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IS RELIGION A BUFFER AGAINST PSYCHOPATHOLOGIES?

Byline: Saima Dawood and Sadaf Naz

ABSTRACT

Objective: The present research investigated if religion acts as a protective buffer against different psychopathologies.

Research Design: Ex-post facto research design was used in the present research

Place of study: Lahore

Sample and Method: Sixty subjects were taken from different teaching hospitals of Lahore: Jinnah Hospital; Services Hospital; Sir Ganga Ram Hospital; Mayo Hospital with different psychopathologies. They were diagnosed according to DSM-IV-TR and were having single diagnosis. Later, to make a comparison, sixty non-psychiatric subjects were recruited from different areas of Lahore city: Bund Road, Krishan Nagar, Model Town, Faisal Town, Johar Town and Riwaz Garden and both samples were matched on two variables i.e., education and monthly income. Each subject had been examined on both religiosity (Religious Rituals Scale and Religious Beliefs Scale) and for different psychopathologies: Depression; Somatoform; Anxiety and OCD (Symptom Checklist-Revised).

Results: The results revealed that subjects from psychiatric population obtained high scores on psychopathology and relatively low scores on religiosity whereas, subjects from non-psychiatric population obtained low score on psychopathology and high score on religiosity.

Conclusion: On the basis of results, it could be concluded that religiosity acts as a buffer against psychopathologies; therefore, people with greater inclination towards religion have less vulnerability towards psychopathologies.

Key Words: Religiosity; depression; obsessive compulsive disorder; anxiety

INTRODUCTION

The present research was conducted to see if religiosity acts as a protective buffer against different psychopathologies among psychiatric and non-psychiatric participants.

The recent technological and scientific advancements have profound effect upon human life. The constant changing environment and multiple demands and challenges placed on human beings create risk factors for succumbing to the ever present pressures of life. Due to the above mentioned stressors, it is startling to note that emotional disturbances or mental health problems incapacitate more people around the globe today as compared to all other health problems combined . Therefore, there is a dire need to develop new skills and competencies for optimally being able to meet these demands. Religion provides one such mechanism to counter the stress and buffer against emotional problems. Different researchers , have found high frequency of people who used various types of religious coping while experiencing stressful situations. Conway surveyed elderly women, who found that 91% women who had experienced high level of stress endorsed 'prayer' as a coping strategy.

Although, research evidence supports the idea that people use religion as a coping strategy while dealing with stress but still religion cannot be taken as a simple way of coping only, in fact, it's a comprehensive way of viewing and operating within the world. Therefore, Religion cannot be confined to stressful situations, instead it's a part of daily life that includes good times and bad. In addition, it usually includes some kind of relationship with the divine; therefore, it is more compelling than other forms of coping . A number of studies suggest that religion provides important help to patients in coping with physical illness , surgical patients , the bereaved , patients undergoing palliative care and people with work related problems . Those who are religious may experience less psychological morbidity in the face of adverse life events than those who are not religious. Comprehensive reviews suggest that religion has many positive psychological effects , .

Keeping in mind the above mentioned facts about religion, the question arises, is religion a buffer zone against psychopathology? Different researches which have been conducted to see the relationship between religiosity and mental health have generally found a negative correlation between the amount of religious involvement and mental health, however, Batson et al. emphasized to distinguish between different conceptions of religion. Despite a number of debates there is still no consensus on the definitions of religiosity and spirituality. The word 'Religion' has many definitions. Spilka, Hood and Gorsuch viewed that a single definition is almost impossible. Speck argued that religion is the outward practice of a spiritual system of beliefs, values, codes of conduct and rituals, furthermore, Koeing adds that religion is basically associated with an organized tradition with people sharing common beliefs and practices about the Sacred.

On the basis of above mentioned definitions, it can be said that religiosity is a combination of practices of a spiritual system (ritualistic practices) as well as a belief and a sense of a relationship with a Higher power or force which is implied in an organized tradition.

The increasing evidence of a negative relationship between different psychopathologies and religion highlights the need to explore more thoroughly the relationship of mental health with religiosity. Most of the researches conducted in this area are related to the relationship between religiosity in Judeo-Christianity tradition and psychological problems. In view of the Western literature which suggests that religion acts as a buffer against psychopathologies, the present study was designed to uncover how religion relates to psychopathologies in the Pakistani culture and Islamic tradition.

