Religion And Spirituality For Recovery From Mental Illness.

A few day back I wrote a piece about how atheists are likely to deal with depression. Today I wanted to talk about how religious and spiritual people see depression and are likely to deal with it.

Some religions unfortunately have been put in a position where the majority seems to be either anti-science or anti-modern society. There are some religions which accept science and the importance of progressiveness in human society but they are few in number.

In the time I have spent reading about other people’s stories and how they have been recovering from depression and anxiety, I often see a lot of people talking about how Jesus/Allah/Krishna helped them become stronger and overcome depression. They talked about how whenever they felt weak, they let all their sorrows out to their god and felt better. There are stories of how people read the holy books and felt connected to the words and gained strength from them and continue to do so even now.

Now since I am a person of science, rather than completely ignoring these stories as anecdotes I actually tried to look into the scientific literature on how religion and spirituality plays a role in recovery from mental illnesses. I found some interesting pieces I would like to share with you,

“Consistent with the predictions that grow out of attachment theory, people who report a closer connection to God experience a number of health-related benefits: less depression and higher self-esteem (Maton, 1989b), less loneliness (Kirkpatrick, Kellas, & Shillito, 1993), greater relational maturity (Hall & Edwards, 1996, 2002), and greater psychosocial competence (Pargament et al., 1988). Furthermore, as predicted by attachment theory, the perceived sense of closeness to God appears to be particularly valuable to people in stressful situations.” -Hill

“…empirical studies have found that religious and spiritual struggles are linked to both negative and positive health outcomes. On the negative side, religious and spiritual struggles have been associated with a number of indicators of psychological distress, including anxiety, depression, negative mood, poorer quality of life, panic disorder, and suicidality (Exline et al., 2000; Hays, Meador, Branch, & George, 2001; Krause, IngersollDayton, Ellison, & Wulff, 1999; Pargament et al., 2000; Pargament, Smith, Koenig, & Perez, 1998; Pargament, Zinnbauer, et al., 1998; Trenholm, Trent, & Compton, 1998). With respect to physical health, religious and spiritual struggles have also been predictive of declines in physical recovery in medical rehabilitation patients (Fitchett, Rybarczyk, DeMarco, & Nicholas, 1999), longer hospital stays (Berg, Fonss, Reed, & VandeCreek, 1995), and greater risk of mortality following a medical illness (Pargament, Koenig, Tarakeshwar, & Hahn, 2001). But various indicators of religious and spiritual struggle have been associated with positive outcomes, such as stress-related growth, spiritual growth, open-mindedness, self-actualization, and lower levels of prejudice (Calhoun, Cann, Tedeschi, & McMillan, 2000; Pargament et al., 2000; Ventis, 1995). These findings seem to support the notion that religious and spiritual struggles represent a crucial fork in the road for many people, one that can lead in the direction of growth or to significant health problems.”

It is hence clear that religion and spirituality do play a role in recovery and the functioning of attachment theory is at the core of the science of religion.

So it is pretty obvious that if people choose to use religion or spirituality as their choice of recovery path, we should let them, although we should encourage the visits to psychiatrists but if someone trusts their god more than a doctor then we need to let them make the choice.

It is true that some religions may say that people with mental illness are possessed by demons or spirits. Others say that someone has a mental illness because they have done something wrong. These beliefs might stop people from getting professional help. Religious groups may suggest different things to help the person such as exorcisms, herbal remedies or witchcraft. These approaches may be more harmful than helpful but at the same time,

  1. If you are part of a spiritual community you may have more support and friendship.
  2. Spirituality may help you feel connected to something bigger than yourself.
  3. It may help you to make sense of your experiences.
  4. You may feel strength or hope from your spirituality that helps to get you through times when you are unwell.
  5. You may feel more at peace with yourself and other people around you.

We must always remember the fight is against mental illnesses and not the coping or recovery methods, we don’t have to establish the empirical supremacy of one method over the other, we must always be looking for new ones instead.

Cited Study by Peter C. Hill et al. and Spirituality and Mental Health as source.

40 Replies to “Religion And Spirituality For Recovery From Mental Illness.”

  1. My Buddhism practise played a huge role in helping me recover from depression. So I totally agree with what you have written.

    1. Yeah that is what I wanted to say. Buddhism , much like other Indic religions is more founded in philosophy than practices which is probably what makes them more peaceful and fulfilling in practice.

      1. 😁😁 I was caught out by the Kelvin out of nowhere there. Didn’t understand what it was doing there.😀

  2. Geez there is another blog I follow and that’s also called Knight of Steel and the author is called Kelvin.
    I’m sorry for the mix up.🙏🏼 I think I need sleep. Lol
    Apologies mate!

      1. KelvinMKnights blog. So not Knight of Steel. The Knight is the common factor here.
        So sorry for all the confusion!

      2. Sometimes honest mistakes lead to good friendships. I have found the blog to go through for the night 😄

  3. Fully agree.Spirituality definitely helps in recovering from depression and many stressful situations. But medical help should also continue in the form of counselling and medicines.

  4. Hey. Really liked how you’ve talked about both the negative and the positive of religion and its effect on mental health. Keep going. Great work !!

    1. Yes, I agree with you on that. Belief acts as a method for us to feel better about ourselves. It should not be mistaken for ‘holy’ intervention.

  5. Well, I think religion is a mental illness. It is the delusion that humans are special creatures who have been given the opportunity, by some invisible power, to cheat death and have an eternal after life in paradise. All creatures die. Resurrection is delusional, a wish dream; there is but one life not two. GROG

    1. I agree with you on that religion leads to many delusions amongst people. Religion is also what makes people do some terrible things. All of this on the premise that there is an afterlife. That said, religion or faith, at least makes some hardships easier to face. Sort of like a placebo

    2. The only thing I would change about your statement is that you should say “religion is a socially acceptable mental illness.” It’s okay to believe that Jesus walked on water, for example, but if you believe the same, then you’re considered mentally ill.

      1. Ah yes, you talk to god you’re religious and god talks to you, you’re psychotic.

      2. Bubbles, I read some of your writing. Good luck. I like your comment that “religion is a socially acceptable metal illness”. True, it has been normalized. The babble of the deluded has become the background noise of an otherwise rational world. They believe in two lives rather than just the one allotted to all of earth’s other creatures!

  6. I discovered Buddhism through my social anxiety- I started meditating to relieve my stresses, and wound up becoming more ‘religious’ than I ever had (still not very), while becoming more mentally healthy than I had been in decades. I loved this article- you did a really great job of showing both sides of the religious coin and how damaging it can be if understood/interpreted in a different way.

    1. Thank you! Buddhism and other Indic religions have had various occasions of helping people. I am glad you managed to reach a better position.

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