Religion and schizophrenia

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The relationship between religion and schizophrenia is of particular interest to psychiatrists because of the similarities between religious experiences and psychotic episodes; religious experiences often involve auditory and/or visual phenomena, and those with schizophrenia commonly report hallucinations and delusions that may resemble the events found within a religious experience.[1] In general, religion has been found to have "both a protective and a risk increasing effect" for schizophrenia.[2]

A common report from those with schizophrenia is some type of religious belief that many medical practitioners consider to be delusional – such as the belief that they are possessed by demons, that a god is talking to them, that they themselves are divine beings, or that they are prophets. [3][4][5] Active and adaptive coping skills in subjects with residual schizophrenia are associated with a sound spiritual, religious, or personal belief system.[6]

Trans-cultural studies have found that such beliefs are much more common in patients who also identify as Christian and/or reside in predominately Christian areas such as Europe or North America.[7][8] By comparison, patients in Japan much more commonly have delusions surrounding matters of shame and slander,[7] and in Pakistan matters of paranoia regarding relatives and neighbors.[8]


Schizophrenia is a complex psychotic disorder in which symptoms include emotional blunting, intellectual deterioration, social isolation, disorganized speech and behavior, delusions, and hallucinations. The causes of schizophrenia are unclear, but it seems that genetics play a heavy role, as individuals with a family history are far more likely to suffer from schizophrenia.[9][10] The disorder can be triggered and exacerbated by social and environmental factors, with episodes becoming more apparent in periods of high stress. Neurologists have found that the schizophrenic brain has larger ventricles (fluid-filled cavities) compared to a non-schizophrenic brain. This is hypothesized to be due to loss of nerve cells.[11] Symptoms usually appear around the onset of early adulthood.[9] It is rare for a child to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, in part because of the difficulty in establishing what erroneous thoughts and beliefs can be attributed to childhood development[12] and which thoughts and beliefs can be attributed to schizophrenia. With psychiatric medication (usually antipsychotics) and therapy, individuals with schizophrenia can live successful and productive lives.[13]

Role of religion in schizophrenia treatment[edit]

It has been shown in longitudinal studies that those suffering from schizophrenia have varying degrees of success when religion plays a significant role in their recovery.[14] It would seem that the use of religion can either be a helpful method of coping with the disorder, or it can be a significant hindrance in recovery. Especially for those who are active in a religious community, religion can also be a very valuable tool in coping with the disorder.[15][16] It can be difficult, however, to distinguish if a religious experience is genuine to the spiritual person, or if it is a positive symptom of the illness.[17] This is where a skilled and reliable therapist can help. Provided that a therapist is open to the use of religion in one's treatment, and that the patient is open and receiving said treatment, it is entirely possible to tie religion in with professional therapeutic aids and medication in order to meet a desirable goal. Those who are involved in their church and are spiritual on a daily basis, while getting psychiatric treatment have reported fewer symptoms and a better quality of life. They learn to see their religion as a source of hope rather than a tormenting reality.[18]

Religion as a trigger for schizophrenia[edit]

