I would like to have an open and honest conversation about the role of mental illness in religion, especially as people become more devout and more extreme. (Usually, when someone becomes obsessed with something it's considered unhealthy, but in religion we see the most obsessed honored by the less faithful, for one example of how this conversation might go).
I think we could add many anecdotes. The latest I just happened to read:
Street preachers are very common in NYC, and all of them seem mentally ill. Most cult leaders seem to be mentally ill.A Pennsylvania woman who went missing more than 30 years ago and whose family believed she was dead has been found alive in Puerto Rico, resolving a decades-long mystery, the authorities said on Friday.
The woman, Patricia Kopta, now 83, was found on the island after she shared tidbits about her past to nursing home employees who had been taking care of her for years, Chief Brian Kohlhepp of the Ross Township Police Department said at a news conference.
Back home, Ms. Kopta, who was nicknamed “the sparrow,” was known to wander the streets of downtown Pittsburgh as a street preacher. She also had a history of mental health struggles before she disappeared at the age of 52, her family and the police chief said.
https://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/doi/ ... h.11090214The Role of Psychotic Disorders in Religious History Considered
Evan D. Murray, M.D., Miles G. Cunningham, M.D., Ph.D., and Bruce H. Price, M.D.
Published Online:1 Oct 2012https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.neuropsych.11090214
The authors have analyzed the religious figures Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and St. Paul from a behavioral, neurologic, and neuropsychiatric perspective to determine whether new insights can be achieved about the nature of their revelations. Analysis reveals that these individuals had experiences that resemble those now defined as psychotic symptoms, suggesting that their experiences may have been manifestations of primary or mood disorder-associated psychotic disorders. The rationale for this proposal is discussed in each case with a differential diagnosis. Limitations inherent to a retrospective diagnostic examination are assessed. Social models of psychopathology and group dynamics are proposed as explanations for how followers were attracted and new belief systems emerged and were perpetuated. The authors suggest a new DSM diagnostic subcategory as a way to distinguish this type of psychiatric presentation. These findings support the possibility that persons with primary and mood disorder-associated psychotic symptoms have had a monumental influence on the shaping of Western civilization. It is hoped that these findings will translate into increased compassion and understanding for persons living with mental illness.
A man in his late 20s with paranoid schizophrenia explained during a neurological evaluation that he could read minds and that for years he had heard voices revealing things about friends and strangers alike. He believed he was selected by God to provide guidance for mankind. Antipsychotic medications prescribed by his psychiatrists diminished these abilities and reduced the voices, and therefore he would not take them. He asked, “How do you know the voices aren’t real?” “How do you know I am not The Messiah?” He affirmed, “God and angels talked to people in the Bible.”
Later, we reflected on what he had said. He raised poignant questions that are rarely discussed in academic medicine. Every day, physicians, nurses, psychologists, and social workers alike encounter and care for people who experience psychotic symptoms. About 1% of emergency room visits and 0.5% of all primary care visits in the United States are related to psychotic symptoms.1,2 As many as 60% of those with schizophrenia have religious grandiose delusions consisting of believing they are a saint, God, the devil, a prophet, Jesus, or some other important person.3 Diminished insight about having a mental disorder is part and parcel of the condition, occurring in 30%–50% of persons with schizophrenia.4 How do we explain to our patients that their psychotic symptoms are not supernatural intimations when our civilization recognizes similar phenomena in revered religious figures? On what basis do we distinguish between the experiences of psychiatric patients and those of religious figures in history?
A review of the medical literature revealed little discussion of these specific issues utilizing modern neuropsychiatric and behavioral neurologic principles. An examination of the revelation experiences of prominent religious figures was needed to determine whether new insights could be achieved about their nature through the application of neuropsychiatric and behavioral neurologic principles. We undertook this examination with the intent of promoting scholarly dialogue about the rational limits of human experience and to educate persons living with mental illness, healthcare providers, and the general public that persons with psychotic symptoms may have had a considerable influence on the development of Western civilization. The selection of personalities for analysis was based on 1) the existence of narratives recounting the individual’s mystical experiences and behaviors; 2) the potential similarity of these experiences to psychiatric phenomena; 3) the high degree of impact their life stories had on Western civilization in terms of influencing themes found in literature and art, religious thought and practice, philosophy, concepts of social order, and jurisprudence. The following is a retrospective diagnostic examination of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and St Paul. It is hoped that this investigation will help translate the veneration, love, and devotion felt by many for these religious figures into increased compassion and understanding for persons with mental illness.
Please read the article. I'm not claiming it is 100% correct, or that they've even claimed to have determined the mental states of the Abraham, Jesus, Paul, etc. but it will provide a good basis for the discussion. Keep it respectful, please.