Many people mistakenly think of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) solely as a condition in which people wash their hands excessively or check door locks repeatedly. There are actually many sub-types of OCD. In this ongoing series, Kevin Foss, MFT of the OCD Center of Los Angeles discusses Scrupulosity, in which an individual’s OCD focuses on issues of religion, morals, and ethics. Part one of a four-part series.
One of the first documented references to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) was in a 1691 sermon by Bishop John Moore of Norwich in which he discussed men and women who were overwhelmed with unwanted thoughts, and tormented by feelings of guilt and shame over what he described as “religious melancholy.” Priests had started to notice that some churchgoers were attending confession several times a day, and repeatedly confessing to the same sins and shortcomings that they feared would result in divine judgment and eternal damnation. Their penance and absolution would provide only a fleeting glimpse of peace, and then their fears would come roaring back.
In retrospect, we now know that this obsessive religious fervor is a manifestation of OCD known as Scrupulosity. People of various religions across the world are haunted by feelings of doubt, guilt, and anxiety that torment them by attacking that which they find most dear – their faith. Scrupulosity is a form of OCD in which the sufferer’s primary anxiety is the fear of being guilty of religious, moral, or ethical failure. Those afflicted with Scrupulosity fear that their effort to live according to their spiritual values not only isn’t good enough, but is in direct violation of God.
Why Scrupulosity is Different From Other Forms of OCD
Some variations of OCD, while painful and confusing to those suffering their effects, focus on thoughts that are far removed from the individual’s values, beliefs and character. For example, the teacher with Harm OCD who fears he will somehow become a mass murderer, or the student with Gay OCD (also known as HOCD or Sexual Orientation OCD) who constantly questions her sexual orientation, can at some point recognize that the focus of their obsessions is totally at odds with who they are – with their true values and beliefs.
But this is not so for the scrupulous, as they would argue that there is nothing more central to them, indeed nothing that more clearly defines the main purpose of their life, than their spiritual beliefs and religious practices. For those suffering with Scrupulosity, the content of their thoughts hits painfully close to home. To make things worse, in many religions, challenging the doctrine or body of belief can be viewed as challenging the faith itself and an act of apostasy.
One question that repeatedly comes up when assessing clients for Scrupulosity goes something like this: “How do I know that what I am experiencing is Scrupulosity, and not an actual sin, or lack of faith, or even a demonic attack?” The answer to this question lies in the client’s intensity of focus on perfectionism. There is a significant difference between feeling convicted in your faith and pursuing your beliefs, as opposed to focusing enormous amounts of time and energy on perfectly following a few specific rules or doctrines, while turning a blind eye to others that may actually be more important.
On the Other Hand…Why Scrupulosity is the Same as Other Forms of OCD
While Scrupulosity may at first appear vastly different from the traditional presentation of OCD, those with religious, moral, and ethical obsessions experience the same Obsessive Compulsive Cycle as others with OCD – obsession, anxiety, compulsion, and relief / reinforcement.
Triggers for Scrupulosity can be any thought, image, feeling, place, person, etc., that cues an obsession. For example, seeing an attractive person at church may result in sexual thoughts, which in turn trigger an obsessive desire to “undo” that thought in an effort to be pure, holy, and clean. If the scrupulous individual upholds an exaggerated belief that lustful thoughts in and of themselves will automatically result in eternal condemnation, the cycle begins.
As in all forms of OCD, the obsessive thoughts in Scrupulosity often take the form of “What if…” questions, such as “what if I just sinned” or “what if I don’t actually believe in God”? In some cases, the thoughts may be somewhat more irrational in nature, such as “what if just by looking at that woman, I accidentally fondled her breasts”? Instead of recognizing the thought for what it is (just a thought), the sufferer responds to it as if it is a fact.
