I am quite familiar with the topic of mental illness and religious
obsession. My older brother has suffered from schizophrenia/bipolar
disorder for almost 25 years, and one of the first signs of his
illness was an obsession with fundamentalist religion. However,
several mental disorders share various degrees of religious compulsion
and sudden conversion which, in Christianity, would equate to being
Since bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are often intermingled, the
fact that religious obsession is often a symptom of bipolar illness is
not unusual. However, the abnormal preoccupation with religion is more
pronounced in schizophrenia, manifested in perceived voices and
hallucinations associated with religion. Most schizophrenics carry
their religious obsession much farther than simple bipolar
sufferers, by imagining they are hearing voices from God, or actually
believing they are Jesus Christ. In fact, I have often wondered how
this identification with Jesus Christ translates to other countries
where the predominant religion is something other than Christianity.
(In no way do I mean to imply, from the above, that bipolar disorder
is simple. It is an extremely complex and devastating mental
disorder. I merely meant simple in terms of being exclusive unto
itself, rather than being combined with another disorder like
schizophrenia or OCD.)
Some excerpts from the article, Introduction to Mental Illness, at
http://www.sentex.net/~wdmhr/intro.html provide a good overview of
bipolar disorder, its link to schizophrenic symptoms, and the common
schizophrenic obsession with religion.
Sometimes known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mood
disorder that like schizophrenia is a life long condition and is
fairly genetic in origin. Individuals experience manic highs that
become depressed lows, the amplitude of the cycle increasing over time
The mania gets out of hand and people may start to become delusional
about their own greatness and paranoid that because they are so great
people are out to get them. Someone who is severely manic may seem to
have schizophrenia and it's very difficult to get such people to take
. Bipolar disorder strikes 1% of the population like
schizophrenia and is related to schizophrenia in some way, as yet
unknown, because a percentage of people are diagnosed with
schizoaffective disorder, meaning they have some symptoms of
schizophrenia and some symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Schizophrenia can come on rather suddenly in late teens or develop
slowly over several years. What starts as withdrawal and emotional
turmoil, **perhaps involving a religious obsession,** develops into
very disorganized thinking, hallucinations like hearing voices, and
delusions, either of grandeur or persecution, things that most people
do not believe.
The complexity of bipolar disorder, with its myriad symptoms and
divergent avenues the mania follows has been described as a Hydra,
the multiheaded monster from Greek mythology. Read Bipolar Disorder
and the Consciousness Restructuring Process, by Iona Miller and
Grewolf Swinney. Asklepia Foundation (2000) at
Diagnosing bipolar disorder proceeds by a process of elimination.
Responsiveness to lithium treatment separates the bipolar from the
schizophrenic, a frequent early misdiagnosis.
However, patients suffering from bipolar disorder often manifest
similar delusions as schizophrenics, especially in their manic phase.
Delusions or hallucinations may emerge, such as hearing voices or
seeing UFOs or religious figures, or other sights.
A preoccupation with religious feelings is also a component of
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which is another mental illness often
linked with manic depression.
People with OCD may also be preoccupied with religious feelings,
sexual thoughts, and the need for order and symmetry. People with OCD
may also have symptoms of depression, Tourette Syndrome, or bipolar
disorder. Symptoms usually get worse when the person is under stress.
Read Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Health and Disease
Information. Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Penn State. (updated
10/31/2002) at http://www.hmc.psu.edu/healthinfo/no/ocd.htm
The religious obsession in OCD is often more oriented toward
ritualistic praying, obsession with sinfulness and constant asking for
forgiveness, which is somewhat different from Schizophrenia,
but possibly relative to the more manic phase of Bipolar Disorder.
Some common obsessions include
..excessive religious or moral
doubt, and the need to ask or confess something. Read OCD More
Common Than Most Assume, by Katharine Kishiyama. The A Blast.
(4/10/2002) at http://www.fcps.k12.va.us/AnnandaleHS/Ablast/2002/issue11/10-11indepth.pdf
Refer to Bipolar Several associated articles at
Bipolar Disorder. Integrated Behavioral Health (2002) at
The wide range of mental disorders and the common instance of dual
diagnosis certainly points to the overlapping of many symptoms. For
instance, a recent article highlights a link between Bipolar Disorder
and Panic Disorder.
Weve shown that panic attacks and panic disorder are related
genetically to bipolar disorder and therefore likely share a common
cause, says Dean F. MacKinnon, M.D., assistant professor of
psychiatry at Hopkins and lead author of a report on the study in the
current issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry. We still cant
say what specific gene or genes cause what, but this is a major step
toward solving these problems, says MacKinnon.
Alternatively, panic vulnerability may be a fairly common trait that
shows itself preferentially under certain extreme forms of
provocation, one of which is bipolar disorder.
Read Discovery that common mood disorders are inherited together may
reveal genetic underpinnings. Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
(1/9/2002) at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-01/jhmi-dtc010902.php
Another article highlights the link between anxiety disorder,
depression and OCD. Depression or other anxiety disorders may
Read Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The Anxiety Panic Internet
Resource at http://www.algy.com/anxiety/ocd.html
When you consider that Panic Disorder often accompanies OCD, and OCD
often accompanies Bipolar Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder often
it is not unusual that many symptoms, like
religious obsession, are shared among a wide variety of mental
I hope the above information has provided you with an introductory
background to the complexity of mental illness, and more specifically,
an answer to your question.
Let me know if I can be of further help!
Google Search Strategy
+"bipolar disorder" +religious obsession
+mental illness +religious obsession
"panic disorder" +religious obsession