Steven Bancarz, creator of ‘Spirit Science and Metaphysics,’ recently wrote an article in response to some studies that suggest people who practice spirituality are susceptible to mental health problems. Spirituality can cover a broad range of beliefs, not just “religion” (even Atheists may practice forms of spirituality), and Bancarz believes researchers are looking at it the wrong way.
In the Daily Mail’s article, titled “Spiritual people are more likely to be mentally ill (but at least they think life has more meaning),” they were basically saying “They’re crazy, but at least they think life is more important to them.”
The Telegraph covered the same story, making the claim that spiritual people struggle to mentally cope. However, Bancarz poses the question, “could it be possible that the reason spiritually-minded people have more mental health issues and anxiety problems is not because they are loony, but because they are more connected to what is happening in the world?”
Bancarz refers to a study published at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, in which social anxiety was linked to having increased empathic abilities. In other words, people who suffer from social anxiety are more in-tune with the world around them. They’re able to feel and interpret the emotions and mental states of others, and in fact, if you speak to a person with social anxiety, you’ll find this is the basic description most people will give you.
The study concludes:
Results support the hypothesis that high socially anxious individuals may demonstrate a unique social-cognitive abilities profile with elevated cognitive empathy tendencies and high accuracy in affective mental state attributions.
According to Bancarz, people who consider themselves “conscious” or “spiritual” also report having social anxiety. They experience things like depression and other mental disorders, but people who suffer from anxiety may also be more intelligent.
A study from Lakehead University discovered that people with anxiety scored higher on verbal intelligence tests, and people with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and depression scored higher on verbal-linguistic testing. Another study conducted by the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, found that “people with anxiety were better than others at maintaining directed focus while overcoming a primary threat as they are being bombarded by numerous other smaller threats, thereby significantly increasing their chances of survival.” This same research team found that people with anxiety have “sentinel intelligence,” or the ability to detect real threats that were not yet detectable to others (like the smell of smoke).
SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York, found that people with severe cases of GAD had much higher IQs than those with milder cases, the theory being that “an anxious mind is a searching mind.” People with anxiety are always analyzing, assessing, formulating ideas, reflecting, and processing information. Again, this is something nearly every person with anxiety can testify to.
Dr. Jeremy Coplan:
“While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be.”
As Bancarz points out, it would seem people with “mental disorders” are more intelligent, and have much higher psycho-social awareness.
While it may be accurate to say that people who are spiritually-minded most commonly suffer from heightened anxiety and depression, evidence suggests that this is because they are consciously aware of the world around them, and have an increased ability to feel the emotions of other people. It’s interesting to consider that perhaps people with these personality types find themselves drawn to various forms of spirituality, not because they are a bunch of idiots who believe in things science cant explain, but rather because they possess heightened senses, thereby making them more susceptible to mental illness.
It could be possible that people with social anxiety and general anxiety do not actually suffer from disorders, but rather they simply have a heightened intuition and are able to more accurately interpret people’s states, or possible dangers.
“These scientific studies shine a whole new light on spirituality and social anxiety. Don’t be afraid to feel what you feel, and don’t let anyone call you crazy because of it. Perhaps what we are calling a disorder is actually a gift.”
Bancarz, Steven. The Idealist Revolution. Apr 28, 2015. (http://www.idealistrevolution.org/studies-link-social-anxiety-to-high-iqs-empathetic-ability-sentinel-intelligence/)