Symptoms of Scrupulosity
Those suffering with Scrupulosity hold strict standards of religious, moral, and ethical perfection. For example, if held in a black and white view, certain passages in the Bible and other religious texts may carry with them intense burdens of condemnation. In holding a strict view of these religious verses, the Scrupulosity sufferer experiences not just intense guilt, but also anxiety about the threat of eternal punishment for having violated religious precepts. Without having chosen to experience these obsessions (OCD thoughts being both intrusive and unwanted), the individual experiencing Scrupulosity feels an overwhelming urge to take whatever compulsive action offers the promise of relief.
Common Obsessions in Scrupulosity
Obsessions may include any thought or mental image that the individual experiences as evidence of religious, moral, or ethical failure, including:
- Repetitive thoughts about having committed a sin
- Exaggerated concern with the possibility of having committed blasphemy
- Excessive fear of having offended God
- Inordinate focus on religious, moral, and/or ethical perfection
- Excessive fear of failing to show proper devotion to God
- Repeated fears of going to hell / eternal damnation
- Concern that one’s behaviors will doom a loved one to hell
- Unwanted sexual thoughts about God, Jesus, or a religious figure such as a priest
- Unwanted mental images such as Satan, 666, hell, sex with Christ, etc.
- Excessive fear of having acted counter to one’s personal morals, values, or ethics
Common Compulsions in Scrupulosity
For the individual with Scrupulosity, compulsions can be defined as any intentional thought or behavior done in an effort to neutralize or reduce the individual’s sense of guilt, pain, and anxiety. Like all forms of OCD, compulsions in Scrupulosity can be categorized into four types:
- Overt behavioral compulsions
- Avoidance behaviors
- Reassurance seeking behaviors
- Mental compulsions
For some with Scrupulosity, their compulsion may be to repeatedly confess something they have done or thought. Some may even confess despite not actually having done or thought anything they perceive as being “unacceptable” – basically confessing “just in case”. For others, washing one’s hands or showering several times (or several hundred times!) can be a way to figuratively cleanse the soul. Likewise, avoidances of specific triggers such as places of worship, religious ceremonies, or disciplines is often a compulsive tactic employed in an effort to stave off the possibility of guilt and anxiety. Paradoxically, these efforts almost always increase the unwanted feelings. Just as with any compulsion, the momentary relief gained is enough to reinforce the obsessive thought and continue the OCD cycle.
Common compulsions may include:
- Repeated and ritualized confessing (to religious figures such as priests, church elders, and/or to friends and family)
- Reassurance seeking about behaviors and thoughts related to religion, morals, ethics, or values
- Excessive, ritualized praying and/or reading of the bible or other religious texts
- Repeating specific verses from the bible or other religious texts (either out loud or silently)
- Mentally reviewing past acts and/or thoughts in an effort to prove to one’s self that one has not committed a sin or acted in a manner thy construe to be immoral or unethical or counter to one’s faith
- Ritualized “undoing” behaviors to counteract perceived sins and transgressions
- Excessive acts of self-sacrifice (i.e., giving away relatively large amounts of money or earthly possessions)
- Avoidance of situations in which one fears the onset of obsessions related to issues of faith (i.e., church, temple, mosque, prayers, movies with devil themes, dating)
- Avoidance of certain objects that one associates with immorality or sin (i.e., certain clothes, certain numbers)
- Making deals with God to avoid eternal damnation (or merely to reduce current anxiety and discomfort)
Treatment of Scrupulosity
Treatment of Scrupulosity can be difficult as it requires sufferers to take a risk by challenging their fears. As with all forms of OCD, the most effective method for treating Scrupulosity is Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with a strong emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). This approach to treatment focuses on three primary techniques:
- Mindfulness – helping the client learn to willingly accept the existence of unwanted thoughts, without over-reacting to them with compulsive and avoidant behaviors
- Cognitive Restructuring – in which the client learns to effectively and consistently challenge the accuracy and importance of their unwanted and distorted thoughts.
- Behavioral Therapy – with an emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), a technique in which the client intentionally experiences the anxiety-producing thoughts and situations that trigger their OCD episodes, while not doing any compulsive or avoidant behaviors. A variant of ERP called imaginal exposure can also be extremely helpful in challenging Scrupulosity obsessions. ERP can be painful, as it requires the client to feel as if they are doing something sacrilegious or dangerous to their faith. But in the long-term, ERP helps the client to reduce their unwanted compulsive and avoidant responses, and allows them to live their faith freely and with more authenticity.
