Objective: Spirituality and religiousness have been shown to be highly prevalent among patients with schizophrenia. However, clinicians are rarely aware of the importance of religion and understand little of the value or difficulties it presents to treatment. This study aimed to assess the role of religion as a mediating variable in the process of coping with psychotic illness.
Method: Semistructured interviews about religious coping were conducted with a sample of 115 outpatients with psychotic illness.
Results: For some patients, religion instilled hope, purpose, and meaning in their lives (71%), whereas for others, it induced spiritual despair (14%). Patients also reported that religion lessened (54%) or increased (10%) psychotic and general symptoms. Religion was also reported to increase social integration (28%) or social isolation (3%). It may reduce (33%) or increase (10%) the risk of suicide attempts, reduce (14%) or increase (3%) substance use, and foster adherence to (16%) or be in opposition to (15%) psychiatric treatment.
Conclusions: Our results highlight the clinical significance of religion in the care of patients with schizophrenia. Religion is neither a strictly personal matter nor a strictly cultural one. Spirituality should be integrated into the psychosocial dimension of care. Our results suggest that the complexity of the relationship between religion and illness requires a highly sensitive approach to each unique story.