Psychological Labels: A Biblical Analysis

Introduction: The series: Psychological Labels: A Biblical Analysis addresses a common feature of our culture from God’s perspective. Labels are a two-edged sword. They may convey knowledge with the hope of victory or they may manifest a misinformed bias. No matter where a person lives in the world he is faced with problems, diagnosis of problems, and a treatment program. This can work very well in some cases. For instance, complaints of pain in the arm could be explained by a broken bone. The diagnosis and treatment plan of this problem seems uncomplicated.

In other cases, the person has a number of complaints that are non-specific: not feeling well, tired, aches, pains, not sleeping well, and the bad feelings. A search is made for a cause but none is found. Often a diagnosis of some so-called mental condition is made. What happens depends on the diagnosis but almost always includes medication. Psychological labels have been given to people on the basis of observed or perceived behavior and self-reported feelings. The series: psychological labels: a biblical analysis is designed to help understand the role of biblical truth in ministering to people with various psychological labels.

 I. How do you counsel a person with a psychological label?

A. Assuming the counselee is a believer and desirous of biblical help, the answer is: biblically.
B. Standards: The Bible and psychological labels are standards that are antithetical:

1. The Bible describes real people who are moral responders in real-life situations.
2. A psychological label (via DSM) describes real people who are not recognized as moral responders in real-life situations.

3. Solutions provided by each are antithetical.

a. The Bible is God’s powerful, purposeful self revelation and has far superior answers for all types of people and their problems. Many act on the Bible’s truth as their primary authority for helping people. The Bible is obviously the standard for: psychological labels: a biblical analysis.
b. In marked contrast, psychiatry and psychology are man’s powerful, purposeful description of man and his problems. Many act on these descriptions as their primary authority for diagnosis and treatment.

C. A label of a psychological disorder never trumps God’s truth.
D. Do you agree or disagree? Your answer will be based on your view of God and the Bible AND your confidence and competence in applying it.

1. Everyone is a theologian, an interpreter a labeler, and has a standard and authority.
2. Neutrality is a myth.
3. All facts are interpreted.
4. Labels flow from a mindset, worldview, and theological persuasion.
5. No label whether psychological or biblically-derived is neutral.

II. Classification and descriptions of some psychological disorders as obtained from various sources: it is important to be familiar with the quantity of labels for the series: psychological labels: a biblical analysis.

A. Mood disorders

1. Adjustment disorders
2. Dysthymic disorder
3. Bipolar disorder
4. Cyclothymic Disorder
5. Major depressive disorder

Note: The discipline of Medicine has designed “screening tools” to implement the drive of early “diagnosis” in order to get the patient under treatment. Functionally, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual) definition of “depression” is being replaced by only two screening questions:1) In the past 2-4 weeks, have you felt down or depressed?2) In the past 2-4 weeks, have you lost interest in things that you usually do?

B. Anxiety Disorders

1. Panic disorder
2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder
3. Post traumatic stress disorder
4. Phobias
5. Generalized anxiety disorder

C. Somatoform disorders: physical symptoms are present that are due to psychological rather than physical causes.

1. Hypochondriasis
2. Conversion disorder
3. Dysmorphic disorder
4. Pain disorder

D. Eating disorders

1. Anorexia Nervosa
2. Bulimia
3. Night-time eating disorder
4. Over-eating disorders (obesity)
5. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder

E. Cutting disorders: self-injury for a variety of reasons.
F. Counselee/Patient vignettes: case presentations are helpful to complete the series: psychological labels: a biblical analysis.
G. Summary: What characterizes all of the conditions and people previously mentioned? It is feelings and feeling-directed behavior as patterned whole-person activity and as the target for treatment. Better feelings is the goal.

III. The Situation: this is an important aspect for our study: psychological labels: a a biblical analysis.

A. These people: counselees and patients are psychologized and medicalized: how will you help them?

B. Psychologized/medicalized is defined as the acceptance and application of the Medical Model of Disease – body-mechanic mentality:

1. Symptoms (what a person tells you such as fever when  he means feverish or feeling hot), perhaps even signs (a thermometer which reads 102 degree indicating a fever), are assumed to be due to a primary problem with, not in, the body. The body is somehow broken.
2. No physical exam or lab work is required for a diagnosis.
3. Treatment is directed at the presumed body problem manifested by feelings. The hope is to change feelings and therefore behavior.
4. Biblical principles are not applied or if they are, it is only adjunctive and supportive – spiritual-mechanic mentality. Two other models have been proposed: Biopsychosocial and Biopsychosocial spiritual Models because even the unbeliever understood thinking and wanting (which they termed psychological) were introduced. These terms encouraged such therapies as mindfulness therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and mediation.  Changing thinking and wanting resides in the person’s inner man (heart) and is the domain of the Holy Spirit. These therapies are actually stealing from God by taking credited for His creational design of man. These are critical for psychological labels: a biblical analysis.
5. There is no inside-outside (root or heart and fruit) linkage; therefore, there is no proper vertical (God) – horizontal (man) orientation in data gathering and for solution-finding.

