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Forming of a Christian attitude towards mental disorders and methods of their treatment

The Church regards mental diseases as manifestations of the general sinful distortion of the human nature. Singling out the spiritual, mental and bodily levels in the structure of the personality, the holy fathers drew a distinction between the diseases which developed 'from nature' and the infirmities caused by the diabolic impact or enslaving human passions." This statement of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church is fully confirmed by the results of clinical research. Many forms of so-called "borderline" neuro-psychological disorders as well as the alcoholism, narcotic addiction have mainly spiritual origins and can be called sinful illnesses.

The treatment of psychic disorders must correspond to their origins. As it is told in the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, "in accordance with this distinction, it is equally unjustifiable to reduce all mental diseases to manifestations of obsession—the conception ensuing in the unjustifiable exorcism of evil spirits, and to treat any mental disorder exclusively by medical means."

One can determine two main responsibility of a priest in regards of an ailing person: 1) encourage him or her to undergo a medical examination and treatment if necessary and 2) help him to fight the illness, to realize critically and overcome his psychological and behavioral anomalies. Therefore an amount of basic knowledge of psychology and psychiatry is necessary for a priest. Just a priest can often became the first person to face the manifestation of a mental disorder.

"More fruitful in psychotherapy is the combination of the pastoral and the medical aid with due delimitation made between the jurisdictions of the doctor and the priest.

The main principle of the orthodox psychotherapy is: to confess the Holy Orthodox Faith and to bring its saving Truth and spiritual purity into the process of treatment. Psychotherapists should deal with the soul of the patient very carefully and even awesomely as every person is endowed with the greatest gift of God—the immortal soul which is the image of the Creator.

"No mental disease diminishes the dignity of a person. The Church testifies that a mentally ill person, too, is a bearer of the image of God, remaining our brother who needs compassion and support." (Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church).

The pastoral soul-care should be performed accordingly to the characteristics of the nosological form, process and gravity of a mental disorder. Successful experience of organization of churches, chapels in psychiatric clinics should be widely adopted.

Alcoholism and drug addiction can be with certainty defined as sinful illnesses. Therefore not only medical and psychological measures, which are usually the beginning of the treatment, but spiritual efforts are necessary to overcome those sinful passions. Faith in God, repentance, prayer, fasting, arrangement of the life according to Christ's commandments as well as sobriety, self-control and abstinence are components of a real healing.


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