Varieties of Religious and Spiritual Struggles by Type of Mental Disorder: A Qualitative Approach

Joke C. Van Nieuw Amerongen-Meeuse, Arjan W. Braam, Gerlise Westerbroek, Eva Ouwehand, Christa Anbeek, Hanneke Schaap-Jonker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: Little is known about types of religious/spiritual (R/S) struggles with regard to various diagnostic groups in mental health care. The current qualitative study aims to give an impression of R/S struggles as observed in six diagnostic groups in clinical mental health care. Methods: Inductive thematic content analysis was applied to 34 semi-structured interviews. The interviews were performed among (day) clinical mental health care patients in two institutions. Results: Among patients with depression, a lack of positive R/S experiences, isolation, and feelings of guilt and shame were present. Those with cluster C and anxiety disorders reported uncertainty toward God and faith and R/S reticence. Psychotic disorders were accompanied by impressive R/S experiences, reticence to share these, and mistrust toward health professionals. Patients with bipolar disorder struggled with the interpretation of their R/S experiences and with both attraction and distance toward R/S. Cluster B patients showed ambivalence and anger toward God and others, and some reported existential tiredness. Patients with autism mentioned doubts and troubles with religious beliefs. In all groups, many patients had questions like "why?"or "where is God?"Conclusion: R/S struggles to some extent may be the language of the illness. Mental health professionals are recommended to take this into account, taking heed of the content of individual R/S struggles and considering using R/S interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Diagnoses
  • Existential abandonment
  • Qualitative approach
  • Religious beliefs
  • Religious/spiritual struggles

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