People who fear confronting spiritual and philosophical issues tend to have poor mental health, according to a study published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science. The study points to the value of embracing existential questions, worries about religion and spirituality, and other philosophical concerns.
Link Between Spiritual Questions and Mental Health
For the study, researchers recruited 307 adults who reported experiencing spiritual struggles. Some participants avoided confronting spiritual questions. Participants who avoided spiritual struggles experienced negative mental health effects, including higher rates of anxiety and depression.
According to the study, struggling with spiritual issues did not lead to mental health issues. The problem was avoidance of challenging topics. Mental health was more likely to decline when people feared engaging with challenging philosophical and spiritual issues.
How Mental Health Providers Can Help
The study recommends mental health providers encourage people in therapy to engage directly with spiritual issues—even when they reach troubling or unclear answers to their questions. The sometimes unresolvable nature of some spiritual questions, as well as fears about how these questions might be answered, may explain why some people avoid such questions. However, when therapists help people in therapy become comfortable with uncertainty and fear, mental health may improve.
The study’s authors suggest avoiding spiritual issues can thwart people’s personal goals, and may cause them to view those with differing beliefs as threatening. This could contribute to problems of acceptance in society, potentially leading to the widespread rejection of entire groups based on beliefs and identity. Learning to tolerate existential and spiritual quandaries has a better chance of leading to widespread acceptance.
- Avoiding spiritual struggles and existential questions is linked with poorer mental health. (2016, December 5). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161205111017.htm
- Dworsky, C. K., Pargament, K. I., Wong, S., & Exline, J. J. (2016). Suppressing spiritual struggles: The role of experiential avoidance in mental health. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 5(4), 258-265. doi:10.1016/j.jcbs.2016.10.002
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