The existential dimension in psychiatry: an enactive framework

Sanneke de Haan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientific

24 Citations (Scopus)


In his paper Psychiatry and religion: Consensus reached!, Verhagen advocates the relevance of spirituality and religion for the “origins, understanding, and treatment of psychiatric disorders”. In this comment, I argue for the broader claim that the existential dimension is important for understanding psychiatric disorders – of which religion can, but must not necessarily be, part. The
existential dimension refers to our ability to relate to ourselves, our experiences, and our situation. This evaluative relation can play an important role in psychiatry: it can co-constitute the disorder, be affected by the disorder, and/or modulate the course of the disorder. Given this importance, it makes sense to explicitly recognize the existential dimension in our explanatory model of psychiatric disorders. The biopsychosocial model goes a long way in providing an integrative model, but there is room for improvement, especially when it comes to integration of its aspects, and acknowledging the existential aspect. I briefly introduce the research paradigm of enactivism, and suggest that an enactive framework is well-suited to incorporate this existential dimension – along with the traditional dimensions of the biopsychosocial model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-535
Number of pages7
JournalMental Health, Religion & Culture
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2017


  • Psychiatry
  • spirituality
  • existential dimension
  • biopsychosocial model
  • existential sensemaking


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