Mental Health and Religion
During times of uncertainty, organized religion helped give people a sense of stability. It also helped provide a sense of meaning to life.
Although the word “religion” has a wide range of meanings, the most basic definition equates it to a social-cultural system. It includes beliefs, morals, texts, and practices. Organized religion focuses on a specific set of beliefs and moral rules.
A religion is a belief system, usually founded upon the teachings of an archetypal figure. It is usually deeply rooted in rituals, creed, and doctrine. It often includes teachings from historical figures. It also includes sanctified places and organizations.
In some African contexts, spirituality is a belief system. It may be a sub-domain of religion or may be a separate entity. The word “religion” may be problematic for many Africans. It is also not always clear what “religion” really means.
It is important to distinguish between religion and spirituality. Both are complex constructs. Religion and spirituality have different effects on different mental health conditions. Some may be more beneficial than others.
Religion may promote rigid thinking, an emphasis on sin, and overreliance on laws. It may discourage maladaptive coping strategies, such as drug abuse. It may also discourage seeking psychiatric care. It may lead to marital disharmony or suicide. It may increase mortality. It may also promote anxiety, depression, and rigid thinking.
Some studies indicate that a strong religious commitment leads to positive emotions, such as gratitude. However, too much reliance on religious rituals may lead to negative effects, such as worsening a patient’s prognosis. Some studies also indicate that religiosity may be associated with increased social support.