Scrupulosity Across Religions
It is worth noting that Scrupulosity is not partial to any one religion, but rather custom fits its message of doubt to the specific beliefs and practices of the sufferer. Furthermore, strict adherence to the tenets of various religions may at times actually inhibit the progress of treatment. The following are some examples of how Scrupulosity may manifest in some belief systems, and how treatment may be compromised due to an overly strict interpretation of religious teachings. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather to provide the reader with a basic understanding of how excessively strict adherence to articles of faith can complicate the experience and treatment of Scrupulosity.
Catholicism and Protestant Christianity both share the New Testament messages of purity and adherence to various laws and doctrines that, for many, prove painful and seemingly impossible to abide by in their entirety. For example, in the Gospel According to St. Matthew, verse 5:28, Jesus states, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” If we expand this to men and women, gay and straight, the message is that we must never have sexual thoughts for anyone but our spouse, which is all but impossible.
Judaism’s books of law contain 613 individual commandments, and any single law can be a stumbling block for someone with Scrupulosity. Furthermore, Judaism has a strong tradition of being intellectual as well as spiritual in its practice and experience. Many consider arguing over interpretation and posing questions to be part of the process of finding the “true” way of the faith. As such, accepting ambiguity, which is a core principle of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, may be seen as an affront to the faith itself.
Like many other religions, Islamic theology includes “Shaytan”, a devil character who serves as a “whisperer” of doubting thoughts who encourages men and women to sin. People of all faiths, including Islam, experience intrusive thoughts that make them uncomfortable, and may attempt to suppress these unwanted thoughts. But what pops into our heads is to a great extent out of our control, and attempts at thought suppression are doomed to failure. That said, asking a scrupulous Muslim to allow the words of Shaytan to dwell in their thoughts, or to intentionally approximate some of the whispers, can be construed as an assault on their faith.
Similar to other forms of Christianity, Mormons experience a strong sense of obligation to maintain “purity. The book of Alma, verse 12:14 notes, “Our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us . . . and our thoughts will also condemn us.” Hence, not only is a scrupulous Mormon tirelessly fighting to control their actions, but even their thoughts will “condemn” them. Indeed, our experience with treating Mormon clients has shown that thought suppression can be a significant impediment to progress. Helping a Mormon with Scrupulosity learn to allow and accept the inevitable presence of unwanted thoughts can thus be quite a challenge.
New Age Spirituality
Some believe that eschewing conventional organized religion, and adopting “New Age” practices can help forge a spiritual connection without the requirements or rituals of traditional faiths. But “alternative” spirituality presents its own challenges for those with Scrupulosity. The Secret and other New Age philosophies support “positive thinking” and the “law of attraction” as a way to literally attract wealth and create the life one desires. We have treated numerous clients who are believers of the principles espoused in these philosophies who are simply unwilling to undergo CBT. It is their belief that intentionally creating and experiencing unwanted thoughts will create the very energy by which these thoughts come true.
For those with Scrupulosity, treatment can be delicate. The therapist must create a welcoming and sensitive environment for the scrupulous person to challenge their distorted thoughts, without infringing on the perceived foundation of their religious beliefs. In short, effective therapy must challenge the importance and meaning of specific aspects of their faith for the sake of honoring and preserving their overall belief. Treatment with a psychotherapist who specializes in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD and who understands this balance is critical. Likewise, educating the therapist on the intricacies of one’s specific faith will help Scrupulosity sufferers to more appropriately challenge their OCD while also feeling confident in their beliefs. Upcoming installments in this series will explore these issues, as well as the specific techniques used in treating Scrupulosity.
To read part two of this series on Scrupulosity in OCD, click here.
To read part three of this series on Scrupulosity in OCD, click here.
