day (that’s the amount of time the first Dr. said it would take for me to feel better on her regimen) I made an appointment with a new therapist. After filling her in on all that I had been through she told me the doctor I was seeing was a horrible psychiatrist (she knew the Dr.s reputation) and the drug regimen the “dr” had me on was dangerous. I made an appointment with another doctor and weaned myself off the garbage. I understand what it means to stand closer to God when things are bad- and anyone who has ever experienced psych issues knows how bad it can get. I wouldn’t listen to the “know it alls” out there, do what makes you feel comfortable. Healing yourself when your nervous system and thinking patterns are so out of whack is a big deal. Leaning on God, trying really hard to decipher His word, is not a psychiatric disorder- it is a coping mechanism, and a very powerful one at that. Religion has been taking quite a pounding the past 10-20 years from the media. They would like to have you believe that only a handful of people believe in God and that religion is just superstition. They would love for you to denounce your God. Most people turn their backs on God and look to science and technology for their answers. These few people who have used the media to spread this hatred of religion don’t represent the worlds population (80% of the world believes in a God). Don’t let them sway you- even when they tell you it’s crazy to believe in God.

  • Jonathan Alan White

    I was discharged honorably from the US Air Force with a diagnosis of bi-polar. I stopped taking my lithium because I didn’t like it and I believed I needed love… not lithium. After 6 months off my lithium, I felt my right hand was evil because a raspberry stain wouldn’t go away immediately. The verse Mark 9:43 came to my mind which says –if your hand offend you, cut it off. It is better to lose one hand than to have your whole body cast into hellfire. So I went to our garage,raised the blade on the table saw to 3 inches high — and did the unthinkable. I turned on the table saw and grabbed my right arm just above the wrist with my left hand and pushed my right arm all the way through until it was cut all the way off. I didn’t want to die, so I looked for a tournaquet to stop the bleeding. After wrapping a power cord from an electric sander–the only thing I could find– I went inside the house to tell my brother Bill that I needed a ride to the hospital—which he did very calmly. After we got to the hospital, they sent him back to get my hand— so they could try to reattach it. After 8 hours of surgery by the worlds best hand surgeons at Bellevue hospital in Manhattan,NYC they decided it was impossible for them to reattach it. A month later (august 1990) I was fitted w/ a prosthetic arm which I still have today(September 10,2010 A.D.- anno domini(in the year of our LORD) PRAISE GOD FOR ALL THINGS!!! IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS!!! HALLELUJAH!!! TO HIM BE ALL PRAISE, HONOR, AND GLORY, BOTH NOW AND FOREVERMORE!!! I EXALT THE INDESCRIBABLY WONDERFUL MAJESTIC HOLY MIGHTY POWERFUL AND TOTALLY AWESOME NAME OF JESUS— THE NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES— MY PRECIOUS LORD AND SAVIOUR—IMMANUEL,I CAN’T PRAISE HIM ENOUGH. I WROTE IN BIG LETTERS JULY 13, 2010; THE DAY AFTER MY SON GOT COMMISSIONED IN THE US ARMY AS A 2ND LIEUTENANT

  • ATV

    I love the LORD my God with ALL my heart, ALL my mind and ALL my soul.
    No matter what phase I am in. The problem is that anyone who may know that I am bipolar,
    will discount my relationship with the LORD above.
    If someone finds out that I am on medication, than they question
    my Christian walk. My biggest obstacle has been to NOT focus on
    what people think of me. I must keep my focus on God and not people. People will disappoint you, leave you etc. God remains forever. Focus on God.
    Notice that the focus is on God and not man anymore.

  • PTL

    Amen to your comment ATV

  • BER

    dito to the AMEN to the comment made by ATV.
    My doctor is a devoted Christian and has put me on Medication for depression and sleep disorder. It is a touchy subject around some Christian friends because I am afraid they will judge me and my faith in God. I told my doctor I do not want to be on any more perscription medication than is necessary because I want to be healthy and trust God to take care of me. I know He does but I have been through loosing my son to death and then his dad (my ex-husband)10 months later and last year my husband died. I had to be happy for my husband because he was in a lot of pain and even though I miss him more than anything (because he was the best husband and treated me and loved me like God intended me to be treated and Loved)he has a brand new body with no more pain and he is walking again with Jesus. He had not been able to walk in 4 months. I know I am in Gods hands and He will direct my path to ALL the good things he has for me, but we can’t deny the help when we really need it-but everything in moderation. God is awesome and will never leave or forsake us; His love is new every morning and when we go through things we can’t handle, He will carry us. Psalms 3:5,6

  • SuzanneWA

    My hospital chaplain and Christian counnselor friend, came close to a definition of bipolar mania (though she really doesn’t understand my reluctance to partake of her “speaking in tongues” when she prays with me)…”a DIVINE MADNESS.” She explained to me that some of the saints of the church were labelled thus. Yes, when I’m manic, I “suffer” all of the above symptoms, especially religiosity and delusions that I speak for God. My last hospitalization for mania (with these very same symptoms), was in 1977, so somehow, with the Good Lord’s help, I have been on a slippery “road to recovery” ever since. I take my meds, see my shrink, go to group therapy, and TRY to take care of myself. As you know, even though I do all these things to PROTECT myself from an episode, a hypomania-turned-to-mania can happen at the slightest provocation. I am “on my guard” EVERY DAY to keep from opening the doors that lead to hypomania. However, I act “normal,” except when I’m in an episode. My last therapist (who I knew for 40 YEARS), told me that. But – I don’t relax my guard against it. I just try to have a closer walk with God, and I can maintain my sanity.

