Sweet delight and Endless Night: A qualitative exploration of ordinary and extraordinary religious and spiritual experiences in bipolar disorder

Eva Ouwehand, Hanneke Muthert, Hetty Zock, Hennie Boeije, Arjan W. Braam

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The authenticity of religious and spiritual experiences during mania is an important subject for bipolar patients. The exploration of such experience in bipolar disorder is the central point of this qualitative study. A psychiatrist and a hospital chaplain conducted 35 semi-structured interviews with recovered participants, recruited from mental health care institutions in the Netherlands, the patients' association and via the internet, about their religious and spiritual experiences during illness episodes and in stable times. A variety in types (such as divine presence, unity, mission, meaningful synchronicity) during mania was reported, which were on a sliding scale with experiences/views in stable times in more than half of the interviews. During depression, absence of religious or spiritual experience was predominant. The reported experiences were viewed by most participants as both authentically religious or spiritual but also related to the disorder, requiring therefore language that transcended medical terminology. Also indicated is the relevance of the results for fundamental discussions about the nature or religious experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-54
Number of pages24
JournalThe International Journal for the Psychology of Religion
Issue number1
Early online date13-Dec-2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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