Fasting can help fight depression: psychologist
Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan can be an effective way to manage depression and anger, and to strengthen self-restraint and patience, says clinical psychologist from Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).
“The social traditions that accompany the practice of fasting can have a number of mental and emotional benefits. During Ramadan, families sit down together to break their fast each evening and this and many of the other communal aspects of Ramadan have been proven to impact mental health in a positive way,” said Ameera al-Ishaq, clinical psychologist, and deputy head of the Psychological Service Unit, HMC.
“These benefits are particularly pronounced for those experiencing depression and loneliness. Engaging in fasting can bring families and social groups closer together and this can be reassuring for individuals who are managing depression or anxiety. Fasting can be a natural way to alleviate the symptoms of many mental health illnesses. Ramadan can also be a great time to break unhealthy habits like smoking and to establish new, healthy habits,” she explained.
According to al-Ishaq, fasting and the spiritual and social practices that accompany it, can help some individuals cope with many of the stresses of daily life.
The practice of fasting can also help improve self-restraint and support anger management in individuals who are easily angered.
“Fasting and associated acts of worship, such as the Taraweeh prayer, encourage communication and social interaction. For many individuals, the prayers, and the act of praying as a group can have a calming effect,” said psychologist al-Ishaq. In addition to causing family conflict, uncontrolled anger and anxiety have long-term negative physical effects and can cause increased heart rate, high blood pressure, narrowing of blood vessels, and increased clotting, all of which can be heart attack triggers.
She added the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah provide useful guidance on addressing a range of emotions, including anger, and says the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) offers guidance on how to control anger and overcome the inclination to become angry.
Engaging in fasting can bring families and social groups closer together and this can be reassuring for individuals who are managing depression or anxiety