Fear of confronting the tensions and conflicts brought on by existential concerns—the “big questions” of life—is linked with poorer mental health, including higher levels of depression, anxiety and difficulty regulating emotions, according to a new Case Western Reserve University study.
“Religious and spiritual struggles—conflicts with God or religious people, tough questions about faith, morality, and the meaning of life—these are often taboo topics, and the temptation to push them away is strong,” said Julie Exline, professor of psychological sciences at Case Western Reserve and co-author of the research.
“When people avoid these struggles, anxiety and depression tend to be more intense than if they faced these struggles head-on.”
People who more fully embrace these struggles with fundamental beliefs and values report better mental health than those who don’t, Exline added.
The study, based on a survey of 307 adults about recent life experiences, was published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science.