METHOD

Sample

The present research followed an Ex-post Facto Research Design. Purposive sampling strategy was used to collect both the samples: psychiatric and non-psychiatric population.

The psychiatric sample (n=60) having Depression, Somatoform, Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder were taken from different psychiatric units of teaching hospitals based in Lahore: Sir Ganga Ram; Services, Mayo, Jinnah Hospital and Punjab Institute of Mental Health (PIMH), Lahore. They were already diagnosed on DSM-IV by the respective clinical psychologists of the hospitals. 15 subjects of each psychopathology (Men=24 and Women=36): Depression; Somatoform; Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder were included in the sample with a mean age of 32.56 years (25-55 years). Most of the sample belonged to lower, lower middle and middle class, due to which a sample of 60 non psychiatric subjects with a mean age of 33.14 years (25-55 years) was collected from different areas such as: Bund Road; Riwaz Garden; Krishan Nagar; Wahdat Road; and Faisal Town, Lahore. The non-psychiatric sample was matched on age, education and monthly income in accordance with psychiatric subjects.

Measures

Personal History Questionnaire

Personal history questionnaire was devised by the researchers which included basic demographic information such as, age, education, monthly income, occupation, family system, etc.

Symptom Checklist - R [(SCL-R)

SCL-R is an indigenous checklist which has been successfully used to assess different psychopathologies among psychiatric subjects. It has six scales named: Scale I: Depression; Scale II: Somatoform; Scale-III: Anxiety; Scale- IV: OCD; Scale-V: Schizophrenia and Scale VI: Level of Frustration Tolerance. Four subscales of SCL-R were used to assess Depression (25 items); Somatoform (34 items); Anxiety (29 items) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (16 items) among the participants.

The subjects were asked to rate each symptom on a Likert type scale from 0-3, where '0' means 'No symptom'; '1' means 'mild'; '2' means 'moderate'; and '3' means 'severe' level of psychopathology.

Religious Activity Scale

Religious Rituals were assessed with the help of Religious Activity Scale comprising of 20 items. The scale was developed by Sitwat to use with Muslims who are living in foreign countries, therefore, some of the items were not administered while collecting the sample here in Pakistan due to their irrelevancy, such as use of contraception; brought up of children according to Islamic laws. After deleting those items, 13 items were left which were then administered to present sample of psychiatric and non-psychiatric subjects. The subjects were given 5 alternative answers which were scored on 0-5 point scale. However, item no 11 and 12 had reverse scoring.

Religious Attitude Scale

Religious Beliefs were assessed with the help of 'Religious Attitude Scale' developed by Poppleton and Pilkington (1963) . Most of the items were about 'Christianity' but were actually assessing degree of Religious Beliefs, therefore, the scale was translated and adapted by the present researchers and the word 'Christianity' was then replaced by 'Islam' and 'Bible' was replaced by 'Quran'. The scale has 21 items and the respondent was given 5 alternative choices which were ranked on 0-4 scale. However, item no 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 19, 21 23 and 24 had reverse scoring.

Procedure

First of all, permission to collect the data was taken from the respective authorities of different teaching hospitals. Then pilot study was conducted on three psychiatric and three non psychiatric individuals to see whether there were any items which needed to be further simplified? As there was no ambiguity reported by the research participants, so data collection for main study was started. At the time of data collection, participants were informed about aims and objectives of the research and a consent form was signed by each participant. After taking biographical information, the examiner gave the instructions and asked the participants to fill the questionnaire. There was no time limit for the administration of the questionnaires.

The research participants including 60 psychiatric and 60 non psychiatric individuals were administered the demographic questionnaire; Symptom Checklist- R; Religious Activity Scale and Religious Attitude Scale. Each participant tested had to interpret the questions for himself / herself. At first, they had to sign the consent form and were all assured that the scores would be kept confidential and were also requested to answer all the questions as honestly as possible.

