This group of severe illnesses includes Schizophrenia and Bipolar Affective Disorder. They can affect anyone regardless of upbringing, social class or personal faith. But there are effective treatments in the form of medication and talking therapies. For the more severe forms, social support is often necessary and the church has a huge role to play here.
Scroll down the page for more links to other articles, testimonies, book reviews and some recommended websites.
What is Psychosis?
This broad term describes experiences that are outside the normal. This can include hearing/seeing things that others cannot hear/see (hallucinations), believing things that do not seem to be true (called delusions, these seem very true to the person) and having extremely elevated in mood (mania). Schizophrenia is a specific form of psychosis where delusions and hallucinations are common. Bipolar Affective Disorder is another form where the high moods can be accompanied by grandiose beliefs and periods of very low mood. Psychosis is more than ups and downs in mood or the odd unusual belief - it affects every area of life.
What causes Psychosis?
The first episode is usually in early adult life, though it can start in the teens and some people do not suffer this till later in life. Genetics seems to be a major cause, but it is a complex mix of genes - never due to just one gene or one parent. Psychosis can also occur after using drugs, some medications like steroids, a head injury or an infection. It can even occur after an extreme life event like a sudden bereavement.
Can it be treated?
Psychotic illnesses are severe and need a combination of approaches. Medication is central and it is important to find a suitable form with manageable side effects. Psychological treatments can help with understanding, preventing relapses and the anxiety that often accompanies psychosis. Social activity, including both everyday activities and also hobbies and fitness bring a rounded recovery. Often treatment is necessary for any years and must also focus on rehabilitation and living a meaningful life, which is helped by having a faith.
Quote: “When I am ill, my normal Christian activities like prayer and reading the Bible get out of hand. But I’m still a Christian.”
What about my faith?
When people become psychotic or manic, they become very involved in things – often those things they were into before in a more normal way. It could be computers or politics – it it could be religious things. People who have a faith can see this get out of control – reading the Bible or praying for hours, believing they are pure or evil or even God. This says nothing about their underlying fait – it is the illness speaking.
With hindsight, times of psychosis can also be genuinely spiritually awakening as people explore things very deeply. It can also be very scary, and God can be their only source of comfort. There are several examples of psychosis in the Bible – Nebuchadnezzar’s ‘madness’ in Daniel 4 is probably the most accurate description.
People often seem to confuse psychosis with demon possession – despite the fact that none of the ‘demon’ encounters in the Gospels look anything like the illness we know today as schizophrenia. Deliverance ministry should be avoided, at least at the beginning. Instead people should be asked to seek medical help. Any prayer or ministry should be done alongside medical input.
Psychotic illnesses often leave people needing support. This can be friendship, as there can be a tendency to self-isolate. Practical help with shopping and household tasks can also be needed. The church has an invaluable role to play – ask the local mental health team how you can help.
Helpful Articles on this website:
- If you are manic or psychotic, how do you know that what you believe is real – this article explores the topic
- If you or someone you know struggle with hearing voices, this article will help
- What about medication - the pros and cons of this and what to expect
- Schizophrenia and Christianity - an overview and how churches can help
- Listen to a leading NHS expert talk about bipolar [similar videos about psychosis too]
- www.schizophrenia.com have a whole list of books about different aspects of schizophrenia. Read their list
- Is your church serious about working with people who have severe and enduring mental health problems. Marion Carson draws on years of expereince in this helpful handbook.
- This detailed testimony gives really practical advice on what to do if you are feeling up or down, a lot or just a bit
- 1 in every 500 births will see a woman experience post-partum psychosis. Read Naomi's story and about the charity she has set up
- Read about this recovery from depression and psychosis - and the changes that follow