Posted on July 06, 2015

Fasting in the month of Ramadan has many advantages for individuals living with psychological disorders such as mild degrees of depression, anxiety, and insomnia as fasting, and the spiritual and social practices that accompany it, enables these individuals to withstand and cope with life’s worries and woes and, as a result, reach a state of tranquility, said Dr. Suhaila Ghuloum, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).

Fasting and associated acts of worship, such as Taraweeh (evening mass prayer) during the holy month of Ramadan promote communication and social interaction among people. Fasting is believed to result in the release of endorphins, these are the body’s naturally released ‘happiness’ hormones. Patients with mild to moderate degrees of depression participating in such activities tend to get removed out of their secluded lifestyle and, alternatively, become rather optimistic and start to think positively of themselves and others around them, Dr. Ghuloum explained.

Six per cent (6%) of the world's population suffer from depression, an estimate of about 350 million people of all ages according to the World Health Organization, she said. Research studies revealed that fasting helps self-restraint and better anger management in hot tempered individuals. 'Qiyam al-Layl' (late evening) voluntary prayer in Ramadan also leads to peace of mind and helps curb frustration associated with the burdens and pressures of life.

According to Dr. Ghuloum, international research has revealed that fasting had a great positive impact on individuals undergoing therapeutic treatment for addiction and substance abuse, as this act of worship promotes positive behavioral change in these individuals. In fact, there has been some research suggesting that spiritual practices result in structural changes to the brain in areas associated with depression, thus having a protective factor.