Religion and Mental Health
The connection between religion and mental health is one that has been studied for generations. Research papers can explicate how religion benefits or harms mental health.
Psychiatry and religion have long been connected in various ways; patients deemed mentally ill were often sent to religious institutions for treatment or care, for example. By the early 1800s, though, a new school of thought emerged, one that viewed religious beliefs as a form of hysteria or neurosis, ultimately severing the connection between the two. Since then, mental health professionals have often been skeptical about religious beliefs in patients, sometimes seeing these beliefs as a form of mental illness rather than a necessary support system. While extremism in these beliefs can certainly be problematic - such as having visual or auditory delusions - or while guilt about not abiding by one's beliefs can contribute to an increase in feelings of anxiety, the vast majority of individuals have long taken in their faith, seeing the benefits of their beliefs more commonly than the detriments.
Even in today's society, generally speaking, religious beliefs promote positive mental health in the following ways:
- Giving people a sense of something greater to believe in
- Providing assistance in dealing with the stresses and problems of everyday life
- Religion can support individuals as they struggle
However, when one's religious beliefs become so firmly cemented in one's mental state that they conflict with everyday life or changing societal beliefs, negative mental health issues can emerge. For example, individuals who struggle with sexual disorders often have great personal crises between what one believes through their faith and what they feel or experience. For the most part, however, religious beliefs provide one with a sense of support when times are difficult, or a sense of hope when one is struggling with any number of issues.