Religion, Spirituality and the concept of Mental Illness


  • Ahmed Okasha WHO Collaborating Center For Research and Training in Mental Health Okasha Institute of Psychiatry, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt
  • Tarek Okasha Okasha Institute of Psychiatry Ain Shams University Cairo, Egypt


Religion and spirituality(R/S), Mental Health, Transcultural aspects, R/C, Mental Illness


The anti-spiritual bias in psychiatry has many roots, including questionable assumptions of Freudian psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and the overtly simplistic reductionism of materialists. The concept of mental illness differs in various cultures from possession of evil spirits, magic, evil eye, wrath of ancestors, lack of faith, other mystical beliefs, etc, to biological causes. Mental illness in Pharaonic Egypt, had no stigma, as no separation between psyche and soma. Mental illness in the Islamic era had three dimensions of the concept of mental illness. i) Possession (darkness), ii) Innovations and expansion of the self, iii) Disharmony or constriction of consciousness (enlightened). Positive aspects of religion and spirituality promote revolt against materialism, tolerance, mercy, virtue and justice. R/S include modifying role in our mental life, cultivate one’s own integrity, reinforce internal courage, promote responsibility, provide meaning for individual or group, a protective factor for vulnerability to depression. On the other hand negative aspects of R/S justifies dependency, facilities acceptance of individual’s deficiencies, allows extension beyond the limited individual boundary and may include religious fundamentalism, alienation and prejudice. WHO states that R/S plays a pivotal role in suicide prevention and promotion of mental health a plea to promote training of psychiatrists of R/S to have a better understanding of our patients.



How to Cite

Okasha, Ahmed, and Tarek Okasha. “Religion, Spirituality and the Concept of Mental Illness”. Actas Españolas De Psiquiatría, vol. 40, no. Suppl. 2, Dec. 2012, pp. 73-79,