Q & A: Can sin cause schizophrenia, and other mental issues, and physical issues such as diabetes, anemia, heart disease, and other physical issues?

Yes and no.  Sin usually starts as just an idea:

“Don’t do the thing.”

“But I WANT to do the thing!”

“Don’t do it, it’s dangerous.”

“But I want to!”

“Ok, don’t do it because God says so!”

“Oh, ok. (but I still want to…)”

Consider the classic Deadly Sins: pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, sloth and greed. Pride, greed and envy seem to be largely character flaws, though they certainly can lead to physical consequences. Wrath can lead to high blood pressure and heart trouble, gluttony typically leads to obesity,. Sloth is wretched for the metabolism. Lust? If it leads to something like unprotected sex or unwanted pregnancy the consequences are obvious.

You included mental issues as well as physical. Where I see that really coming in is if a person with a strong religious background suddenly finds themselves in a situation that contradicts what they’ve been taught all their lives. Let’s say, just for the sake of example, a child has been taught that anyone with blue eyes is a sinner and they’re damned. Extreme mental distress may occur when they find themselves confronted with the fact that blue eyes are pretty common. It might be worse still if they find someone with blue eyes behaving in a way that is beneficial, the opposite of a truth they accepted all their lives.

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Q & A: Are all mental illnesses considered insanity?

“Insane” is a legal term. To earn that title you must be unable to tell the difference between right and wrong and for it to be acknowledged in a legal capacity. While it can be a permanent condition, it isn’t always. For example…

I actually have Asperger’s Syndrome. But my first diagnosis came in my early 30’s and it was Bipolar 1 / psychotic. That night I was driving down the mountains and I saw something. I don’t know what – I can’t remember. At one point it was 1 am, then it was 1:45 am and I was idling on the side of the highway. I couldn’t see color, and I was SO happy! But the world was full of suffering. I don’t like suffering. So I was going to drive off the cliff. You know, come to think of it, I’m in a big Jeep. Suffering sucks. So I’m going to help the next person who drives up the mountain. I’m going to drive off the cliff but I’m going to push them over the cliff too.

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I didn’t do that, of course, but it made sense at the time. I called my friend to tell her goodbye and to explain my grand plan. Fortunately she kept her head, talked me down the mountain and got me to a hospital.

The following morning I’m sitting across from a doctor who is calmly explaining what Bipolar is and the different types. He said my type was the most severe but not to worry, they could treat it. In return I asked one question. “Am I insane?” At the time I didn’t understand the legal implications. By his reaction, he did. He took time to reply, but finally he looked me square in the eyes and said “Yes.”

I burst into tears, not because I was insane but because he had the courage to be honest. It was such a relief to FINALLY get a straight answer! That man is my hero. But wait! There’s more!

I got better.

Well, sort of. It actually took me 20 years to get a correct diagnosis, and even then no one is quite sure what happened that night. I have lots of clinical terms to describe it but the “why did it even happen” continues to be a mystery. The point is, legally insane people are incapable of telling right from wrong. But it can be temporary. It was for me. In time the color returned, I was able to think what passes for “clearly” for me, and I fully understood the horror of what I’d been contemplating. I’m capable of blinding anger certainly – I could attack someone easily. But pushing someone off the side of a mountain? That’s crazy even for me. It was also fleeting. Whatever happened that night, it hasn’t happened again. I’m not insane at the moment, but since it happened once there’s always the chance it could happen again.

So no, not all mental illnesses are “insanity”, though some behaviors are. The potential is there for anyone to “snap” and go bonkers. That’s why “temporary insanity” is a legal defense, and it actually makes sense if you know what you’re talking about.

Q & A: What are some uncommon signs of depression? I’m worried my single and divorced dad may be depressed.

I’ve suffered Clinical Depression for years (for those of you who are unfamiliar, there’s a big difference between Clinical Depression and being depressed (aka a case of the blues). I rarely see the physical symptoms discussed. Depression really, REALLY hurts. It’s not just aches and pains. Sometimes it spreads like fire. The worst of it is the heaviness. There were times when my body felt so physically heavy I couldn’t move. It was as though gravity had somehow increased, but only for me. I’d lay there thinking “I need to get up. I need to go to class. I need to go to work.” But I simply couldn’t move. If the house had burned down I’m not sure if I could have run away or not – I suspect not.

Q & A: Is there a known disorder that evolves from manic depression to loss of cognitive functions, such as memory, attention, and speech?

