Friday Counseling Issues: Bipolar Disorder, Diagnosing and Treating

Many famous people have struggled with Bipolar Disorder, finding some degree of peace when they finally, so to speak, come out of the closet. But before they reach that point, they have often gone through two or three marriages, addictions of all sorts, and possibly even done jail time.

Mel Gibson, Abraham Lincoln, Robin William, Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Queen Victoria.   There are hundreds more.  One thing all these people have in common is that they are brilliant in some way.  Even stuffy old Queen Victoria managed to keep her realm intact in a world in which women did not hold power.

So how do you know if someone has Bipolar Disorder?  There is a very specific diagnostic protocol.  Often, if I sense that a client has Bipolar, I will refer that person to a psychiatrist for a more in-depth evaluation and for medication.

There is Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and various degrees of both of those; there is also rapid-cycling Bipolar, in which the patient can cycle in and out of extreme moods within minutes, experiencing several cycles per day.

I thought about going into the details, but it’s really more complicated than I am prepared to deal with here. Instead, I’m going to suggest you go to this website:

Please, please stay away from those online diagnostic tests. You will only make yourself miserable with worry. If you or someone you love seems to be experiencing Bipolar symptoms, you need to see your doctor.   Mood swings are not unique to Bipolar Disorder.  They can show up in ADD and other conditions as well. You need to see a doctor for the medical treatment of Bipolar.  A therapist such as myself cannot prescribe; neither can a psychologist. You need an M.D. for that.  Medicating Bipolar Disorder can take some time and tweaking, and it needs faithful monitoring and compliance with the meds. Everyone’s chemistry is different from everyone else’s.  There is no “one size fits all” medical treatment for Bipolar Disorder. You can read more about medications here:

But isn’t this so-called Bipolar thing really just a spiritual problem?  Isn’t it a form of demon possession?

I don’t believe that every single case of Bipolar Disorder is demon possession. It CAN be, but as some wise soul said, if the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything starts looking like a nail.

I have Bipolar clients who are sincere believers, and still they struggle.  Believe me when I tell you that the best way I know to discourage someone like that is to sternly “rebuke the devil” and demand that the client confess his sin and get right with God.  These people are already often overwhelmed with shame and guilt because they don’t understand how a Christian can have such a terrible condition.

May I remind you that God never promised that we believers would be free of all disease, all trouble, all difficulty? Think of the Apostle Paul, who begged God for deliverance from a thorn in the flesh. He didn’t get that deliverance. Was he “not right with God,” or did God simply allow Paul’s thorn to be something that could be used for His own purposes?

We stand in a dangerous place when we deign to judge someone else’s relationship with God.

Next time, I will share with you some things I offer my clients who have Bipolar Disorder. There is help; there can be improvement.


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