C. The giving of the psychological label depends on a self report of bad feelings and observed behavior that is feeling-directed.
D. Subjectivity rules, both in terms of giving the label (diagnosis) and determining the success or failure of treatment (assessment).
E. Rather, the Bible teaches that man is a whole-person – a duplex being and image bearer of God. This truth and reality is not considered or considered improperly or ignored.
F. Help depends on your definition of help, his definition of help, the standard for that help, AND the reason the person is coming to see.

IV. The typical practice of medicine and counseling is non-biblically-based:

A. They are diagnosis and label oriented:

1. The label focuses on feelings AND feeling-directed behavior that is self-reported and/or observed.
2. The label is descriptive of feelings and behavior.
3. The label gives the person an identity that defines him.
4. As a result the person and care-takers think, desire, and act out of and based on that label. The person is ignored as a whole person and a theologian. Both the person and care takers are practicing bad theology.

B. They are self-focused, client-focused, and foster victim-hood.
C. The person’s vertical reference is not properly addressed. Rather, feelings and behavior are considered from a self-oriented horizontal reference – a “me” approach to people and circumstances.
D. The person’s motivation and replacement thoughts, desires, and actions as a God-pleaser for the glory of God are not emphasized.

1. The problem is considered a body problem (follows the Medical Model of disease).
2. No distinction is made between the brain (outer man) and mind (inner man) following the so-called Biopsychosocial Model and the Biopsychosocial spiritual Model of disease.
3. Spirituality may be included in the treatment “mix” but it is not Holy-Spirit defined.

H. The person is considered a victim to that which is outside of him (stress) and whose feelings and behavior are considered outside of his control.
I. Common mantras of people carrying various psychological labels include: I can’t …, that is the way I am, it runs in the family, I feel so bad. Pain relief is the most important thing…; relief of bad feelings is so important

VI. The practice of biblically-based medicine and counseling:

A. Approaches man as a whole person (not holistic) – a duplex being (inner and outer man – a unit) and image bearer of God. The whole person has been affected by the fall and sin.
B. Has a proper anthropology:

1. Thinking, wanting, doing, and feelings are linked.
2. Man was created a rational, relational, and religious being as the image of God.
3. Man was created a faith-based being: saving faith or non-saving faith.
4. Man was created a sensual being: he interprets via his senses based on feelings, experience, and unaided human reasoning or the Word of God.
5. Man was created a motivational being.

C. Considers everyone a theologian in (good) or out (bad) of proper relationship to God and a belief about God and self.
D. Regards man as an inside-out person: he lives out of his heart: Prov. 4:23; Matt. 12:33-36; 15:16-20; Mark 7:18-20; Luke 6:43-45.

1. You do what you do and feel what you feel because you think and want what you want. Note the linkage.
2. Motivation is tied to thinking, wanting, and doing. Feelings are the result.
3. Man lives out of an identity – who he thinks he is.
4. Man’s behavior is:

a. Logical – it makes sense to him.
b. Purposeful – he sets an agenda.
c. Fruit-bearing – he pursues “his heart’s desires” that often become wants and demands.
d. Treasure-driven – Matt. 6:19-24; Luke 12:34.

5. Sinful man has two basic motivations: pleasure and entitlement: I want, I deserve.

a. These are encompassed in the term sensual living: Gen. 25:29-34; Ps 73:20-21; Phil. 3;19; 2 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:24-26
b. They are rooted in self-pleasing and self-worship as a result of previous membership in Satan’s kingdom and family: Phil. 2:3-5; James 3:13-4:3

D. Considers the issues of control and resources central to everyone but especially to those carrying psychological labels. This is fundamental for psychological labels: a biblical analysis.

1. The issue involves control and resources: who is in control and one’s response to it?
2. There is a link between thinking, wanting, and doing, AND feelings.
3. Thinking and wanting drive behavior and feelings, and feelings drive all three.
4. People who are angry, fearful, worried, depressed, and/or overwhelmed are driven by bad feelings which are derived from perceptions of control and resources or their lack. They don’t simply feel angry – they are.
5. Functionally, they want (or don’t want) what they want their way for their benefit in their power in their world.

E. Focuses on God’s control: His prerogative, domain, right, and good purpose AND the believer’s proper response to Him.

1. This is God’s world. He has given direction on how to live in it.
2. The psychologized counselee and counselor are in competition with God.
3. They will lose: Prov. 13:15.

F. Emphasizes God as the Giver – His Resources:

1. God has given believers everything needed for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4).
2. God has invested Himself in the believer but that fact is not life changing for those who seek control and other resources in the hopes of feeling better.

G. Knows that people, especially those psychologized and medicalized, express themselves via feelings.

1. They think (expressed as feel) and act as if they are their feelings.
2. Concentrating on feelings and living by them is to be expected in fallen man.
3. Since man is duplex, the inner man influences the outer man and vice versa.

a. The whole person (inner and outer man) is habituated in terms of patterned thinking, desiring, and acting.
b. The outer man does influence the inner man but doesn’t control it.
c. The context of heart exposure is the situation and other people – commonly referred to as life.

