Functional and Dysfunctional Religious/Spiritual Beliefs in Psychotic Disorders

Human-Friedrich Unterrainer, in In H.F. Angel, L. Oviedo, R. Paloutzian, A. Runehov, and R. Seitz, (eds.), Processes of Believing: The Acquisition, Maintenance, and Change in Creditions, 2017, 167-180.

Abstract: Many of religious/spiritual belief processes (as a possible form of “creditions”) have been constantly demonstrated as being positively related to parameters of mental health, as well as to indicators of subjective well-being and personality factors. It has also been suggested that a religious/spiritual dimension might play an important role in coping with mental diseases. In particular, religion and spirituality were shown to be protective against addictive behaviours and suicide attempts. However, despite such findings, there have also been numerous instances of a religious person suffering from delusions and hallucinations. Furthermore, there is some evidence that dysfunctional religious/spiritual beliefs might have an aggravating effect, especially in neurotic, as well as psychotic, disorders. Currently, relevant empirical evidence is sparse and more research is needed in order to characterize the role of the religious/spiritual belief system more clearly as it may be part of the disease as well as part of the cure, or, indeed, simply irrelevant for its etiology. We aim to contribute to this ongoing discussion based on a synoptic review of recent findings, by focusing on the relationship between religious/spiritual belief processes and psychotic disorders.