That’s an interesting question! Please understand, I’m not a medical professional. Anything I say is strictly from my own personal experience.

That being said…

Anon, please forgive the assumption (and feel free to correct me!) I’m going to guess you’re female. You note that your blood tests are normal, but not what they tested you for. So I’ll give you my best general guesses.

I don’t know if there’s a disorder that evolves from bipolar, but I can describe a condition that makes it much worse. Very generally speaking, manic / depression (aka Bipolar) goes on around a 2 year cycle. Six months manic, six months leveling off, six months depressed, six moths leveling up, repeat. Your mileage may certainly vary – the point is that it’s a long cycle.

My own memory loss was triggered by a significant hormone imbalance which was never caught in a blood test. It tended to mimic Alzheimer’s, coming and going throughout the month. Initially my doctor described my diagnosis as “rapid cycle bipolar” (which is babbling nonsense – there’s no such thing) before I spoke to a female OBGYN, who suggested I had Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD does what bipolar does, more or less. Only it does it in a month instead of 2 years. One week manic, one week level off, one week depression, one week level up, repeat. The intense mood swings aside, the rapid flux of hormones caused at least 4 migraines per month (4 days each) and left me with “hole head”. I could sometimes retrieve memories, but usually if they fell in a hole they were gone forever. It was almost as though I could watch them evaporate. Depending on the time of month even my speech slurred. If you happen to suffer from migraines you may want to look into the effect they have on the brain – in some cases they can actually cause damage and trigger memory loss in the same way a mini-stroke might.

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I started taking .035 mg of progesterone daily to level out the mood swings, but it didn’t do much to improve my memory. My psychiatrist recommended fish oil to combat the worst of the symptoms. He said it was so beneficial he took it himself. It made for the healthiest brain possible with the fewest side effects. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

What made me think of this was your comment that your mother is getting worse. When I started going through menopause, it was the worst period of my life. Every symptom I had suddenly pegged at 10 and stayed there. I thought I was literally losing my mind – I could barely finish a sentence! I feel like I was repeatedly walking into a wall for about 5 years.

The only relief I found was on the other side of menopause. I’ve been post-menopausal for about a year and the difference is amazing. I’m much calmer than I’ve been in ages, the migraines backed off and best of all I’m starting to regain my ability to think clearly. I still occasionally slur my speech but I’m hopeful that may retreat in time.

If your progressing condition is in any way connected to hormonal swings, you might want to have a talk with your OBGYN in addition to your psychiatrist. In the end, she was the one who figured out the most helpful plan of attack. To this day my psychiatrist doesn’t even believe PMDD exists. <smh>

Q & A: My parents neglected my mental health issues. Are they at all accountable for the outcome?

To give a more complete answer I need a few more details. Such as what you’re diagnosed with and how they neglected your issues. How old were you when you were diagnosed? If you were a child when diagnosed, did they accept it?

Without those details, I can only answer as a mentally ill adult. My parents knew I was brilliant, out of control, strong willed and a complete bitch. It apparently never crossed their minds that I was mentally ill until they received “The Call”. You know, that 4 am call that tells them your kid is in Emergency but thankfully no one died. That night I was transported to a locked psych ward and my parents came face to face with mental illness for the very first time.

I was in my 30’s when that happened. My parents and I both have struggled with your question. Could they have seen it? Should they have? Who else could have stepped in besides them? My father is a retired Col. from the USAF – we moved constantly. There was never a teacher or staff or church or anything around long enough to determine “hey, that girl just isn’t right”. Only my parents.

Even so, they were well aware something was wrong with me – I think both chalked it up to adolescence. My mother decided that if she loved me more, she’d make up for whatever I was lacking. My father decided he just didn’t like me, and spent as much time away from me as possible. Those were very bad decisions on their part.

That being said, kids do not come with instructions or an owner’s manual. I wish to heaven they did. I wish there had been a book out there that stated clearly “If your kid has a stratospheric IQ, is horrible at school work and can’t make friends worth a damn, they have Asperger’s Syndrome. Turn to page 64 to find out what to do.” Unfortunately no such book exists. I can only judge their actions based on logic, and what information was available at the time. My parents really screwed up, but I can’t blame them. I’m pretty sure I would have done the same thing.

I don’t know if this applies to your situation. In my case, my parents did as well as can reasonably be expected. I wish it had been different, but I also wish I had been born healthy, rich and gorgeous! I had normal parents who reacted in a pretty normal way to what turned out to be an extraordinary situation. I forgive them.

