Role of Spirituality Research Paper

Pages: 20 (6318 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

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[. . .] , 2007, p. 268).

Women are three times more likely to be depressed than men, with 5-12% suffering from major or severe depression, compared to 2-3% of men. Males are also more likely to deny or mask depressive symptoms, less likely to express emotions or seek treatment, and to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol (Hutchinson et al., p. 269). Susan Simonds wrote gender roles, stress, poverty and victimization were all factors in the higher level of depression in women (Simonds, 2001, p. 5). More women fall below the poverty line than men, and this is a well-known 'pathway to depression'. Race, culture, social class and sexual orientation all, "interact with gender to create a complex picture of identity issues" (Simonds, p. 6). During the life-stages of women's development, there were several "key crossroads" in which the danger of depression was greatest: puberty, in which "girls' sexual and social development thrust them into a struggle to please others as well as remain true to themselves"; the transition to young adulthood, when women often compromise "their dreams for the sake of sustaining relationships with significant others and family"; pre-menopause and menopause in their 40s, for reasons of changes in hormonal balances as well as social and cultural factors; and finally after age 60, "as women begin to face the loss of their own vitality and health as well as the loss of significant relationships" (Simonds, p. 7).

In the past, severe or major forms of depression were described as 'psychotic depression', although the term is no longer used, but in its most profound form, the depressive spectrum can lead to delusions and hallucinations that resemble psychosis or schizophrenia, as well as the more familiar symptoms like depressed mood, hopelessness and suicidal ideation (Beck and Alford, p. 85). This most severe form of depression is now known as major depression with psychotic features. In earlier times, bipolar disorders were referred to as 'manic-depressive insanity', with cycles and mood swings of euphoria and despair "characterized by remissions and recurrences" but not associated with schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders (Beck and Alford, p. 90). Bipolar I disorder is the "experience of at least one manic episode and no past major depressive episode" while Bipolar II is the experience of one or more mild "hypomanic episodes" and at least one major depressive episode (Beck and Alford, p. 92). In addition, a large percentage of patients with unipolar depression will "show a mild hypomanic tendency after recovery from depression," while "manic-like signs and symptoms are present to some extent in all mood disorders" (Beck and Alford, p. 94). In the manic phase, symptoms include: elation, increased gratification, increased social attachment, denial of problems, positive self-image, delusions, hyperactivity, insomnia, increased sexual desire and impulsive and aggressive behavior. Many patients in the manic phase are aware that they are suffering from false euphoria "and a false sense of well-being, and may even feel uncomfortable with such an exaltation of spirit" (Beck and Alford, p. 95).

Freudian theories about the causes of depression have been largely abandoned over the last thirty years and replaced with biochemical models (Auer and Ang, p. 76). Most people with depression have "biochemical depletion to one degree or another" in the brain from physical, environmental or genetic causes (Biebel and Koenig 2010). From a physiological and biochemical standpoint, depression is caused by too much dopamine in the brain and too little serotonin and norepinephrine (Hutchinson et al., p. 273). Twin studies have shown that hereditary factors account for 42% of depression in women and 29% in men. Hormonal factors are also more correlated with depression in women than men because their hormonal levels fluctuate to a greater extent. Traumatic events such as wars, natural disasters, and physical, sexual and emotional abuse in childhood, loss or a parent or spouse all increase the likelihood of depression. For example, 64% of children who were sexually abused will experience depression by age 17 (Hutchinson et al., p. 280). Some studies find the Jews, Catholics and Pentecostals in the United States all have higher rates of depression than other religious groups, although the evidence is ambiguous (Blazer, 2010, p. 13).