RESULTS

Table 1:

Table showing t values, M, SD, SEDX on the scores of different psychopathologies, Religious Rituals, and Religious Beliefs between Psychiatric and Non Psychiatric Subjects

Psychopathologies###Groups###M###SD###SEDX###t

Depression###Non-Psy###6.65###4.14

###Psy###17.50 18.42###2.44###4.45

Somatoform###Non-Psy###2.63###2.68

###Psy###16.67 17.61###2.30###6.13

Anxiety###Non-Psy###1.20###1.80

###Psy###20.85 21.96###2.84###6.91

OCD###Non-Psy###1.95###1.87

###Psy###9.88 11.77###1.54###5.56

RRT###Non-Psy 46.25###9.31

###Psy###15.98###7.26###1.52###19.9

RBT###Non-Psy 94.78 10.68

###Psy###51.38 10.45###1.93###22.5

Note: Non-Psy= Non Psychiatric; Psy = Psychiatric; RRT = Religious Ritual Scale; RBT= Religious Beliefs Scale; = Significant at a .01

Table 2:

Table showing Correlation Coefficients between the Subscales of SCL-R, Religious Rituals and Religious Beliefs among Non-Psychiatric Sample (n=60)

Psychopathology###Religious Rituals###Religious Beliefs

Depression###-.048###-.147

Somatoform###-.210###.000

Anxiety###-.017###-.110

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-.115###-.072

Table 3:

Table showing Correlation Coefficients between the Subscales of SCL-R, Religious Rituals and Religious Beliefs among Psychiatric Sample (N=60)

Psychopathology###Religious Rituals###Religious Beliefs

Depression###-.019###-.143

Somatoform###-.244###-.002

Anxiety###-.172###-.112

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder###.205###.323

DISCUSSION

The study examined if religion provides a protective buffer against different psychopathologies. The results generally showed a negative relationship between religious beliefs and practices and psychopathologies, however there was a positive relationship observed between OCD and religiosity.

A negative relationship between level of religiosity and depression, as reported by the depressed participants, was observed in the present research. These results are consistent with the findings of other researchers who claimed that religiosity provide a protective shell against depression. Koeing in a systematic review on religion, spirituality and mental health found that religious involvement was generally associated with fewer symptoms of depression and lower rates of suicide. He further noted that these findings were consistent in different settings, ethnic groups, age groups and areas of the world. Moreover, Stack and Lester in their study also found that those who visited church more gave negative views about suicide ideation. Furthermore the evidence is also consistent with the assertions that religious practices not only acts as a buffer against psychopathologies but also can serve as a treatment for depressive patients .

Therefore, it has clinical implication of helping the religiously oriented client to seek help from religious beliefs and practices.

The present research also revealed negative relationship between anxiety and religiosity. The findings are consistent with the findings of earlier researchers such as Koenig (2009) who found that people with high level of religious beliefs and who used to 'pray' during stress were less likely to report anxiety as compared to those who have low level of Religious Belief and less likely to 'pray' under stress. Koenig, Ford, George, Blazer and Meador also found out that frequent visitors of Church had low rate of social phobia. With reference to OCD, it can be argued that concept of cleanliness on which Islam emphasizes might be a precipitating factor for OCD. Severity of OCD was positively correlated with religiosity and guilt, the subjects who were more religious more often reported religious obsessions, and thus the results of the present study are in-line with the previous research findings in which a relationship between religion and mental sickness of a human being was found out.

This is also consistent with the previous researches in which it was found that OCD symptoms were common among Muslim community . Koeing emphasized that some psychiatric patients will use religion in an unhealthy manner reinforcing their neurotic tendencies and resisting adaptive life changes. However more research is needed to determine the dynamics of OCD in Muslim population and the specific etiological factors associated with religiosity in the development or maintenance of OCD.

Conclusion

On the basis of above mentioned research findings, it is observed that people who have more Religious Beliefs and Rituals report less symptoms related to psychopathologies. It can be said that those who are religious may experience less psychological morbidity in the face of adverse life events than those who are not very religious. Therefore, there is evidence to believe that religiosity does provide a protective buffer against different psychopathologies.

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Author:Dawood, Saima; Naz, Sadaf
Publication:Pakistan Journal of Clinical Psychology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Dec 31, 2013
Words:2900
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