Religion and psychiatry have had a unique relationship since psychiatry’s inception. It has been historically a negative one, beginning with Freud’s assertion that religion leads to neuroticism. Today, the interplay between the two is more nuanced, with burgeoning research on the potential negative or positive effects of religion on mental health, especially with regards to conditions such as major depressive disorder. One area of research that is still scarce is how religion and/or spirituality affects bipolar disorder and vice versa. A review of both qualitative and quantitative studies was done to show what the current state of research is regarding religion/spirituality and bipolar disorder. Sixteen relevant studies were found, the results of which highlighted the importance of distinguishing intrinsic religiosity, organized religious activity, and private religious activity when referring to the effect of religion/spirituality on bipolar disorder. Other important themes found in these studies were the struggle that bipolar patients with strong religious beliefs face when talking to mental health professionals about religion as well as the difficulty of navigating what their religious experiences mean in the context of their medical condition. The relative paucity of research done on the topic highlights the need for more original studies, yet the current level of research shows that religion/spirituality and bipolar disorder have profound effects on one another in the lives of patients.
Bipolar Disorder, Religion
Religious Community and Socialization
Clinical Assistant Instructor, Psychiatry, SUNY Upstate Medical University, United States