Q & A: Why do my parents think isolating me will help with my mental health?

I don’t know your parents, so I can only speak from experience. Whenever I see someone react like this, I tend to believe they’re frightened. They’ve encountered a situation that makes them feel helpless. So they “double-down”, trying to control everything they possibly can, even if it’s the wrong thing or in the wrong way.

If this is what’s going on, it’s not as though they’ve thought it through. What I mean to say is that it’s not deliberate. They’re not thinking “I NEED CONTROL!”. It’s more an instinct really, and that’s the problem. If they’re not doing it deliberately you can’t really reason with them. They’re just acting out in the face of a frightening situation – it’s hard to imagine something more frightening to a parent than a sick child. Talking to them in this case might make things worse – challenging them may simply make them try harder.

If they’re not listening to you, try talking to someone else. You might want to start with a school counselor – someone who they perceive to be in a position of authority. If they’re religious it might be worthwhile to speak to the leader of their congregation – if you think they’ll be receptive. If you’re in therapy see if you can plan a strategy with your therapist. If you’re not in therapy, is that an option? They think mental health is a mindset. Tell them a therapist will help you improve your mindset!

What you’re looking for is a way to open a constructive dialogue. I know it’s tough. You’re the one who’s sick. Unfortunately, with any invisible condition the burden will always fall on the patient. You’ll be called upon over and over to prove this thing that can’t be seen really exists. It’s not fair, but don’t expect that to change.

Q & A: What is more difficult to endure: physical illness or mental illness?

This one’s tough. I suffer from Degenerative Disc Disease – it is chronic and debilitating, a source of constant pain. I’ve had 3 surgeries on my spine and I’ve spent a great deal of time using crutches, canes, wheelchairs, wearing neck braces and in rehab.

I also was misdiagnosed as Bipolar I (among other things) and involuntarily committed several times. I was just recently (and correctly) diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Between the two, and noting that neither are easy to endure, I’d rather go through a physical illness / injury than a mental one.

Both are extremely difficult to go through. However, one you can clearly see. One you can not. And to me that makes all the difference. There are clearly visible scars on both my neck and my lower back from my surgeries. I often walk with a cane and my neighbors all saw me with my walker, wearing the neck brace. No one doubts that my spine is collapsing, and most are very sympathetic.

On the other hand, no one can see a mental illness. It’s almost always considered a character flaw. I can’t remember something? I’m stupid. I’m angry or impatient? I’m a total bitch. I speak in an odd manner or use long words? I think I’m better than everyone else. I need to be told do to something in a certain way or I don’t understand – I’m stupid. But I can discuss Imaginary Time and Theoretical Physics with insight and even offer theories of my own? WOW! I’m a genius!!! But I don’t have a job, or a degree. So I’m lazy.

Both cause suffering and degrade quality of life. But I receive support and sympathy for my physical illness. Typically I receive nothing but contempt for my mental illness. Until that changes, it’s definitely the tougher of the two to endure.

Q & A: How does it feel to be locked in a psych ward against your will?

Great question! I’ve been involuntarily committed 4 times, voluntary once. I tried to be committed once and was turned away – more on that in a moment.

The experience varies depending upon circumstance. Twice I really needed it. My reactions then ranged from a sort of stunned disbelief / numbed acceptance to relief. In fact, on both of those occasions I didn’t want to leave. Each ward has one doctor on call, otherwise you only ever see nurses. When I found out I was being released the first time I burst into tears. They hauled me into the doctor’s office, who demanded to know why I was crying. Didn’t I want to get out? I told him no, I was happy, the therapy was helping and I didn’t want to leave. He shrugged and told me I had to. They all but dragged me out – I sat in a numb heap, not even blinking hardly, until I got home where I cried for days. I found out later my insurance would only cover a few weeks in-patient. They kept me as long as the money held out, then kicked me to the curb.

The other two times… holy cow. Yes, it’s much worse than jail. In jail you might at least get a lawyer. There’s a system in place for the prisoners to have some sort of recourse to outside help. It doesn’t always work, but that’s for another thread. In a psych ward it’s just you, the four walls and a man who just met you who had control of your entire future.

