Mania and Meaning: a Mixed Methods Study into Religious Experiences in People with Bipolar Disorder: Occurrence and Significance

Eva Ouwehand

    Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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    People with bipolar disorder often have profound religious and spiritual experiences that at first they do not know what to do with them. They look for meaning. Yet little attention is given to these experiences within a treatment regime. This dissertation investigates what sort of religious and spiritual experiences people have, how they are interpreted by the patients themselves, how significant they are in the everyday lives of the patients’ and how caregivers can help in these situations.
    First of all, 34 people with bipolar disorder were interviewed by both the researcher (hospital chaplain), and a psychiatrist in training. Based on the results, a questionnaire was compiled that was filled in by nearly 200 patients from the Altrecht Bipolar department, to see how often the various types of experiences and interpretations occur.
    Religious and spiritual experiences (such as the conviction that everything is interrelated, or the feeling of unity, or the awareness of the presence of God) occurred mainly during manic episodes. Nevertheless, they did not always differ significantly in content from the religious experiences of people without diagnosis, such those described in the literature. Some of the respondents felt that their experiences had a lasting impact on their lives, while others did not, and this differed per type. About half of the respondents felt that the experiences were part of their spiritual development. About half of them also felt that the experiences were authentically religious, but could, nevertheless, derail due the influence of the disease.
    Half of all respondents consider attention to faith and spirituality an important theme within the treatment regime. Therefore, finding a balanced attitude with regard to religious experiences deserves more attention in mental health care.
    A summary of the qualitative part of the research can be found at:
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    • Zock, Hetty, Supervisor
    • Braam, Arjan, Supervisor, External person
    • Muthert, Hanneke, Co-supervisor
    • Boeije, H R, Co-supervisor, External person
    Award date30-Jan-2020
    Place of Publication[Groningen]
    Print ISBNs978-94-034-2371-5
    Electronic ISBNs978-94-034-2370-8
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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