•Kevin Foss, MFT, is a licensed psychotherapist at the the OCD Center of Los Angeles, a private, outpatient clinic specializing in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related conditions. In addition to individual therapy, the center offers six weekly therapy groups, as well as online therapy, telephone therapy, and intensive outpatient treatment. To contact the OCD Center of Los Angeles, click here.
I’m a harm OCD suffer (horribly fearful of willfully hurting/killing myself or others) as well as scrupulous one (and I also tend to question whether a thought or action is normal, afraid of being “crazy” or mentally challenged. I sought reassurance from my therapist about these things, but it’s there.)
It’s unfortunate, but it’s encouraging to know it has a name and isn’t simply a lack of faith or insanity.
Mine mostly centers around the question of: What if I truly don’t believe? And that evolves to “why don’t you seem to feel moved by [fill in the blank] like others are? What does that mean? Do I have the Holy Spirit? Am I “elect”? The list goes on forever. I suppose that’s the rumination I should stop doing, but it is difficult.
My whole brain seems wired for OCD, and it tends to land on any topic it can strike hardest with (obsessive fear of wanting to kill myself/others, my faith, my sanity, my competence in life).
I’m on an SSRI…and I THINK it may help, but I have been on it for years. I’m trying to figure out some exposure or CBT that would help me tackle these issues head-on. I’ve been in therapy since I was 15 for family issues, but then I realized I had OCD. It’s turned mainly into talk sessions, and I do exercises on my own, but I want to get some progress going. Any ideas?
Thanks for your comments and interest.
Experiencing more than one sub-type of OCD is very typical. OCD tends to focus on the thoughts that are the “worst thing” for the individual, and it sounds like thoughts about harm and faith are it for you. The same is true of your obsessions about being “crazy”, which is an extremely common fear in those with OCD). But a “crazy” person is unlikely to know that their thoughts are irrational and excessive. It sounds like you recognize that they are.
Likewise, the specific unwanted thoughts you mention (“what if I don’t truly believe, etc.) are all very common in Scrupulosity. But seeking reassurance about these thoughts is bound to backfire – you may get some temporary relief, but the thoughts are bound to return (as you have learned). You are more likely to benefit from acknowledging and accepting the “gamble” of faith.
I am happy to hear that you are eager and attempting exposures on your own, but that is best done with the guidance of an experienced and trained therapist. If (as it sounds), your therapist is just doing talk therapy, then you may need to consider a new therapist, specifically one who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD. This is the treatment approach that has been repeatedly and consistently found by research to be the most effective therapy for OCD. Connecting with a good CBT therapist will help you get the progress you’re seeking.
Im going through the same thing. Sort of. But I’m starting to think what i need the most is to stop trying to be certain. Faith is faith for a reason. It’s faith. There aren’t any certainties in life even what you think you know can be wrong. Of course I keep telling myself this and it works for a few hours and then it immediately comes back, but also take into account i was just in the hospital and ive been an idiot anyway
Embracing uncertainty has become my comfort. Knowing that nobody knows, no matter how much they believe. My therapist has me say, “I don’t know what is true. I may never know what is true, but I have to live my life anyway.” It’s been beautiful and healing for me. Good luck on your journey and coming to accept the peace of the unknown.
Is it to late for me to seek cbt treatment for OCD, I am 73 years old and been in therapy for a long time but I never had cbt treatment. I feel terribly hopeless.
Thank you for your comment Louis. To be direct, it is never too late to receive the right treatment, especially when it comes to OCD. Seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
Hello Julie and everyone!
I wanted to say that I have OCD, Scrupulosity as well as some Harm OCD, and washing/checking rituals. Julie I would love to talk with you some time so as to help one another in the journey to complete healing. I know anything is possible with GOD on our side! You spoke of your faith, and I wanted to say that the fact that you continue to seek Jesus proves you DO have faith. I’m trying to get through the OCD Workbook and it is helping. Thank you to the person who wrote this article because it truly helped me a lot! Thank you so much!
Monica, thanks for the comment and the kind words. It’s encouraging to know that people are finding this article informative, and most importantly, a catalyst toward recovery. Your comment really highlights how one’s faith can embolden their journey to reclaiming that which OCD is strangling.
