Psychiatry and Religion: Context, Consensus, and Controversies

Psychiatry and Religion: Context, Consensus, and Controversies

Psychiatry and Religion: Context, Consensus, and Controversies

Psychiatry and Religion: Context, Consensus, and Controversies


The argument of this book is that the divide between psychiatry and religion is an artificial one and that there is much room for understanding the same phenomena from different perspectives.In it thirteen senior mental health professionals and pastoral workers come together to explore what their different philosophies have to offer each other for the benefit of the individuals in their care.The book as a whole:* sets the relationship between psychiatry and religion in historical context* provides detailed information about specific religions and the significance of their belief systems for mental health management* examines the relationship between psychopathology, psychiatry and religion.


Dinesh Bhugra

Religion has often been seen as a strong defence against several types of neuroses. the relationship between religion and mental health can be a mutually beneficial one as religion provides guidelines which may help individuals to devise a course for their lives. Violation of religious rituals, excessive sexual activity, etc., may contribute to obsessions, anxiety and depression. Similarities between obsessive behaviour patterns and religious practices have been noted. Religion, however, creates guilt by setting high moral standards but also provides a number of techniques that may help alleviate guilt, e.g. confessions, prayers, chanting, etc. Religion is not a coherent entity that affects all individuals in the same way and neither does mental illness and an interaction between the two is quite an exciting one.

Organised religions may offer some external support as lessons from the religion are introjected in the form of moral, spiritual and real ‘eliefs that are important for personality development. Some people may need an abstract image, whereas others rely on a material image to help in worship. Once spiritual levels are attained, individual religions become less important, similar to Maslow’s hierarchy (Maslow, 1970). For example, suicide is said to be less common in those who actively involve themselves in and practise religion with genuine conviction, e.g. Catholics. Thus, certain psychiatric conditions affect one’s beliefs and certain religious attitudes can predispose to certain types of psychiatric conditions.

The interface between mental health and religion, though an important one, is a neglected area. Authors have offered background reading in different religions, which is obviously not comprehensive but only signposts on a vast journey.

The idea of this book emerged during a meeting on psychiatry and religion held at the Institute of Psychiatry in 1991, and since then, a further biennial meeting has been held and more are planned. the chapters here develop the themes of the two conferences and are not their proceedings, and it is vital that the reader sees the purpose as sharing of information, thoughts, and philosophies. It is hoped that the reader will treat this book as a starting point only and will be encouraged to look further and deeper. the second half of the book contains contributions on new religions, sects, and the difficulties of dealing with mental health issues like guilt. This volume is an attempt to represent the beginning of the dialogue between two neighbours who should be on very good terms indeed, but, due to a long-forgotten episode over the niggle about the size of a fence, have fallen out. It is high time that commonalities are ascertained and shared and differences are put to one side.

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