I often get asked questions like: 'Doctor am I going insane? Am I losing my mind?' My patient, a young women, Mary aged 24 years, made the same enquiry. She was brought into hospital by her concerned church pastor. She had been experiencing severe mood swings for the past two years. There were times she had such 'high' mood levels that she felt euphoric, invincible and in no need of sleep for days. She would feel like a 'winner' and go gambling at the local casino, spend thousands of rands on her credit card and also engage in sexual indiscretions with random strangers. This elevated mood was followed by days of dark depression where she was unable to get out of bed and care for herself. Mary suffered from bipolar mood disorder. This condition is not moodiness - it is a serious psychiatric condition that requires crisis care.
Bipolar mood disorder results in a change in brain chemistry that can only be regulated through appropriate psychotropic medication. She was not going insane - she was ill. After two weeks of care she emerged healthy and well again. Mary understands that her condition needs to be viewed in the same way as any other medical condition - in that it is chronic and may require a lifetime of treatment.
Those of us that treat mental illness know that there is no fine line between sanity and insanity. Mary emerged stronger and more resolute. Religious organizations and mental health professionals are constantly moving closer in partnership to care for the greatest of God's treasures - His people.
- How is mental illness similar to physical illness?