Home Opinion Op-Ed Religiosity in the times of crisis

Religiosity in the times of crisis

Religiosity
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Afreen Faiza |

People pray when get scared and turn towards God when feeling alienated, helpless and depressed. It is a well-known fact that Religious affiliations provide the buffer for stressors. There are many challenges which we encounter in our daily lives which ranged from daily hassle stressors to serious issues which sap a considerable amount of attention like the diagnosis of life threating physical or mental disease. It is not uncommon for us to feel disoriented, sad and hopeless during the times of stressors. There are many positive and negative coping mechanisms known for dealing with stressors like problem-focused coping, emotional focused coping and likewise other ways to deal with stress.

The purpose of the present article is to understand the presence plausible linkage between mental illness and religiosity and provide an overview of the role of religiosity as a coping method during times of stressors. The discussion on Religion has always been a conflicting issue. It includes emotionality that shuns cognitive reasoning. Religious ideas involve subjectivity, supernatural affairs, orthodox beliefs make creates a difficulty to cater down collective and agreeable concepts of religiosity. Religion is a multidimensional concept. It includes an expression of beliefs, practices, and rituals, involves beliefs about spirits angels, or demons.

Commitment to religious beliefs was the strongest buffer against suicidal ideas in adolescents and moderated the effect of depression on suicidal risk.

Religion is signified from specific beliefs about the life after death and rules about conducts that guide life within a social group. Religion is often organized and practiced within a community however it can also be practiced alone and in private. Religion referred to as a belief in and worship of a controlling power which is beyond human capabilities and Individual’s religious beliefs shaped by the others actions, beliefs, and perceptions. According to the British Medical Journal, The co-dependence of religion and health are birthrights of mankind.

It is a well-known phenomenon that mental disorders create dysfunction in person and society. Here the question arises how religiosity and mental health is correlated to each other. It is well-known fact that religion provides a framework in many ways. Firstly, it helps to cope with and reduce the stress of difficult life situations. Secondly, religion provides an outlet for social support. Thirdly religion promotes healthier living habits. Lastly, religion provides a way to understand the world; it is an effective basis for self-worth, especially a collectively based one. It is capable of offering a profound meaning to human life, and it puts suffering into context.

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In Handbook of Religion and Health, Koenig et al., 2001 summarized hundreds of studies analyzing effects of dimensions of religion on depression, suicide, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia and other psychoses, alcohol and drug use, delinquency, features of personality, and other outcomes. In researches, religion found to be associated with indicators of poor mental health. Religiosity induces shame and guilt and likely to induce psychopathologies. Ambiguous overall results were found in the relationships between religion and anxiety, sexual disorders, psychosis, prejudice, self-esteem, and intelligence.

A study showed that 5% of their subjects with OCD exhibited a religious obsession as their primary obsession. Another case study showed patient with severe religious symptoms during a manic episode. He saw angels and felt connected to heaven and God. Moreover, a study to investigate the phenomenology of bipolar I disorder found that 18.5% of the 184 adult patients showed hyper-religiosity as a symptom of the disease. Pertinent to the aforementioned facts we can speculate that religiosity aid to maintain mental illness.

In the former person absorbs religious principles and inculcates them as guiding principles of life, while later related to an outward expression of religious expressions.

However, another side of coin reveals another point of view researches showed that people involved intrinsically in religion are at substantially reduced risk of depression, while people involved in religion for reasons of self-interest (extrinsically) are at higher risk of depression. Other findings showed that religious commitment was inversely related to suicide in 13 (81%) out of 16 of the reviewed studies, and no study showed the positive correlation. Commitment to religious beliefs was the strongest buffer against suicidal ideas in adolescents and moderated the effect of depression on suicidal risk.

In a review of empirical literature on the relationship between religiosity and mental health showed evidence that “average effects are generally positive, although not dramatic.” The review indicated a number of correlations between religious affiliation and positive psychological functioning. Religious devotion has been linked to greater life satisfaction and improved psychological health, lower rates of depression, the lower rate of psychiatric disorders. While low levels of religious commitment linked to higher rate of alcoholism, drug use, and decreased self-care.

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We can speculate that there is an association between mental illness and religiosity Extreme and rigid religious beliefs create psychological discomfort that predisposes individuals for mental illness. Religious preoccupation seen in different psychological disturbances as reported in studies could be a manifestation of individual rigid beliefs or fixed cultural patterns. It is a null argument that religiosity induces mental illness rather it is polar and tunnel religious beliefs that provide ground for mental illness.

It is also worthy to mention here that according to Sigmund Freud, mental illness is manifestations of disturbances in psychological forces i.e. Id, Ego, and Super-Ego.  Let us take an example of psychotic disturbance, In schizophrenia, there is a breakthrough of Id and Super-Ego. Super Ego tries to suppress Id impulses which result in disorganized thoughts and patient reports religious preoccupations, delusions, and hallucinations.

It is important for mental health professionals to closely attend the unique religious schema of every patient suffering from mental illness.

Such religious delusions are markedly different from the healthy minded person with coherent religious beliefs and coherent sense of spiritual transcendence. Another dimension which is worthy to mention for the role of religiosity and coping during stressors includes intrinsic and extrinsic mode of religiosity. In the former person absorbs religious principles and inculcates them as guiding principles of life, while later related to an outward expression of religious expressions.

Extrinsic religious orientations more likely to induce guilt for sins, sense of discomfort, likely to imbalance one’s psychological health because individual unable to derive real meanings from religion and utilize religious affiliations to satisfy social gains. whereas in the case of intrinsic religious orientation person able to derive meaning and zest from life and experience spiritual comfort because he believes in the power of God and miseries as an opportunity rather than punishment for sins.

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It is important for mental health professionals to closely attend the unique religious schema of every patient suffering from mental illness. Obtain knowledge about religious and cultural beliefs of clients and incorporate patient’s religious belief component in assessments, psychotherapy and counseling strategies along with the focus of symptom eradication via psychotropic medicines to further enhance psychological well-being of individuals.

Afreen Faiza is Ph. D candidate in the Department of Psychology, University of Karachi. She has published academic articles in several national and international journals. Her areas of interests are thanatology, palliative care, and psychometrics. She is also associated with Karachi Psychiatric and Addiction Hospital as a clinical psychologist and visiting faculty at College of Banking and Finance in the University of Karachi. She can be reached at afreenfaiza2014@gmail.com. The Views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.


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