We started recently a series on discovering exciting research findings from Teleios! A list of our and others’ findings is on our website (www.teleiosresearch.com)
Anxiety is a very common condition and is often defined as intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations (1). Anxiety is most unpleasant! Further, this condition is associated with a higher incidence of depression, suicide and substance abuse (2-4).
Fortunately, pharmaceutical treatments exist to help reduce anxiety, as well as non-pharmaceutical based therapies such as: herbals, meditation, yoga, psychological counseling, exercise, and refraining from drugs/alcohol and healthy sleep habits (5-7).
In addition, religious-based activities have been shown to alleviate stress and anxiety (8-11) and might be an important adjunct to other therapies. We reviewed recently the medical literature to determine the effect of religious practice on anxiety.
We found, in almost every study, that: religion in general, religious training, spirituality, faith, prayer, and church-based social support were associated with reduced anxiety (stress). In many instances depression was helped as well. These effects were observed in both otherwise healthy individuals and in various patient populations.
Importantly, the great majority of studies were performed in historically Christian countries.
Why would religion, in this case in primarily Christian countries, assist anxiety? The reasons are not known specifically, however, we speculate the following:
· The belief in the care of an almighty God taking a personal interest in a person’s psychological suffering (accessed through: prayer, worship, and religious training) might give comfort and hope.
· God’s direct intervention to assist the condition.
· The hope of an eternal life that surpasses the suffering on this earth might also give psychological comfort.
· Socialization with others of the same faith, inside or outside a place of worship, might provide a distraction from a person’s anxiety as well as a reminder of their religion’s teachings.
Christianity is unique among religions in that it assures access to God by faith alone in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross (grace). In contrast, non-Christian religions, non-Bible believing denominations, and Christian cults perceive access to God by a system of works or a works/grace mixture. Such differences might make an important difference in a person’s psychological health based on their perceived acceptance by God.
The medical literature tends not to differentiate religions, or the extent of adherence to a particular religion, on the psychological impact of the individual. Future research should explore different religious tenants and their impact on mental health.
Our review suggests that religious practice and belief, as shown primarily in Christian countries, may assist individuals suffering with anxiety. Further research will hopefully provide better understanding of religious practices across cultures to enhance how clinicians can use this important aspect of patients’ lives to help treat their patients.
Thanks be to our glorious God that He has made us in wisdom, cares for us and helps us with our infirmities. Thank you for joining me today and come again next week as we continue the fruitful exploration of how Scripture helps us.
1. Anxiety, Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/basics/definition/con-20026282
2. Beesdo K et al. Incidence of social anxiety disorder and the consistent risk for secondary depression in the first three decades of life. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2007;64:903-12.
3. Gould MS, et al. Psychopathology associated with suicidal ideation and attempts among children and adolescents. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 1998;37:915-23.
4. Smith JP, Book SW. Anxiety and substance use disorders: A review. Psychiatr Times 2008; 25:19-23.
5. Sarris J, et al. Complementary medicine, exercise, meditation, diet, and lifestyle modification for anxiety disorders: A review of current evidence. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2012; 809653.
6. Bystritsky A, et al. Current diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders. P T 2013;38:30-8,41-4,57.
7. Anxiety Treatment, Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20024562
8. Hamilton JB, et al. Reading The Bible for guidance, comfort, and strength during stressful life events. Nurs Res 2013;62:178-84.
9. Krause N. Gratitude toward God, stress, and health in late life. Res Aging, 2006;28:163-83.
10. Paukert AL, et al. Integration of religion into cognitive-behavioral therapy for geriatric anxiety and depression. J Psychiatr Pract 2009;15:103-12.
11. Berry D. Does religious psychotherapy improve anxiety and depression in religious adults? A review of randomized controlled studies. Int J Psychiatr Nurs Res 2002;8:875-90.
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