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Int J Soc Psychiatry. 1977 Spring;23(1):26-30.

Religious ideas and psychiatric disorders.


The evidence presented above points to the need for considering factors other than purely religious ones in determining the role of religious ideas in psychiatric disorders. The occurrence of religious ideas as part of the content of individual delusional systems in psychiatric patients can be explained on the basis of exposure to religious ideas through the social environment. It may be also related to the prominence of religion, vis-a-vis other belief systems, in the social envirnment. When considering psychopathological explanations for intense religious experiences, one has to be conscious again of the social factors involved. When an unusual experience having religious content becomes normative in a certain group (for whatever reasons), trying to explain its appearance on the basis of individual psychodynamics or psychopathology becomes very difficult. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the social nature of a religious experience and its psychopathological nature, i.e., there is more psychopathology in individuals reporting solitary religious experiences, or individual religious ideas. Thus the solitary experience seems to be more influenced by disturbed individual dynamics, but in other cases social factors seem to be crucial. Our overall conclusion is that a psychiatric analysis of the role of religious factors in psychopathology has to be first a social-psychiatric analysis. An individual presenting psychiatric symptoms and religious ideas has to be evaluated in light of his social background, since the specific content of psychiatric symptoms seems to be determined by social background factors. Individual psychodynamics determine the appearance of symptoms, but their particular form will be the result of these background factors, one of which is religion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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