Religious Obsessions | Scrupulosity OCD
At The Center for Anxiety & OCD at GroundWork Counseling in Orlando we specialize in evidence-based treatment of OCD utilizing ERP (exposure and response prevention) and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can consist of many different obsessions and compulsions and vary a great deal from person to person and it is not uncommon for some individuals with various types of OCD to have compulsions that are related to praying and confessing.
A specific subtype of OCD is known as Scrupulosity or Religious OCD. Individuals who suffer from Religious OCD have obsessive thoughts about committing sins, having blasphemous thoughts and images, behaving morally and going to hell. Compulsive behaviors include excessive praying, repeating religious rituals and bible verses, reassurance seeking, confessing and avoidance. It is quite common that the person with this type of OCD is often not aware that these symptoms are actually a type of OCD.
Religious OCD can also overlap with different types of OCD, particularly with those who suffer from unwanted obsessional thoughts that pertain to violence and sex. Although Religious OCD is not a more severe type of OCD, it has been linked to more severe symptoms of anxiety and depression and has been found to be more difficult to treat. Because Religious OCD involves the belief that one has sinned, has dishonored or will dishonor their religious beliefs, as well as a fear of being punished by God, it is not surprising that those who suffer from Religious OCD experience a great deal of guilt and anxiety.
For example, a person might have the random thought “God is dead”. Religious people without OCD would probably be able to dismiss this thought as random mental noise and not give it much consideration. However, the individual who suffers with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder might think that this thought is very important and significant, possibly even a sin or evil. Because several passages in the bible state that thoughts and actions are morally equivalent, highly religious people may perceive the meaning of unwanted thoughts as more meaningful, immoral and significant. This theory is known as thought-action fusion and may have it’s roots in the bible where Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Ye have heard it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart’ (Matthew 5: 27-28, King James Version).
Individuals with Religious OCD may misinterpret intrusive thoughts so that they begin to question the following:
- Have I accidentally committed a sin?
- Do I believe in God enough?
- Do I actually believe in the Devil?
- Am I going to heaven?
- Have I displeased God?
- Have I perfectly obeyed the 10 Commandments or other religious laws?
- Have I prayed, confessed or worshipped enough?
Treatment for those suffering from Religious Obsessive Compulsive Disorder presents unique challenges. OCD therapists at GroundWork Counseling in Orlando work with religious individuals who suffer from OCD through evidence-based practices, with respect and understanding for the individual’s religious beliefs and aim to help the OCD suffer to differentiate between healthy religious observance and compulsions that are disguised as religious behaviors.
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