Podcast: Christianity and Mental Illness

Podcast: Christianity and Mental Illness


Religion and Mental Illness Podcast Show Notes:

Psyche (root of psychology): originally viewed as the human soul, mind, or spirit. Today we view the psyche as essentially rooted in our brains…something distinctly separate from our spirit. However, in religious circles, these two are still decidedly overlapped. Herein lies the problem/issue that is addressed in this podcast.



No matter how you slice it, we have a serious problem in that religion and psychology are usually seen as being at odds with each other. Many religious people refuse mental health treatment, believing that God can/will cure them.

Early 20th-century interest in religion and mental health was sparked by Freud’s view of religion as intrinsically neurotic. Freud described religion and its rituals as a collective neurosis, which, he suggested, could save a person the effort of forming an individual neurosis. For example, in an early paper, Freud (1907/1924) spelt out the similarities between religious rituals and obsessional rituals. He argued that guilt is created when rituals are not carried out, and assuaged when they are, so a self-perpetuating ‘ritualaholic’ cycle is set up.

Freud’s views prompted furious reaction from the religious establishment, leading in some circles to the dismissal of psychotherapy and psychotherapists as worthless atheistic frauds; but there were parallel counter-movements. Within psychodynamic theory and practice, and in the social scientific and psychiatric arenas, there were serious attempts to explore religiosity and spirituality and their mental health implications.


A recent LifeWay Research survey produced some interesting statistics related to mental illness…48 percent believe serious mental illness can be cured by prayer alone.


Can Christianity Cure Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The author shows that Luther, Bunyan, and Therese had textbook OCD and overcame it by trusting in God with their obsessions. They gave the obsession and outcome into God’s hands and trusted in Christ’s righteousness as being their righteousness. I struggled with the Calvinistic bent Bunyan and Luther have. They seem to trust more in God’s sovereignty over ALL areas of life, whereas I still allow for free will. I admit that my OCD would be less intense if I were a Calvinist, but I’m not still not convinced. I do believe this would be a great read for a Christian with OCD. The author doesn’t push “trust therapy” (my own term) to the exclusion of other therapies (medication, cognitive-behavioral, etc.) but mentions that “trust therapy” leads to spiritual growth. This is a very important point. I think the book could be reduced in length because the “trust therapy,” but it’s still a fairly quick read. It is written on a layman’s level. If you suffer from OCD, may God show his grace to you. And remember, don’t give up. https://www.amazon.com/Can-Christianity-Cure-Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder/dp/1587432064

Scrupulosity: A form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involving religious or moral obsessions. Scrupulous individuals are overly concerned that something they thought or did might be a sin or other violation of religious or moral doctrine. https://iocdf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/IOCDF-Scrupulosity-Fact-Sheet.pdf


It hasn’t been easy. There are times when Earle is angry and withdrawn. He is often exhausted. I often feel overwhelmed with having to shoulder much of the responsibility for running the home and family. And I sometimes get discouraged knowing we serve a Lord who could reach down and heal this in an instant — but has chosen not to do so. http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/emotional-health/depression/depression-in-the-christian-family


Finally, it might be that in some cases overcoming depression requires nothing more than praying for the will to be joyful.There’s a woman I know whose health has failed in many ways. She can only breathe with the help of oxygen tanks; her husband has deserted her; she needs charity to survive. But she is determined to be happy—and she is. Lincoln once said that most people are about as happy as they decide to be. In the end, you may have to pray for the grace and courage to decide to say “yes” to life and, by so doing, prove to the world that you have indeed been saved: “by grace through faith.” To make such a decision is not to be a Pollyanna. It is willing to will the will of God.

As we consider the causes of depression, those of us in the church must face the ways we might be responsible for creating it. Supposedly, we offer a gospel that delivers people from guilt, but often, when we think people do not feel guilty enough to take our gospel seriously, we preach to them in a way that makes them feel guilty. Sadly, we do a much better job of making people feel guilty than we do of delivering them from the guilt we create. We need to confess this and change our ways.



God may be using anxiety to draw us closer to him, allowing us to recognize our need and limitations as anchors to the One who is sufficient. Focusing on the way Jesus set boundaries in community and kept a constant line of communication open with his Father, (The Anxious Xian by Rhett Smith)Smith helpfully and practically reconciles the experience of anxiety with the reality of God’s goodness.


6. Anxiety is pointless.

Matthew 6:27: “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” [Answer: no one.]

7. Anxiety is worldly.

Matthew 6:31-32: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things. . . .”

James 4:4: “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

8. Tomorrow has enough to worry about and doesn’t need my help.

Matthew 6:34: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Lamentations 3:23: “[God’s mercies] are new every morning.”


Studies have gone back and forth on the benefits of religion for mental health, but all that’s really clear is that the relationship is very complex.

This supports my belief that it’s an individual issue – some are helped and some are hurt.


The controversial ruling comes after a 5-year study by the APA showed devoutly religious people often suffered from anxiety, emotional distress, hallucinations, and paranoia. The study stated that those who perceived God as punitive was directly related to their poorer health, while those who viewed God as benevolent did not suffer as many mental problems. The religious views of both groups often resulted in them being disconnected from reality.


A 2010 study by Newberg and colleagues that included brain scans of Tibetan Buddhist and Franciscan nuns found that these long-term meditators had more activity in frontal-lobe areas such as the prefrontal cortex, compared with people who were not long-term meditators.

Strengthening these areas of the brain may help people be “more calm, less reactionary, better able to deal with stressors,” Newberg said. However, these studies can’t say that prayer changed the brain — it’s possible that these differences existed before the meditators took up their prayer practice. [Mind Games: 7 Reasons You Should Meditate]


Well, the time has come to ask what I hate asking because I am pathologically afraid of annoying people. But if I am going to have the time and resources to keep writing, podcasting, and researching possible methods and models for small groups dedicated specifically to helping mentally ill people know they have company, I need some additional resources. Now that I have 501(c)(3) status, I can ask you for help while offering you a tax deduction. There are 3 ways to donate:

  1. You can transfer money directly from your bank via PayPal donations (seriously, why don’t you have a PayPal account by now, people?!).
  2. You can use PayPal to make a credit card donation.

  4. You can write an old-school checks (ask your grandmother to show you how to write one, and then email me at toknowwearenotalone@gmail.com for the mailing address).

All covering-up-my-discomfort-with-humor aside, I want to grow this endeavor into something that helps more people and helps them in more of a variety of ways. Anything you can contribute would be profoundly appreciated.


More importantly, if you know someone who needs to know that they are not alone in their struggle with anger or mental illness, please share this post/blog with them. Thank you!



Want to know when there’s something new here? Sign up for the blog below. Tim also has a Facebook community called To Know We Are Not Alone and frankly, there’s a lot more dialogue and group interaction that goes on there than on this blog site, so if you’re on Facebook, join us there, too. [jetpack_subscription_form title=”” subscribe_text=”” subscribe_button=”Sign Me Up”]


After summiting Mt. Everest at age 7, Tim Blue went on to earn a PhD in Physics from Oxford by age 9. After cloning the first emu, Tim became bored with science and decided to pursue his passion for lemon farming. This led to a long-time guest spot in the Kardashians' show where Tim helped Kim accept herself and quit being so shy. Now, of course, Tim is an English teacher at Georgia Perimeter College.

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