New research has found belief in Christianity can reduce PTSD symptoms.
The key link? Asking for forgiveness, says author Loren Toussaint:
“Religious faith, including Christian faith, has been shown to influence stress, coping, and health in a variety of life circumstances and often it is found to have its action through key mechanisms such as social support, positive thinking, or things like gratitude, forgiveness, and meaning-making. We were interested in how Christian faith promotes search for meaning and forgiveness and how these things might relate to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
Their study looked at 511 Puerto Rican residents following hurricanes Irma and Maria in September of 2017. 70-85% of Puerto Ricans are Catholic.
“Because it is so overwhelmingly Christian, it seemed that this might influence how folks coped with the horrendous hurricanes they had to endure.”
They found Christian Faith was associated with forgiveness, but not search for meaning. The former was associated with less PTSD symptoms, while the latter with more PTSD symptoms.
This means propensity towards forgiveness is the most likely explanation how Faith can help with PTSD symptoms.
“In our study we found that it was forgiveness that was the key link between Christian faith and fewer symptoms of trauma. That’s probably because Christianity promotes forgiveness and forgiveness is good for your mental health. Having a religious faith can be helpful in times of distress.”
Toussaint said “we have an enormous amount to learn about faith, forgiveness, coping, and life stress.”
She hopes their work will help people going through “societal and global stressors, think climate change, war, pandemic, gun violence, etc.” to “consider looking to these things to help them adjust and move on productively in life.”
“Going through these things is hard. Really hard, but when we come through on the other side, how do we cope, let go, and learn to thrive again.
Faith can help with coping in the midst of traumatic events.
Looking deeper to one’s faith and spirituality for these existential answers is a natural thing to do and reaping the benefits of doing this often means we grow in understanding, making sense of life, gratitude, and forgiveness of ourselves, others, and even just plain old bad situations.”
Find their study Christian religious affiliation is associated with less posttraumatic stress symptoms here.