Schizophrenia can be triggered by a variety of environmental factors, including significant stress, intensely emotional situations, and disturbing or uncomfortable experiences. It is possible that religion can sometimes be a trigger for schizophrenia in those who are vulnerable; religious imagery is often very grandiose, and beckons a large personal change within an individual. This could potentially lead to a psychotic episode due to the shift in realistic thinking; a sufferer may believe that they themselves are a deity or messiah. These symptoms may cause violent behavior, either toward others or themselves.[19] In some instances, they may also experience more distress-inducing symptoms if they believe that a god is using their illness as a punishment. The patient may refuse treatment based on religious beliefs; in certain instances, one might believe that their delusions and hallucinations are actually a divine experience, and therefore deny any treatment. [20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Murray, ED.; Cunningham MG; Price BH (2012). "The role of psychotic disorders in religious history considered". The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. 24 (4): 410–26. doi:10.1176/appi.neuropsych.11090214. PMID 23224447.
  2. ^ Gearing, Robin Edward, Dana Alonzo, Alex Smolak, Katie McHugh, Sherelle Harmon, and Susanna Baldwin. "Association of religion with delusions and hallucinations in the context of schizophrenia: Implications for engagement and adherence." Schizophrenia research 126, no. 1 (2011): 150-163.
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  4. ^ Mohr, Sylvia; Borras, Laurence; Betrisey, Carine; Pierre-Yves, Brandt; Gilliéron, Christiane; Huguelet, Philippe (1 June 2010). "Delusions with Religious Content in Patients with Psychosis: How They Interact with Spiritual Coping". Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes. 73 (2): 158–172. doi:10.1521/psyc.2010.73.2.158. PMID 20557227.
  5. ^ Siddle, R; Haddock, G; Tarrier, N; Faragher, EB (March 2002). "Religious delusions in patients admitted to hospital with schizophrenia". Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 37 (3): 130–8. doi:10.1007/s001270200005. PMID 11990010.
  6. ^ Shah, Ruchita, et al. "Relationship between spirituality/religiousness and coping in patients with residual schizophrenia." Quality of Life Research 20.7 (2011): 1053-1060.
  7. ^ a b Tateyama M, Asai M, Hashimoto M, Bartels M, Kasper S (1998). "Transcultural study of schizophrenic delusions. Tokyo versus Vienna and Tübingen (Germany)". Psychopathology. 31 (2): 59–68. doi:10.1159/000029025. PMID 9561549.
  8. ^ a b Stompe T, Friedman A, Ortwein G, Strobl R, Chaudhry HR, Najam N, Chaudhry MR (1999). "Comparison of delusions among schizophrenics in Austria and in Pakistan". Psychopathology. 32 (5): 225–34. doi:10.1159/000029094. PMID 10494061.
  9. ^ a b van Os, J; Kapur, S (2009-08-22). "Schizophrenia". Lancet. 374 (9690): 635–45. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60995-8. PMID 19700006.
  10. ^ Picchioni, MM; Murray, RM (2007-07-14). "Schizophrenia". BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.). 335 (7610): 91–5. doi:10.1136/bmj.39227.616447.BE. PMC 1914490. PMID 17626963.
  11. ^ Page, Dan. "UCLA Researchers Map How Schizophrenia Engulfs Teen Brains".
  12. ^ McLeod, Saul. "Egocentrism". Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  13. ^ "Grohol, John M., Dr. "Atypical Antipsychotics for Schizophrenia." Psych Central. N.p., 17 July 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2017".
  14. ^ Mohr, S. (1 November 2006). "Toward an Integration of Spirituality and Religiousness Into the Psychosocial Dimension of Schizophrenia". American Journal of Psychiatry. 163 (11): 1952–1959. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.163.11.1952.
  15. ^ Danbolt, Lars J. (31 March 2011). "The Personal Significance of Religiousness and Spirituality in Patients With Schizophrenia". International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. 21 (2): 145–158. doi:10.1080/10508619.2011.557009.
  16. ^ Helman, DS (2018). "Recovery from schizophrenia: An autoethnography". Deviant Behavior. 39 (3): 380–399. doi:10.1080/01639625.2017.1286174.
  17. ^ Koenig, Harold G. (2007). "Religion, spirituality and psychotic disorders". Archives of Clinical Psychiatry (São Paulo). 34: 95–104. doi:10.1590/S0101-60832007000700013. ISSN 0101-6083.
  18. ^ Mohr, S; Huguelet P. "The relationship between schizophrenia and religion and its implications for care" (PDF). Swiss Medical Weekly.
  19. ^ Mohr, Sylvia; Huguelet, Philippe (2004). "The relationship between schizophrenia and religion and its implications for care". Swiss Medical Weekly. 134: 369–376. CiteSeerX
  20. ^ Mohr, Sylvia; Borras, Laurence; Rieben, Isabelle; Betrisey, Carine; Gillieron, Christiane; Brandt, Pierre-Yves; Perroud, Nader; Huguelet, Philippe (11 October 2009). "Evolution of spirituality and religiousness in chronic schizophrenia or schizo-affective disorders: a 3-years follow-up study" (PDF). Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 45 (11): 1095–1103. doi:10.1007/s00127-009-0151-0. PMID 19821066.