Starting with a case study and a biblical framework, this article takes us through a review of four books on the topic of bipolar disorder. Ed summarizes and interacts with these secular materials, gleaning what we can learn from them, while he builds a distinctly biblical interpretation of the struggles and symptoms of those facing this problem.
Part 1 of 3
Diane, a thirty-five-year old wife and mother, was becoming increasingly irritable. Her flashes of anger at the slightest provocation put everyone on high alert. Adding to the family tension, she was sleeping erratically—staying up late and getting up early. The family didn’t really know what she was doing with her time. Half-finished projects littered the house, none in synch with family priorities. These tensions weighed on her husband and were compounded by Diane’s apparent unwillingness to listen to the concerns he or others had about her behavior. Conflict was inevitable.
After an especially intense argument, Diane stormed out of the house. She ended up in a bar about ten miles away, met a man and went to bed with him. When she finally came home the next morning, disheveled and distraught but still testy, she told her husband what had happened. He, of course, was extremely distressed. He called his family physician who told him to take Diane to the emergency room. From there the doctor admitted her to the psychiatric ward.
It sounds like a case of pride coming before the fall, and it is. But there is more. Superimposed over whatever was going on in her heart, Diane’s mind was racing. Never before had she been so distractible or hyperactive. Her interpretations were increasingly bizarre. She simply “wasn’t herself.”
The diagnosis for Diane in the psychiatric hospital was ‘bipolar disorder.’ Diane was artificially high—‘manic.’ Her high was exaggerated, exhibitionistic, talkative, restless, “wired,” and self-destructive. This is one extreme of bipolar disorder (previously ‘manic-depression’). Depression is the other pole, the subdued or “down” mirror image of mania’s exuberant, “up.” Once clued in to these fluctuating, extreme emotions, her husband could easily cite several other periods of similar activity in Diane’s life.
The diagnosis of bipolar is a welcome challenge to careful, practical theological development. Since Scripture speaks with breadth and depth to all of life, a biblical counselor should be eager to examine every human experience. So far, however, there has been very little written about the bipolar experience from a biblically thoughtful perspective.1 This article’s brief foray into bipolar considers how to think biblically about this topic when a concordance is of no help, and when no biblical characters exhibit bipolar symptoms. This article will also review several current books on the bipolar experience.