demon possession or mental illness?

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Is it mental illness or demon possession? How can I know the difference? And how can the church help and not hurt? While I am no expert on this topic, I hope that the following is helpful.

Disclaimer: Some don’t believe that mental illness is real. Others don’t believe that demon possession is real. This post is for those who believe that demon possession is possible. And that mental illness is possible. If both exist as possibilities – then which one is it? Please keep in mind that even for Christians, demon possession is a puzzling topic. And many Christians would be quick to point out that we live in a broken world. We aren’t in Eden anymore. We have bodies AND minds that fail us at times.

Typically, when a person is attempting to discern between a demon possession or a mental illness, it is because something unusual is going on. Often, the person is hearing voices, seeing things others aren’t seeing, and/or having trouble discerning what is real from what is not. Psychosis (a break from reality) affects 3% of the population at some time in their life, while schizophrenia affects 1% of the population. That means that 1 in 100 people will develop schizophrenia in their lifetime. The age of onset is usually between 14-35 years of age. Similar to how diabetes can be treated with medication, psychosis can also be treated with medication. If the breaks from reality improve on medication (and if the person has been patient in finding the right medication and dosage) that gives a strong indication that the unusual experiences were due to biochemistry. Demon possession wouldn’t go away via medication.

Church leaders may be contacted either by concerned family members or by the individual to help determine what is going on. The best way that the church can help is to strongly encourage a second opinion (family doctor, mental health worker, psychiatrist) AND stay involved with the family and individual. Problems arise when one of these steps are missed. Do seek outside help but don’t stop meeting with the family/individual. The individual needs both the health care system and their church at a time of crisis.

The church can play a beautiful role in helping individuals who are questioning “is it demon possession or mental illness?”. To do so, the church must be willing to refer out and stay involved.

For more on this subject, watch this video from “The Meeting House” on November 15th, 2015. It was a Mental Health Q & A during their worship service, which happened to come at the end of their series on Satan and demons.

 

 

Did Robin Williams have Bipolar?

Robin Williams is admired for his acting as well as his ability to be candid about addiction, depression and personal struggles. Over his lifetime, he was an inspiration to many. Shortly after taking his life, speculation began re: whether Robin Williams had bi-polar disorder or not.

Psychcentral gave the following statement:

Robin Williams has long been a sufferer of bipolar disorder, a mental illness where the person fluctuates between episodes of extreme energy, focus and productivity (mania) and severe depression. Apparently, he was in one of the episodes of depression when he took his own life.

In contrast to the statement given by Psychcentral, there are others who state that Robin Williams did not have bipolar. Apparently, even Robin Williams himself.The following is from an interview with Carrie Fisher on Robin Williams by the Hollywood Reporter.

In an interview with Carrie Fisher, the following was shared about her encounter with Robin Williams: “He … looked lost, kind of, and he said that he didn’t think he was bipolar. He took the test that I gave the audience and got all the answers right, but didn’t think [being bipolar] was something that had anything to do with him,” recalled Fisher, who has been candid about her own struggles with mental illness and addiction.  (more here)

Regardless of whether Robin Williams had bipolar or not, he was outspoken about his struggles with addiction and depression. And the following reality still remains: for as far as we have come in recent years regarding mental health  and addiction treatments and anti-stigma initiatives, we still have a ways to go.

Robin Williams: I am so very sorry for your suffering. Your passing has broken the hearts of many. Bangarang, Peter!

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