Some patients with bipolar disorder pray and meditate more than others
Research Activities, September 2010, No. 361
Religious beliefs and activities are a principal form of coping with depression and other life stresses for many individuals in the United States. A new study examined whether patients with bipolar disorder (BD) might use religion to cope with the stress of their illness. BD is a devastating illness characterized by wide, often severe mood fluctuations and sometimes psychosis, and can severely affect an individual's everyday functioning and physical well-being. To better understand the relationship between different forms of religious involvement and individuals suffering from BD, researchers examined churchgoing, prayer/meditation, and the influence of religious beliefs on the lives of 334 mostly male veterans with BD. Patients with BD were considered to be in manic, depressed, mixed (simultaneous combination of manic and depressed states), or euthymic (normal mood) states.
The researchers used the Duke Religious Index, a five-item scale that reports on respondent involvement in the public, private, and subjective dimensions of religious involvement. Patients in euthymic states had significantly lower self-reported rates of prayer/meditation while BD patients in mixed states had significantly higher self-reported rates of prayer/meditation than the other patients with BD. There was no significant association between any type of religious involvement for patients with depression or mania.
The researchers suggest that prayer/meditation may be an important coping behavior for individuals with BD who are in a mixed state. On the other hand, they could not determine if prayer/meditation was a behavioral consequence of underlying psychopathology such as religious delusions. They recommend to mental health providers that if an individual suffering from BD is religious, they explore these religious activities to assess the presence of a mixed state and to determine how the religious activities may influence treatment-seeking behaviors. This study was partly funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS16097).
See "The relationship between religious involvement and clinical status of patients with bipolar disorder," by Mario Cruz, M.D., Harold Alan Pincus, M.D., Deborah E. Welsh, M.Sc., and others in the 2010 Bipolar Disorders 12, pp. 68-76.