“For reasons of intellectual integrity, psychiatry cannot afford to ignore or dismiss millennia of religious and philosophical thought about the very essence of human nature, reality and existence. Nor can it fail to acknowledge the lesson of history: that even the most secure-seeming truth, religious or scientific, may be relative. To do either would be to risk the eventuality (which in some opinion may already have occurred) of psychiatry losing its human relevance and drifting out of touch with what people feel, believe and need.” 1-Turbott (1996) in the Handbook of Religion and Mental Helath.
Have you ever asked yourself, “What are my most profound beliefs regarding the nature of God?” When you pray, do feel connected to loving, benevolent God? or does God distant and frightening? or “Can God help even me?”
Questions like those have been answered for more than two decades in the Handbook for Religion and Mental Health. Written to assist mental health professionals, religious professionals, and counselors the Handbook’s editors, Harold Koenig
“While mental health professionals have for many years ignored the spiritual or religious dimension of patients’ lives, this position is no longer tenable for
That was twenty years
- Research from Oregon State University shows that religion and spirituality have distinct but complementary influences on health. Religions affiliation and attendance “…helps regulate behavior and health habits, while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel,” said Carolyn Aldwin, a gerontology professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.” The study points to an association between “formal religious affiliation” and attending services leading to “better health habits, such as lower smoking rates and reduced alcohol consumption. Spirituality, including meditation and private prayer, helps regulate emotions, which aids physiological effects such as blood pressure.”2 Read more …
- Another study by Columbia University, “Spirituality, religion may protect against major depression by thickening brain cortex,” found that taking part in regular meditation or other spiritual practice such as prayer “actually thickens parts of the brain’s cortex, and this could be the reason those activities tend to guard against depression — especially in those at risk for the disease.”3 Read more…
- Researchers from Baylor University found that those that those who pray with a “secure attachment to God, such that persons who pray often …derive clear mental health benefits, while those who pray to a God who is perceived as distant or unresponsive experience elevated levels of anxiety-related symptoms.” Studying the most recent Baylor Religion Survey, they examined data from more than 1500 volunteers. “For many people, God is a source of comfort and strength, says researcher Matt Bradshaw,
Ph.D; and through prayer, they enter into an intimate relationship with Him and begin to feel a secure attachment. When this is the case, prayer offers emotional comfort, resulting in fewer symptoms of anxiety disorders.” Focusing on anxiety, obsession andcompulsion, their study was published in Sociology of Religion and is titled “Prayer, Attachment to God, and Symptoms of Anxiety-Related Disorders among U.S. Adults.”4 Read more …
- According to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, David H. Rosmarin,
PhD, says that having a belief in God may substantially improve outcomes for some psychiatric illness. Rosmarin in ScienceDaily said, “Our work suggests that people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without, regardless of their religious affiliation. Beliefwas associated with not only improved psychological wellbeing but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm in”5 Read more…
- Rob Whitley, Ph.D., in Psychology Today, explained that both private and public religious belief and practices are associated with well-being, better mental and physical health. “In particular, the research suggests that higher levels of religiosity are associated with lower rates of depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, and suicidal behavior.” He offers this example, “…regular attendance at a place of worship embeds an individual into a community of people who can offer material, moral, emotional, and social support, all of which can foster good mental health. Similarly, many people with mental illness report that private prayer, devotional readings, and religious programming (on TV, radio or internet) can provide solace and comfort, which can enhance the recovery process.”6 Read more …
If these five individual studies are not enough, Harold G Koenig, MD, in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, published a list of 84 other articles. Click “Research on Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health: A Review” to see his list.
All of these reports and more add to the growing body of research confirming a connection between a person’s perceived relationship with God and mental and physical health. The Handbook for Religion and Mental Health, suggests, “Finally, mental health professionals without religious or spiritual training must approach spiritual topics with some degree of humility and recognition of limitation. Religious professionals typically have knowledge, training, and years of experience that have prepared them to address spiritual problems.
“For example, a hospital chaplain will typically have 4 years of college, 3 years of divinity school, 2 or 3 years of clinical pastoral education, and often additional training in areas of special expertise. An uninformed secular therapist who delves into sensitive religious issues that he or she has little knowledge about or experience in may easily become the proverbial ‘bull in the china closet.’
“At times, the most sensible, sensitive, and respectful intervention that a nonreligious professional can make is to appropriately refer the patient. At other times, however,
Learn more about how faith in God can help with mental health concerns.
1 Harold Koenig & David H. Rosmarin, Handbook of Religion and Mental Health, Academic Press, Sept. 1998, Introduction, p xxix
2 Carolyn Aldwin, “Religion, spirituality influence health in different but complementary ways,” College of Public Health and Human Sciences, OSU
4 Christopher G. Ellison, Matt Bradshaw, Kevin J. Flannelly, Kathleen C. G, Prayer, Attachment to God, and Symptoms of Anxiety-Related Disorders among U.S. Adults, Sociology of Religion, 2014, 75:2 208-233
5 David H. Rosmarin, Joseph S. Bigda-Peyton, Sarah J. Kertz, Nasya Smith, Scott L. Rauch, Thröstur Björgvinsson. A test of faith in God and treatment: The relationship of belief in God to psychiatric treatment outcomes. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2013; 146 (3): 441
6 Rob Whitley, Ph.D., Religion and Mental Health: What is the Link?, Psychology Today, Dec 18, 2017
7 Harold Koenig & David H. Rosmarin, ibid,