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Pope Recalls How Seeing a Psychiatrist Eased His Anxiety

The Pope revealed that he suffered from anxiety when he was serving as a Jesuit provincial in Argentina.

In an interview with an Argentine journalist about his mental health, Pope Francis shared that he has seen a psychiatrist in Argentina to help himself cope with his anxiety when he was a younger priest.

The interview, published in the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, reveals how Pope Francis suffered from anxiety when he was serving as the Jesuit provincial in Argentina.

“Being provincial of the Jesuits, in the terrible days of the dictatorship, in which I had to take people in hiding to get them out of the country and thus save their lives, I had to handle situations that I did not know how to deal with,” Pope Francis said.

According to the article, the Pope developed his own ways of dealing with moments of anxiety, such as listening to music by Johann Sebastian Bach. (Read: What Types of Music Are on the Pope’s Playlist?) But more than this, he sought help from a psychiatrist once a week for about six months.

“Throughout those six months, she helped me position myself in terms of a way to handle the fears of that time. Imagine what it was like to take a person hidden in the car— only covered by a blanket— and go through three military checkpoints in the Campo de Mayo area. The tension it generated in me was enormous,” Pope Francis said.

Coping with Anxiety

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A young Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio. (Photo from Society of Jesus)

According to the Pope, his journey to coping with his anxiety became more manageable with the help of his psychiatrist. He added that the sessions also allowed him to know himself better and become more sure of his decisions— a skill that he makes use of even up to today.

“The treatment with the psychiatrist also helped me to locate myself and learn to manage my anxiety and avoid being rushed when making decisions,” the Pope said. “The decision-making process is always complex. And the advice and observations that she gave me were very helpful. … Her teachings are still very useful to me today.”

Growing up, the Pope had an attitude of “wanting to do everything now.” But as he got to learn different ways of dealing with his anxieties, he also learned how to take it easy, and to avoid being too hard on himself. (Read: Liza Soberano Opens Up About Anxiety, Shares Tips for Good Mental Health)

“You have to know how to brake,” he said. “When I am faced with a situation or I have to face a problem that causes me anxiety, I cut it short… It would be dangerous and harmful for me to make decisions under a state of anxiety.”

Mental Health and Religion

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In this Sept. 27, 2015, Pope Francis greets seminarians as he walks the loggia to his address to the Bishops at St. Martin of Tours Chapel at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. (Photo from Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pool/Crux Now)

In the same interview, Pope Francis said that he believes that it is important for priests to have an understanding of psychology for their pastoral ministry. (Read: 10 Bible Verses to Ease Your Anxiety)

“I’m convinced that every priest must know human psychology,” Pope Francis said. “There are those who know it from the experience of the years, but the study of psychology is necessary for a priest.”

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