Belief in Benevolent God Reduces Anxiety in Patients

Mental health professionals should incorporate the spiritual beliefs of a patient into his or her treatments.

According to a recent study, mental health professionals should incorporate the spiritual beliefs of a patient into his or her treatments, especially for patients who identify with a specific religion.

Researchers of the study reported that patients who believe in a benevolent God tend to suffer less anxiety, and are also more accepting of life’s uncertainties than individuals who believe in an uncaring or vengeful God.

“The implications of this paper for the field of psychiatry are that we have to take patients’ spirituality more seriously than we do,” reported lead researcher David H. Rosmarin, Ph.D.

“Most practitioners are unprepared to conceptualize how spiritual beliefs may contribute to affective states and thus many struggle to integrate such themes into treatment in a spiritually sensitive manner,” the authors wrote.

The study focused on data collected from two separate studies. One focused on 332 Christian and Jewish participants who were recruited from religious Websites and religious associations. The researchers discovered that participants who had faith that God would take care of them reported decreased levels of anxiety and intolerance of doubt in their lives in comparison to individuals who did not believe an all knowing entity had their best interest in mind.

The second study focused on 125 participants from Jewish organizations. The researchers enrolled their participants in a two-week program which entailed showing them an audio-video program created to raise a person’s trust in God and reduce mistrust in God.

At the end of the study, the participants reported significant increases of trust in God, along with quantifiably considerable decreases in intolerance of uncertainty, anxiety, and stress.

“These findings…suggest that certain spiritual beliefs are tied to intolerance of uncertainty and worry for some individuals,” the authors wrote.

“We found that the positive beliefs of trust in God were associated with less worry and that this relationship was partially mediated by lower levels of intolerance of uncertainty. Conversely, the negative beliefs of mistrust in God correlated with higher worry and intolerance,” the authors concluded.

This study’s aim was to expand the understanding of why people worry.

“We had proposed that beliefs about God, both positive and negative, would relate to both worry and intolerance of uncertainty and we found support for our model,” Rosmarin stated in an interview. “They do relate.”

The paper pointed out that other studies have shown that 93% of Americans believe in God or a higher power; further, 50% of Americans reported that religion is a very vital part of their lives.

“Furthermore, existing evidence indicates that many areas of spirituality and religion are salient predictors of psychological functioning,” the paper continued.

Yet Rosmarin went on to say that mental health providers rarely question patients concerning their spiritual beliefs. “That’s crazy,” he said. “We don’t even ask. We aren’t trained to. And it is important.”

Rosmarin said the matter is “a health care issue, not a religious issue,” and that by knowing what patients believe in, mental health professionals can better help their patients.

The study is reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.