My husband has been acting strangely and my life is in constant turmoil and have no where to turn.
I believe that he may have Scrupulosity. He literally wants to pray 24/7. Even laying in bed at night, he is speaking to Jesus. Mainly, he is trying to clean himself of demons. He absolves himself of demons and says everything is okay but then he will start the ritual all over again. It is running our lives and he can’t focus on normal day to day. He has a strong faith and doesn’t question anything. It’s just constantly cleansing himself of demons and maybe sins as well.
Any insight you may have would be helpful.
I am not sure what you mean by “literally prays 24/7”. It sounds like your husband prays far more than what is reasonably normal. I would also be curious to know how and when this started. From the information you provided it may be helpful to for your husband to have a full mental health assessment to rule out any possibility of other mental health difficulties / condition.
I hope this helps.
I agree with Ray. Praying non-stop to remove demons does not sound like anything resembling healthy spirituality. It would be wise to have your husband assessed by a psychiatrist.
Thank you so much for this article. I have been researching OCD and bi polar disorders and their effect on spirituality for a paper I am doing as part of a masters degree in counseling. I have personal interest in these areas as they have had an impact on my spiritual journey. What you wrote was very informative and I would be interested to talk to you in more detail about this subject. I am wondering if there are any facebook groups or websites that discuss these issues.
Thank you again for this article, it is helpful to me as I work through this personally and for my paper.
Jason, I’m glad this article has been helpful as a resource for your paper. Further information about Scrupulosity is scattered across the internet and published books, typically related to OCD, and can be found through general search engines. I am also open to consultation in-person, over the phone, or via video conferencing.
I have been struggling with OCD for 8 years now, at the beginning I had no idea it could be actually a disease but then I researched on it and found out I had OCD. Knowing that all these thoughts and compulsions were not true and it was just the OCD I sort of cured myself. It took me some time and I would not say I was totally cured but I could think rationally and control myself but more importantly I could live ‘normally’, have a peace of mind and feel 99% free!
However, at the beginning of the year I started losing control again and unfortunately I lost myself into these OCD thoughts again and started depressing. But, this time I have decided that I will not let OCD ruin me. I took a massive courage after 8 years to tell the people I am closed to about it and seeked medical help.It helps talking about it!
Yesterday, I had my second session of therapy with the therapist and I felt even worse! It seems that she does not understand me at all and this made it worse because for me she was my HOPE! However, reading this article made me feel so much better and it gives me hope because scrupulosity is an OCD and I am not the only person on Earth suffering from it! It helps reading the other comments and know that some people know how hard it is and these help me to stay positive!
Kevin, any advice or help is most welcomed!
I have fear that I don’t accept Jesus as Savior. Or at least, that is my fear right now. I’ll go through the “steps of salvation” and will focus in on a certain part or term. I’m told it’s OCD but I’m not sure. I’ll question if I really believe something. Is this normal? I stay anxious all the time. I think about it all day and worry that if I don’t get it settled then I will go to hell when I die. It seems like I’ll have a moment of clarity and “believe” but then ask myself if that was Jesus speaking to me, or me making it up in my own mind.
I have a similar problem. I am afraid that I am lukewarm. I don’t believe I truly am. But sometimes I do. I just keep telling myself it’s the OCD. It’s a constant battle with the lies I tell myself. It’s very hard for me to read the Bible and not condemn myself. I keep thinking about the verse that says that if salt loses its saltiness it is no good and is thrown in the fire. I question if I have lost my saltiness because of the OCD and I feel like I have to try harder to let go of it and just believe more. It’s so hard to give myself grace and patience and kindness and understanding about what I battle with. I get so frustrated that I don’t want Christianity to be real because then I wouldn’t have to worry about how God feels about me, but I know it’s just the OCD and I would find something else to worry about. Then I feel guilty and I feel like I’m not loyal to the Lord, but I know that he knows i’m just looking to escape the lies in my head. I know he loves me and I know I love him, but sometimes I don’t feel it so I just have to be patient and wait until I do feel his love again. It’s so hard sometimes. Praying for you Jessica.
