Faith-induced Neurosis: Myth or Reality?

Volume 22
Summer 1994
Faith-induced Neurosis: Myth or Reality?

Psychopathology in religious patients is often attributed to their faith. Even within the Christian therapeutic community, there are several labels suggesting faith-induced pathology, such as Toxic Faith, or Adult Children of Evangelicals. A European equivalent is found in the term Ecclesiogenic Neurosis. These concepts are examined critically for their consistency as a construct. Empirical research and clinical experience suggest that psychopathology in religious patients has to be seen against the background of their underlying pathology, their biography, and the way in which they integrate faith into their life styles. It is not religious faith itself that causes the problems, but rather the tension between needs, ideals, and realities. These can be influenced in varying degrees by religious factors. Instead of ecclesiogenic the author proposes the term ecclesiomorphic disorder. Assessment should avoid monocausal attributions and provide a descriptive analysis of the presenting problems. This can be used as a basis for further counseling. Therapists working with religious clients should be able to help them distinguish between functional and dysfunctional roles of religion, and to strengthen personal and faith-related coping resources.

Dr. S. Pfeifer
87 - 96
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