  • S

    Quote from Cast away:
    Chuck Noland: We both had done the math. Kelly added it all up and… knew she had to let me go. I added it up, and knew that I had… lost her. ‘cos I was never gonna get off that island. I was gonna die there, totally alone. I was gonna get sick, or get injured or something. The only choice I had, the only thing I could control was when, and how, and where it was going to happen. So… I made a rope and I went up to the summit, to hang myself. I had to test it, you know? Of course. You know me. And the weight of the log, snapped the limb of the tree, so I-I – , I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over *nothing*. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass… And I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?
    This movie sums it all up..we all have ur lives figured out..bright careers..knight in shining armour on a white horse..the wedding..the kids…beautiful around the world..a fairy tale.. But then when things go wrong..instead you see pain…frustration…misery..worry…depression!! I have been through hell and I have felt lonely & abandoned…many a nights I have cried myself to sleep..I no longer fit in in this world…where external are more important then feelings, humanity, emotions.People have become selfish & mean.. But here in the darkest times I am forced to search for rays of hope… My parents..well meaning friends..Good books…Prayers..Beliefnet and I know I am loved.. Wanted and cared for.. I am not alone.. My God will look out for over me..He will never let go off my hands..only I need to belive in HIM with all my heart.. and HE will stand by me everyday..

  • Amy Barlow Liberatore

    I have manic depression and PTSD, plus seasonal affective disorder. After years of running from God, the Spirit was there to comfort me after the loss of both my parents within four months. I knew that I needed earthly help as well.
    You can pray til your knees are raw from the kneeling and never be healed of a mental chemical imbalance. By the same token, saying people who seem to take their faith “to the extreme,” according to Mr. Egan, must have a mental disorder is ludicrous.
    It’s all a balancing act, to me. I take me meds, see a counselor, and I’m also a pastor’s wife. I explained my condition to the congregation and now people don’t feel so ashamed about talking about THEIR relatives who have bipolar, etc. The shame factor is huge in our community, and Mr. Egan doesn’t help things one bit.
    You rock on, ATV. I don’t think abortion protesters are mentally imbalanced, but screaming at the top of one’s lungs outside the clinic is probably what Mr. Egan was talking about, and that’s just plain obnoxious.
    One other obnoxious trait: The screamers who yell about damnation and hellfire at every Gay Pride rally. I’m an ally of the gay community (which, as we all know, is no longer considered an illness by the American Psychiatric Association) and find more harm is done by “good Christians” than anyone else.

  • bipolar disorder symptoms

    The people infected with the bipolar disorder often do not have a fixed state of mind. The unpredictable mood swings make it difficult for the people to cope it up with the other people. Meditation can help a lot in taking control of this disorder.

  • Bipolar disorder treatment

    With proper treatment, most people have periods where they have no symptoms. However some people may continue to have milder “breakthrough” symptoms. Patients can effectively manage Bipolar Disorder by learning his symptoms and getting treatment at the first sign of an episode.The line of treatment that works for one bipolar patient may not help another person.For Some people, Medication can work, but for some it won’t
    Try to refer, if you want to know more about disorder and its treatment

  • Chromosome Disorders

    Bipolar disorder is a condition in which the people are behave abnormally like manic or hypomanic. And in many cases, states abnormally depressed for some time in a way that interferes with the operation. Bipolar disorder is estimated to affect more than 5 million Americans, or about 1 in every 45 adults. It is also common among men and women and is found in all cultures and ethnic groups. Bipolar disorder may appear as unipolar depression. The diagnosis of bipolar disorder is often difficult even for mental health professionals.

  • Anxiety Relief

    I first thought this was going t be about how prayer helps, but it turned out to be something that hasn’t been approached by others yet.
    Well, now I know to pay attention to those around me that seem really spiritual.
    Thank you for teaching me something new!

  • anon

    worst article ever….. not enlightening or uplifting. all depressing rigid western pharmaceutical industry tooting regurgitated facts that don’t help people in need, just reinforce the absurd lie that there is no holistic treatments for this SYNDROME, only depressing facts and psychiatrists trying to push their drugs on these strong willed, but sadly ignorant people. These people are simply more sensitive to their inner guidance than most, that is all. Sounds to me like from your symptoms 9 out of 10 people are bipolar….

    • Anonymous Account

      Gee, I wish you’d come told me that in the hospital, or when I was hallucinating and unable to leave the house because people could hear my thoughts. It would have cheered me right up. I wouldn’t have even had to take these anticonvulsants that work. People with seizures are allowed to take anticonvulsants, right? Why is it that once a physical problem in the brain starts affecting your thoughts, it’s a spiritual thing, while seizures and autism and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat still get to be medical problems that it’s OK to be treated for?

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