My regular psychiatrist had encouraged me to use their new 24 hour hotline if I ever needed it. They were very proud of it! So one night I woke up and heard a voice that said, very clearly, “Children are a bother and you should be rid of them.” Huh. That was odd. I don’t have children. I don’t live with children, no one I knew had children. Confused, I remembered the new 24 hour line. I called, dubiously repeated what the voice said, then asked if I should increase my medication. Instead of answering, the nice lady on the other end asked to speak to my roommate. It was 1 am or so, but I dutifully woke her up and handed her the phone. They talked for a while then she covered the phone and said “I think she called the cops!”

Sure enough, a few minutes later in walked four of Denver’s finest. They talked to me for a few minutes, then put me in handcuffs, threw me in back of a squad car, and took me to the ER of Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. the hospital my doctor was affiliated with. We arrived at maybe 3 am or so. Six hours later a chirpy little pencil pusher came in to tell me she had news I wouldn’t like. I was being involuntarily admitted (not committed). The police were stationed outside, so I’d better not even THINK about running away!

I could hear the nurses outside complaining that I was walking around without closing my gown. “She’s not supposed to do that!” They had taken my clothes and my purse. The hospital gown they gave me was at least three sizes too small – there was no way to close it. I have degenerative disc disease and I can’t lay comfortably in one spot for too long, so I needed to walk. But they told me if I didn’t lay still they’d have me arrested, how would I like that?? (Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.)

I was so furious by this time that I demanded to see my doctor. I had been given nothing to eat, I certainly couldn’t sleep, I didn’t even have a drink of water or access to a toilet. They told me they’d bring in a bed pan if I insisted. Two hours later they transported me, in restraints, to the psych ward – a cluster of buildings on the other side of the hospital.

No one could reach my doctor, so I had to spend a day in group therapy explaining why I wanted to murder children. The fact that I didn’t want to murder children was simply considered denial, because it said right there on my chart that I definitely wanted to murder children! OMFG. My roommate that night was going through DT’s – there’s no distinction made between alcoholics and the mentally ill in most places. She had bolted an entire pizza and spent the night throwing it up, when she wasn’t screaming and throwing things. So day 2 with no sleep and no easy access to a bathroom.

The next morning, back in group, and I’m considering taking up smoking just so I can sit in the smoker’s lounge for 5 minutes – away from the bastards who keep telling every person present that I wanted to kill kids. The therapist was very tolerant of my foul mood. Why won’t I explain why I hate children? Why do I want to murder them? (yes, he said this in front of every other patient in the ward) I could feel safe here, I should just confess and talk it out. That was Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Just in case you forgot.

Finally, totally livid, I went to the front desk and told them clearly that if they didn’t provide access to my doctor IMMEDIATELY they could take up the entire incident with my legal team. There was absolutely NO WAY I was going to wait for the 72 hour hold to expire. What do you know? Here’s my doctor! I explained what happened and apparently their sole complaint against me was that I threw my purse at a nurse instead of gently placing it with the rest of my belongings to be locked away. He asked me not to do that in the future. I told him that if I was not in the building, there would be no nurses to throw anything at. I also explained the thing about the voice, the call, and that all I wanted to know was if I should increase my medication. He had the good grace to look embarrassed, but he couldn’t admit he’d done anything wrong. Instead he simply signed the release. Damage done. Needless to say, I never called the new, very helpful 24 hour hotline again.

The last time I was suicidal, so they brought me to the nearest facility with a bed (by the way, each story is at a different hospital. I’ve never been to the same one twice). And there I sat. No group this time. In fact, there was absolutely nothing to do at all. We were told to sit. Get a drink of water if we wished, then return to sitting. I spent 3 days like that, silent, motionless, holding a glass of water at a table with maybe three dozen others, all similarly dressed, silent, holding a big glass of water. The doctor came in exactly once in three days, looked us all over, and remarked how glad he was we were drinking enough water! Then he left. After 72 hours I was given my first and last meeting with the on call shrink. When he asked how I felt I told him I’d never felt better! I was a new human being and I couldn’t wait to rejoin the world of the living. Had they attempted to keep me there I’m certain I’d be in jail right now. But he cheerfully signed off, after congratulating me on my speedy recovery.

Which leads to the one time I tried to get in but couldn’t. The next time I hit rock bottom I considered my options. Of the five I’d been to, the one I really thought had potential to help me was the one I went to originally. It was quite a drive – over an hour outside the city. But between that and sitting in a circle or getting puked on all night… I called my Dad and we headed north. Once we arrived we all explained that I had been declining and I needed immediate help. This was the best facility – please admit me. I spoke to a nurse who said she’d page the on-call psychiatrist, but I never saw him.

