Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

“I Need Help”: A Study of Spiritual Distress Among People Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder in Malaysia

Shariff, N.M.; Wright, Nicola; Crawford, Paul

“I Need Help”: A Study of Spiritual Distress Among People Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder in Malaysia Thumbnail


N.M. Shariff

Profile Image

Professor of Health Humanities


Introduction: Little is known about spiritual distress in people with bipolar disorder, where they are inclined to maladaptive coping. Given the contextual influence of religion towards Malaysians, this study is aimed at exploring the phenomenon of spiritual despair and the recovery, as experienced by a group of people with bipolar disorder. Materials and method: A qualitative one-to-one interview was conducted on 25 participants of multi-religious background and diagnosed with bipolar disorder recruited from two psychiatric clinics in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. All interviews were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. The interview data were analysed using a thematic analysis approach. Results: This paper presents the theme of ‘Restoring hope, meaning, and purpose’ with three subthemes; 1) experiencing spiritual despair, 2) engaging in spiritual meaning-making, and 3) orienting the spiritual life. The finding captured the participants’ experience of having despair in God over the ‘fated experience’ (takdir) and they abandoned religious practice during the period. However, participant narratives also indicate the possibility that their spiritual despair can be mitigated, endured, or transformed through the support of family members. The participants also highly recommended that spirituality may be combined with medical interventions, such as medication prescribed by their psychiatrist. Conclusion: This study highlights the importance of supportive family in advancing towards religious-spiritual pathways, and the advantages of medical interventions in terms of controlling the bipolar symptoms during their spiritual despair. This study is in favour of extending the role of mental health service in providing sessions for the users to voice out their spiritual concerns.


Shariff, N., Wright, N., & Crawford, P. (2022). “I Need Help”: A Study of Spiritual Distress Among People Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder in Malaysia. Malaysian Journal of Medicine and Health Sciences, 18(Supplement 19), 38-42.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 9, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 1, 2022
Publication Date Dec 1, 2022
Deposit Date Dec 2, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jan 18, 2023
Journal Malaysian Journal of Medicine and Health Sciences
Print ISSN 1675-8544
Electronic ISSN 2636-9346
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue Supplement 19
Pages 38-42
Keywords Bipolar disorder, Religion, Recovery, Spirituality, Spiritual distress
Public URL
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs