Ch11 - Chapter 11 Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health...

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J.M. Nelson, Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality, DOI 10.1007/978-0-387-87573-6_11, @ Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009 347 Chapter 11 Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health The relationship between religion or spirituality and mental health has been a subject of intense interest. Most of the thousands of studies on the topic in both the psychological and religious literature take the position that there is an important connection between religious activities, mental health, and spiritual wellness. However, the nature and importance of the relationship remains a topic of contention (Hathaway & Pargament, 1990). Some authors like Freud have argued that the relationship is essentially nega- tive, with religion representing a kind of psychological pathology. More recent work has often suggested that religion has a positive effect on mental health and that good mental health is an important prerequisite for spiritual development (e.g., Stoeber, 1994, p. 98). A third group of authors (e.g., Welch, 1996, p. 98) argues that while there are important connections between the two, they are also somewhat independent of each other so that a person might have a rich spiritual life while suffering from mental illness, or be psychologically healthy but have deep spiritual problems. Conceptual and definitional issues are of great importance to this topic. The views an investigator takes about the nature of religion, spirituality, and mental health will influence the kinds of questions they ask and the answers they receive. As we have seen, spirituality is not just a specific human characteristic but involves the way that we function as a whole in relation to the world, others, and the Divine (see Section 1.2.2). Thus, we might expect that there would be complex connections between spiritual wellness and mental health. Spiritual problems might involve issues of balance more than a specific and predictable set of psychological problems. We begin with a review of three important psychological approaches to the topic. 11.1 Psychological Models of Mental Health 11.1.1 The Medical Model The most influential view of mental health in the US is the medical model , which forms the basis of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM; American Psychiatric Association, 2000). It is a framework consisting of several beliefs:
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348 11 Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health 1. Mental or psychological health is the normal state of human functioning and can be defined as a condition in which the person is functioning well in their environ- ment with a minimum of personal distress. A person is healthy in the absence of problems. 2. Mental problems are factual entities that can be grouped into discrete illness categories just like physical problems. Each illness has a particular group of symptoms associated with it that are related to a common cause, and knowledge of the illness category will help devise and apply appropriate treatments. 3. Mental illness is an abnormal condition caused by problems either within the
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Ch11 - Chapter 11 Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health...

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