Original Paper

Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 562-578

First online:

In Search of Serenity: Religious Struggle Among Patients Hospitalized for Suspected Acute Coronary Syndrome

  • Gina Magyar-RussellAffiliated withDepartment of Pastoral Counseling, Loyola University MarylandDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Email author 
  • , Iain Tucker BrownAffiliated withDepartment of Pastoral Counseling, Loyola University MarylandDepartment of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Language & Letters, Northern New Mexico College
  • , Inna R. EdaraAffiliated withDepartment of Pastoral Counseling, Loyola University Maryland
  • , Michael T. SmithAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • , Joseph E. MarineAffiliated withDivision of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • , Roy C. ZiegelsteinAffiliated withDivision of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

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Abstract

Hospitalization for a sudden cardiac event is a frightening experience, one that is often marked by uncertainty about health status, fear of recurrent cardiac problems, and related existential, religious, and spiritual concerns. Religious struggle, reflecting tension and strain regarding religious and spiritual issues, may arise in response to symptoms of acute coronary syndrome (ACS). The present study examined the prevalence and types of religious struggle using the Brief RCOPE, as well as associations between religious struggle, psychological distress, and self-reported sleep habits among 62 patients hospitalized with suspected ACS. Fifty-eight percent of the sample reported some degree of religious struggle. Questioning the power of God was the most frequently endorsed struggle. Those struggling religiously reported significantly more symptoms of anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance. Non-White participants endorsed greater use of positive religious coping strategies and religious struggle. Results suggest that patients hospitalized for suspected ACS experiencing even low levels of religious struggle might benefit from referral to a hospital chaplain or appropriately trained mental health professional for more detailed religious and spiritual assessment. Practical means of efficiently screening for religious struggle during the often brief hospitalization period for suspected ACS are discussed.

Keywords

Acute coronary syndrome Cardiac patients Religious struggle Religion Spirituality