Hours passed. Then a chirpy little pencil pusher told us that since we’d passed several hospitals on the way to this one, it clearly wasn’t an emergency. I would NOT be admitted. I should return home. If I didn’t obey every command my family gave me, they should call the police and have me transported to the NEAREST facility that had a bed. And with that she smiled, handed my father a bill for a few hundred dollars, and left.

After a few moments of stunned silence, we did just that. On the long, uncomfortable, mostly silent drive home I made a vow I’ve kept to this day. I would rather die than ever go back to a psych ward. The system is entirely rigged to favor the insurance companies and screw the patients. If I saw someone in immediate danger I’d call 911. But under any other circumstance I’ll do just about anything to keep someone out. Unless it’s a flat-out emergency, they do far more harm than good.

Q & A: How can I get my parents to admit me to a mental ward? I’m extremely depressed. My mom knows and I’m on medication, but I don’t think my dad really knows. I’m suicidal, and I’m too scared to tell them that, but I really need help.

The short answer – you don’t. There’s no need to wait for them to do anything. You can do it yourself.

The long answer – I’ve been in a psych ward 5 times. Some were fantastic and incredibly helpful. Some were so bad I told every lie I could think of to get the hell out asap. It’s really a crap shoot. But if you feel in your heart you should be in one, don’t hesitate. Pick up the phone, call 911. Give the operator (who will be nice to you – I promise!) your address. State clearly that you are suicidal and are considering harming yourself. You do NOT need to tell your parents before you do this. You do NOT need to ask anyone’s permission. Just do it.

What happens next is a little dramatic. I can’t say it’s a good time, especially if your folks don’t know about it first. However, this isn’t for them. It’s for YOU. Paramedics will arrive pretty damn fast with lights and sirens and the whole nine yards. They may or may not be accompanied by cops or fire. This is a stupid thing to say, because I know you’ll be jumpy as hell, but try to remain as calm as you can. Deep breath, find your happy spot, remember who’s important here (that would be you). No one will arrest you – you didn’t do anything wrong. The paramedics will come in, find you, and ask to talk to you. If your folks are at home they may pull them aside so that at least one person can talk to you alone (especially if you request it).

If they think you’re a danger to yourself (be sure to keep as calm as you can but continue to assure them you’re suicidal) they’re obligated by law to take you to a safe location, then hold you there for 72 hours to be evaluated. Depending on how nervous they are, they may take you to the hospital in the ambulance or in the back of a squad car – the squad car is usually reserved for people who threaten others, not themselves.

That’ll start the ball rolling. You’ll have an opportunity to talk to mental health professionals who will help to evaluate what’s going on and the best way forward. You might be able to leave after the 72 hour hold expires, or they might decide you need to stay a bit longer.

Remember, you haven’t done anything wrong. You do not need permission to do this. You’re in trouble. Pick up the phone and get the help you need.

Q & A: I have obsessive compulsive disorder, I believe that my thoughts can harm and change me the way I look & cause bad things to happen, is this true?

I’m not OCD, but I have something very similar and I’ve dealt with ideas like this for about 20 years. For me the answer is “Yes and no”. You’re not instantly morphing into a different physical form, you’re not influencing an event through telepathy. But negative thoughts can cause you harm and change the way you look. I’ll try to provide examples that may not apply to you specifically – I’ve no desire to make things worse. But hopefully you’ll understand my meaning.

My father and I love to watch football. One of his favorite “cheers” used to be “Rip his spleen out!” He thought it was a funny thing to say, right up to the point where the opposing player went down with a ruptured spleen. Did he cause the player’s injury? No. But he never said it again, either! Thoughts and words like this don’t prompt anything to happen in the physical world. But he still felt bad – it’s a normal reaction.

Where your ideas really have influence is in your own body. People who are constantly stressed, worried or angry have a different appearance from those who are generally mellow. I’m not talking about an “in the moment” expression. It’s more long-term. Wrinkles and frown lines appear. Nervous behaviors form. Posture changes. So while you will not transform immediately, it’s possible your physical appearance will alter over time.

What really caught my attention in your question was the idea that your thoughts can harm you. You didn’t specify how you think they may harm you, but you’re on the right track. If you’re focused on negative or angry thoughts, it causes a biological response. Your stress levels skyrocket, which can eventually lead to symptoms such as high blood pressure, chronic headaches and heart problems.

The American Psychiatric Association has posted quite a bit of information on how negative thoughts and stress affect things. This might be a good place to learn more about what’s going on.