VII. How to give biblical help

A. You must listen in order to learn and understand the person in his world.
B. You minister biblical truth that is appropriate for the person in his situation.

1. Be able to present the gospel in such terms that meets the person where he is.
2. Expect change; God does, you do as the counselor and the counselee should.

C. Direct attention to the source of AND the response to bad feelings.
D. The Bible addresses the whole person: thoughts, desires, and actions AND resultant feelings.

1. Rightfully understood and applied, Scripture gives the counselee and counselor everything they need to get victory: 2 Cor. 1:20-22; Phil. 4:13; 2 Peter 1:3-4.
2. Be able to address (1 Peter 3:15) the claim that psychological labels are due to body problems.
3. The mind and brain are not synonymous: the mind is inanimate, non-material, and spiritual. The mind is not broken. The inner man is the Holy Spirit’s turf.

E. Begin with the gospel. The Bible addresses the person’s motivation in light of:

1. Salvation and life after salvation (becoming more like Christ).
2. The person’s relationship with Christ and others: Matt. 22:37-40.

3. The person’s resources in Christ and His cost, the indwelling HS, biblical truth, enabling grace, and the privilege and blessing to be a child of God.

F. Remember labels are enablers. This is another crucial point for our study: psychological labels: a biblical analysis. The label is accepted as an identity as as substitute for what the parson is in Christ if the is a believer.

1. Psychological labels are driven and based on a certain mindset and worldview
2. They usually promote:

a. The notion of disease and protracted medical treatment.
b. The abdication of personal responsibility – a victim mentality – thereby excusing the behavior: “let go and let the physician or medicine do it.”
c. A “let go and let God” mentality thereby blaming God (not the devil or self!) for no change – “God must heal before I can change.”
d. Deception by shifting one’s attention away from biblical truth.

G. Remember what characterized psychological disorders. It is feelings and behavior.

1. You, counselor, must answer the question: what does salvation and sanctification have to do with behavior, feelings/desires, and thinking?
2. The answer is: everything.
3. Therefore, biblical truth always and completely trumps man’s “wisdom” which is based on experience, feelings, and unaided human reasoning).

H. Help the person to develop thought and desire renewal: 1 Corinthians 2:14, 16; 2 Corinthians 5:16-17:

1. Man thinks and desires in the brain (outer man) and the heart (inner man). What is the connection? Habit patterns of thinking, wanting, and doing are formed in both.
2. In the believer, the inner man is the domain of the HS.
3. The believer is commanded and privileged to put on and practice biblically-based thinking and wanting: 1 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 4:22-24; Philippians 2:3-5; 4:8; 1 Timothy 4:7; Titus 1:2; 2:11-14; 1 Peter 4:1-3.
4. The believer is to think God’s thoughts AND desire what God desires (Psalm 40:6-8).
5. The believer is to put off sinful sensual living ((focus is on my, now, for my pleasure and gain) put on suprasensual living (interpreting facts and life from God’s perspective with the goal of honoring God):

a. Knowledge/information comes through the senses. God made man a sensual being, and the information will be interpreted and evaluated in and by the heart not simply his brain.
b. The believer is a suprasensual being – he is a new creature in Christ – and he has the capacity to evaluate life through the “eyes” of saving faith – suprasensually (1 Cor. 2:9-10; 2 Cor. 5:7,14-15).
c. Sadly, the psychologized Church has been seduced by counterfeit wisdom.
d. Believing the lie is commonplace – the Bible summarizes that activity by various terms. See Prov. 3:5-8: “trusting in self” and “wise in your own understanding.”

I. The counselor’s focus should not be on the psychological label but on helping the counselee/patient/person function as a whole person according to:

1. Who Christ is and what He has done, the cost to Christ, what the believer is in Christ, what union with Christ costs the believer, and how those facts impact his response to life’s problems.
2. The person’s resources in the context of being controlled by feelings:

a. The person’s relationship with God in Christ – have him answer the question: Who is this God? Matthew 16:13.
b. The indwelling HS – have him view 1 Cor. 2:16 and 2 Cor. 10:5 and give a response.
c. The Bible – have him answer what it is and why he believes it.

3. The application of biblical truth to all of life including the body is a radical paradigm shift in thought, desire, and action for anyone but especially the psychologized counselee and patient.
4. The biblical counselor will direct his attention to the whole person: thoughts, desires, actions (behavior) AND to the why of that behavior – the person’s motivation. Feelings are linked to thoughts, desires, and actions.
5. Examples: OCD people clean for a reason; angry people get angry for a reason. These are whole-person activities.
6. Address the whole person:

a. Change thinking and wanting about self, God, and others.
b. As a result the person will change his motivation from self pleasing to God pleasing.
c. Put off the behavior by replacing it with the motivation given in 2 Cor. 5:9 which describes a radically-changed approach to life.
d. Meditate constantly (24/7) on the truth that God is BIG and GOOD, Who created and controls His world for His glory and the believer’s good, and He deserves to be worshipped.
e. Be grateful for a personal Savior Who lived, bled, and died in your place.

7. The result: a God-honoring lifestyle of thinking, wanting, and doing as a whole person, duplex being, and image bearer of God. That is true victory.