The study concluded that religion and/or spiritual ideas are of great salience to many patients with bipolar disorder and shape the ways in which they think about their illness. Many reported experiencing significant paradigm conflict in understanding and managing their illness between medical and their spiritual advisors.
These data suggest that the whole area of religion and spirituality is directly relevant to people living with a chronic psychiatric illness and should be firmly on the discussion agenda of clinicians working with patients with bipolar disorder.
There has been growing interest in investigating religion as a relevant element in illness outcome. Having religious beliefs has been shown repeatedly to be associated with lessened rates of depression. Most of the limited published research has been restricted to elderly samples. Religious coping is thought to play a key role in religion’s effects. Strangely, psychiatric research has neglected this area.
A questionnaire covering religious, spiritual and philosophical beliefs and religious practice was given to a sample of patients with bipolar affective disorder in remission.
Most patients often held strong religious or spiritual beliefs (78%) and practised their religion frequently (81.5%). Most saw a direct link between their beliefs and the management of their illness. Many used religious coping, and often religio-spiritual beliefs and practice put them in conflict with illness models (24%) and advice (19%) used by their medical advisors.
Limitations: This was a cross-sectional design without a control group and thus it is not possible to determine causal associations from the data set.
Logan Mitchell and Sarah Roman. Jan 2002. Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, P.O. Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand.
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