Schizophrenia and Faith: A Positive Connection?

by Christina Bruni Patient Expert

A study of 103 outpatients with residual schizophrenia suggests that religion and spirituality might contribute to improved quality of life for individuals with this diagnosis. You can find the study in Psychiatry Research (2011:190:200-5).

The research was conducted at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh (India). The participants had been diagnosed for a mean of almost 12 years. Sixty-two percent were male, 71 percent were Hindus, and the rest were Sikhs.

The authors of the study note a growing consensus that spiritual QOL (quality of life) impacts QOL assessment in health. The five domains of QOL are physical, psychological, level of independence, social relationships, and environment. Their study used the Hindi translation of the World Health Organization Quality of Life-Spirituality, Religiousness, and Personal Beliefs (WHOQOL-SRPB) Scale to assess the patients.

Two facets of the spirituality and religiousness domain of QOL were inner peace and spirituality. Inner peace had a "prominent influence" on other areas of QOL, and could influence the overall QOL.

As a result, the study authors encourage providers to determine the spirituality status and its meaning to each patient, going so far as to state therapists and psychiatrists tell patients to "turn to religion more frequently if they consider it useful in dealing with their suffering."

Too often, religiosity plays a part in symptoms, like when a person believes he's Jesus, or experiences a kind of out-of-body kind of spiritual crisis. Faith alone cannot cure schizophrenia. The SZ medication is needed to keep the symptoms at bay.

Yet it's good news that researchers believe faith can be a cornerstone in a person's recovery. I remember that when I attended my first day program we had to answer certain questions in one of the therapy sessions. For "Who do you most admire?" I wrote Jesus.

Faith can be a life boat when all hope is gone. It can be a life preserver in the murky waters we could drown in. I wrote about faith and recovery for a magazine article a number of years ago. One woman on the panel revealed that she chose her psychiatrist because of his ability to understand that her religious practice was important to her.

I don't attend church. I consider myself a Christian and seek to be a channel of God's message on earth: for each of us to love one another and treat each other with dignity, compassion and forgiveness.

My great regret is that human beings twist their religion's prophecies and teachings to condone violence or bigotry. I had a hairdresser easily 20 years ago who told me the Bible forbid homosexuality.

Still: I choose faith in God over despair in life. I would go so far as to request any guy I met through an online dating service share the same spiritual belief.

I consider myself to be spiritual and a believer even though I don't align with any organized religion or philosophy of life. The life ethic I do espouse is the one I dubbed left of the dial. My memoir is titled Left of the Dial for this reason: you can dare to be your own person and decide for yourself what to think and how to live.

In my recovery, I take comfort in my faith. It might be a radical idea that most old-school providers won't adopt: talking to your clients about religion, spirituality or whatever cherished belief system they hold.

I submit that a person's faith, rather than held under a microscope and scrutinized for symptoms, be respected, valued and given a place of honor as a coping technique that can indeed spark QOL improvements.


Christina Bruni
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Christina Bruni

Christina Bruni wrote about schizophrenia for HealthCentral as a Patient Expert. She is a mental health activist and freelance journalist.