Hi Jessica and Christine.
Both of you are describing common experiences among faithful people. You can acknowledge that you do believe and put effort into building your faith and understanding of God, while also acknowledging that this pursuit has plenty of logical hurtles and emotional battles that would be so much easier if they didn’t exist in your life!
It is vital to extend grace and patience to yourself when you realize that there is so much more we can do, but also so much less we can do. What’s important is following through with your efforts toward your faith, and accepting that OCD is an expert at pointing out where we can do more, then resisting doing more and sitting in this tension. It’s hard, yes, but it gets easier over time.
Lily, it’s wonderful that you are seeking treatment. Part of the beginning stage of therapy is to build a trusting relationship between the two of you, which may also involve some missteps. That said, if you continue to feel that your therapist does not understand you, or does not understand OCD, then it may be worth finding someone else to work with, as the therapeutic relationship is vital to the success of treatment.
You may consider asking your therapist some direct questions about their understanding of Mindfulness Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Have they successfully treated someone with OCD? Have they treated anyone with Scrupulosity? What method of treatment do they employ when treating OCD?
Your therapist may be wonderful and very capable, but if they are not trained specifically in the treatment of OCD, they may not be a good fit for you. Also, some personalities just don’t match up.
Keep at it.
Thank you for your comment. Faith can be full of questions and uncertainty, and your comment alludes to the desire for certainty. In faith, you can only know as much as you know, and then are forced to deal with the gap between your knowledge and the fullness of things – which cannot be known!
Faith is trusting something to be real or accurate without the full evidence. If you had the evidence, it wouldn’t be faith, but objective fact. Connecting with a Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapist who has some experience in managing both OCD and the faith aspect may be helpful in finding some peace in the absence of total evidence.
Is it normal to get throbbing headaches after obsessing over one particular thing? I suffer from intrusive thoughts that involve Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Christianity’s unpardonable sin). I spend all night blocking thoughts like, “F*ck the etc,” and “God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit good and pure and not etc…” It’s going to the point where I’m becoming physically ill from the stress. Any recommendations?
I have suffered from this form of OCD for 40 years. Just know this…its OCD and not blasphemy. The fact that you are worried about it proves you didn’t do it. Also, true blasphemy is rejecting Christ. That is the unpardonable sin. It’s a matter of the heart not a momentary thought or something you accidentally said.
James, It’s no surprise that your thoughts are focused on “Christianity’s unpardonable sin” as OCD will latch onto each individual’s worst thought or worst case scenario. Since your faith is important to you, these thoughts may seem important to you, even thought they are just thoughts. Remembering that your thoughts dont always reflect your values, wants, or beliefs will free you from the perceived need to resolve them.
You are free, and encouraged, to question all of your thoughts before responding to them. This can come in the form of saying to yourself, “Wow, that was an odd thought. It doesn’t seem to reflect what I typically think or believe. Oh well.” Notice this doesn’t agree that the thought is right, nor that you are unable to think about it. You can think about all things, but it’s what you do with the thoughts that matters. These are basic mindfulness techniques that could be further tuned with the help of a therapist who is experienced in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Working with your thoughts like this, rather than against them, may help you to better tolerate them. In turn, it may have some impact on your headaches and physical health.
I have Ocd and bad thoughts. my mind makesme think i pray followed by awful stuf happening to people i lobve and i really dont mean it. i get scared theyll be answered? I’ve got myself in a bit of a state I walked past this guy preaching in town and he said God doesn’t kill children the devil does – I’m petrified. Now my thoughts are thinking please devil followed by awful stuff which I don’t mean or I’ll worship the devil if …. And I really don’t meant it but my mind OCD is doing it. I now am panicking as what if that guy is right and the devil will answer and make people die. Could this happen can the devil answer thoughts and make things happen?
