It may seem that spirituality and psychiatry do not have much in common. But in terms of mental care, both have real benefits to offer. Health professionals now have an increasing awareness of how spirituality impacts mental health. They may even include spirituality as support to care plans if a client or a client’s family requests for it.

What Is Spirituality?

Spirituality, in general, is the sense of connection to something of a higher power. It is the aspect of seeking one’s meaning and purpose in life. Often, spirituality is confused with religion, but one can be spiritual even without being part of a religion. Spirituality is an individual practice and is unique to each person. Spirituality and religion are linked as both can bring hope and healing during trying times.

Spirituality And Mental Health Problems

Spirituality, by its very nature, is very relevant to mental and emotional health. There has been increasing evidence of mental health benefits of including spirituality in treatments [1]. Here are some mental problems and positive consequences resulting from the spiritual activity.

Depression

Depression is a common serious mental health illness that causes feelings of sadness that negatively affects one’s ability to function. A person who has depression may question his purpose in life and the things that he values. The critical value of spirituality to these individuals is to restore meaning, purpose, and hope to their lives. 

By offering understanding and empathy, mental health professionals may help alleviate these feelings of hopelessness and despair. These elements of spirituality may help reduce depressive symptoms and increase a person’s general well-being.

Anxiety

There are many conditions of anxiety disorders, and the intensity of these conditions impairs a person to function. Common symptoms of anxiety include shame, grief, and the feeling of being alone. Spiritual symptoms may include:

  • Fear of death
  • Feeling of indifference
  • No sense of the future

Scientific literature about treating anxiety is rooted in cognitive-behavioural treatment and medications. With these treatments, patients may either make progress or have a relapse. These treatments may sometimes be only partially effective and engaging in spiritual practices such as praying or yoga may bring positive changes.

Consideration for spiritual activities like meditation as a possible treatment for anxiety was there since the 1970s. These activities may help you easily recognize trigger factors and separate them from emotional reactions. Spiritual involvement and beliefs also help establish positive coping mechanisms such as praying or practising yoga.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that is triggered by witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event. Symptoms may cause significant problems in work, social, and personal relationships, and there will be difficulty adjusting or coping. 

Spirituality is beneficial to people in dealing with the effects of trauma, and these experiences lead to a deepening of spiritual belief. Spiritual participation is associated with improved post-traumatic recovery. Meditation activities like mantra may help reduce stress and other related symptoms in war survivors. 

At present, there is no empirically based spiritual treatment yet for PTSD. Thus, health professionals have adapted the Spiritually Integrated Cognitive Processing Therapy (SICPT), a treatment that integrates clients’ religious beliefs and values.

SICPT helps to address spiritual distress by using a client’s spiritual resources. Spiritual struggles like loss of faith are usually recurrent among those with PTSD. An intervention that specifically addresses a patient’s spirituality may be effective in reducing symptoms.

Benefits Of Spirituality On Mental Health

Regardless of a person’s faith and religion, spirituality often enhances mental health and overall well-being. Problems are part of life, and spirituality helps a person view these experiences maturely and positively. Here are a few other benefits of spirituality on mental health:

  1. Individuality. Pulling out from fear, a person will have better self-empowerment to what connects to their beliefs.
  2. Mindfulness. Activities like meditation will improve self-control, mental clarity and emotional intelligence while being kind and compassionate at the same time.
  3. Unity With Surroundings. A connection to the environment impacts mental health through spiritual and emotional balance.
Conclusion

Spirituality and religious activities have been a source of comfort, relief, and strength for many people. The world’s clutter and chaos are here to stay, and spirituality along with gratitude can be a buffer against the effects of mental health problems.

References:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/impact-spirituality.pdf

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/The-Mental-Health-Benefits-of-Religion-Spiritual

Citations:

(Moreira-Almeida, Koenig, & Lucchetti, https://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-44462014000200176 2014)

(Harvard Health Publishing, Yoga for anxiety and depression 2009) https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (2018, July 06). Retrieved May 01, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

Pearce, M., Haynes, K., Rivera, N. R., & Koenig, H. G. (2018, February 20). www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved May 1, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7060195

Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended or recommended for patients or other lay persons or as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Patients must always consult a qualified health care professional regarding their diagnosis and treatment. Mental health conditions are complex, people differ widely in their conditions and responses, and interactions with other conditions and treatments are best evaluated by a physical examination and consultation with a qualified clinician.