Typically the first episode occurs in the 24-44 age-range, although 3-6% of teenagers are also severely or clinically depressed. Ever year, 500,000 teenagers attempt suicide in the U.S. And 5,000 are successful (Hutchinson et al., p. 285). About 15-20% of people over 65 have major depression but only 10% of these receive treatment, while about 25-50% of elderly persons with dementia are also depressed. Major depression also occurs in 25% of patients with cancer, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, AIDS and Parkinson's disease (Hutchinson et al., pp. 268-69). Blacks and Hispanics suffer from the same rates of depression as whites, although they are "often misdiagnosed with schizophrenia." Vietnamese immigrants to the U.S. had higher rates of depression than normal associated with "being a veteran, being older, having less English, and less attachment," while lower income and socioeconomic status in general is also associated with higher rates of depression across gender, race and ethic lines (Hutchinson et al., p. 271).

There are many problems in life that cause anxiety and depression that should not simply be defined as mental illness, but involve broader issues of spirituality. Among these are despair, a loss of meaning and purpose in life, feelings of failure and inadequacy, a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Very often, people suffering from these self-medicate with narcotics or alcohol, and while medications prescribed by physicians and psychiatrists may mask or dampen the symptoms, they do not address the root causes in the "emotional or spiritual dimensions" of life (Kliewer and Saultz, p. 63). For example, an elderly widower living alone who has diabetes, Parkinson's disease and other physical illnesses feels anxiety about death, fearful of "his growing loss of independence" and of the fact that he may have to spend his final years in a hospice or nursing home (Kliewer and Saultz, p. 65). In elderly patients, especially those with dementia, depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated, even though "90% of people who suicide then also have a depressive disorder" (MacKinlay, 2002, p. xviii). Dementia patients in nursing homes commonly suffer from feelings of loneliness, isolation, despair and loss of humanity which may benefit from spiritual and pastoral care (MacKinlay, p. xvii). Erik Erikson was interested in "spirituality and depression from a developmental perspective" and noted that despair occurred in old age due to fear of death or looking back on a life that appeared to be futile or wasted. He thought religion played a vital role in a lifelong quest for a sense of integrity, and that many elderly persons were depressed because they believed they had never achieved it (Blazer, p. 9).

Depression and the emotions associated with it always occur within given social, cultural and historical contexts. Women in Ghana, for example, might view depression during and after menopause as being caused by evil spirits and fear that they are becoming witches who will do harm to others. Hutterites become depressed out of fear "that they might not live up to group expectations" in their very traditional and conservative religious communities (Blazer, p. 6). Jeffrey Smith wrote that "given its cynicism and the self-absorbed despair, no wonder melancholia has always been suspected of having truck with evil and sorcery and blasphemy," such as the remark by the existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre that "hell is other people" (Smith, 1999, p. 218). Sometimes depression in religious and spiritual communities can lead to spiritual and moral growth, even though it can also be a terrible burden.

In modern society, depression is often linked to a loss of faith, meaning and purpose in life in a world that devalues traditional religion and "beliefs are not so much attacked as restricted and trivialized" (Blazer, p. 8). People who lose their religious faith might suffer from "shattered faith syndrome" with symptoms like "chronic guilt, anxiety, and depression; low self-esteem; loneliness and isolation" (Blazer, p. 11). Charles Darwin thought that depression was an adaptive survival mechanism that benefitted the human species and assisted the organism in "withdrawal from unexpected stressors," and modern studies find that mild depression might still have a similar function in dissuading people from pursuing impossible or unrealistic goals (Blazer, p. 12). Evolutionary psychologist John Price also claimed that depression was part of an adaptive survival mechanism to "enable us to let go of worldly attachments" (Smith, p. 218).

Most studies of depression are objective and based on positivist reasoning, treating depressed patients as objects rather than subjects and neglecting their "inner experiences" of mental illness (Swinton, p. 93). A naturalistic, constructivist approach, on the other hand, holds that "all truth is formulated through an interpretive process within which the researcher is inevitably enmeshed," including the social and cultural context in which both researcher and patient exist (Swinton, p. 98). As Hans Georg Gadner put it, no observer is perfectly neutral, objective and detached, lacking prejudices, biases and preconceptions,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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