Thank you and yet again sorry for bothering you with this I’ve just wound myself up.please could anyone reply and help me thank you
Wow, this article is so informative and so spot on!! You basically explained everything there is to know about Scrupulosity. I suffered from this when I was 15 and constantly had horrible thoughts about God that I couldn’t control and kept doubting my religion. I felt awful and was convinced I would go to hell for eternity. I thought I was going crazy then I went into a horrible depressive state and finally broke down and told everything to my mom. She told me that my thoughts were not my thoughts but the devil’s. It made me feel a bit better but I still had the thoughts and it really bothered me. I knew there was something more and that something was not right with me. It wasn’t until a few months later that I found out about the symptoms of OCD and realized I probably had it. I didn’t even know that my OCD had a subtype and a specific name!! When I found out that these thoughts arise from something uncontrollable in the brain (as well as your reaction to everything) it made me feel so much better. I eventually stopped fretting over the horrible thoughts and they went away (not completely, but when they do come I just brush them off). All you have to do is remember you can’t control all your thoughts, the human brain is way too complex for that!! It seems crazy at first but they are indeed just thoughts! Scrupulosity happens to the most kind-hearted people who only want to do good. Remember you are a good person based on your good actions and true intentions, not your thoughts 🙂
oh my gosh! this comment has helped me immensely!!!! i’m a christian and i recently got saved and i am still having all of these thoughts, like “ what if i don’t really believe in him” when i know good and well that i do!
Jane, Thank you for the comment. It’s great that you understand that you have OCD and that you experience unwanted intrusive thoughts. Further, knowing that OCD makes people doubt their knowledge or experience can help you begin to challenge these unhelpful and painful thoughts.
Information taken out of context is great fodder for OCD as it inherently makes someone question the meaning. You may want to ask yourself how this intrusive thought is helpful to you, and if finding the answer will benefit you in any way. Ultimately, remembering it is an unwanted intrusive thought, and that you have OCD, is reason enough to acknowledge the thought, then allow it to go unanswered. You may also want to consider beginning some work with a therapist who specializes in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, if you are not already doing so. It will help you challenge these thoughts so you can get back to your life.
Maya, What a wonderful testament to the power of accepting thoughts, and moving past those thoughts which are not beneficial to our life, goals, or values. Thank you for the encouraging comment and supporting those who are in the early stages of their recovery.
Hi, This is Chandra and wanted to share my experience and journey of 5 years with Scrupulosity treatment.
I started feeling it when I was 16, i started worshiping more than required..the Symmetry thing, started feeling that if i will not say ThankYou Lord 5 times, god will not be happy. It gave relief but then it comes again and again, every time I see a God’s photo or pass by a temple or church. Blasphemous Images use to come in my mind, that my legs touched god’s photo hanging on my wall or i touched them in disrespectful way. (It was just a thought/image use to come in my mind). Now start the compulsion thing to overcome these, seeking pardon for this and thousand times a day. Image of God used to come in my mind every 20 mins and i started feeling mental illness. All these started affecting my day to day life, my confidence was at after all time low, any body can go away saying anything to me. I started feeling that i am the worst person on earth, God is angry and how do i make him happy. My family started observing my changed behavior (everybody finished worshiping and i m still in the temple). i started avoiding temples. my father asked me finally whats going on, me and my family was feeling embarrassed with all these. We met a psychiatrist, he given some medicines…. and whoa!!! i improved, my confidence improved… at such a level that i started Stealing in the shop, i thought no body can catch me.. but i overcame the compulsion of repetitive praying. I read Bhagwad Gita where Lord Krishna has said you worship me or not it doesn’t matter, but you must take care of your deeds (Karma). Do good acts, don’t harm innocents, only that’s going to help. Work is worship.
And after that I started feeling if i worship once or 5 times every hour, god will be happy only with my good works and if i remember him even once a day, that’s enough.
Now I am 27, i m not completely but 80% cured with medicines and counseling and proper insight of religion.
I read somebody’s Mom said ‘your thoughts are because of Devil’ that’s simply bad. Believe me this is OCD, God never ask to worship 5 or 10 times a day, or it doesn’t bother him if you sinfully touched his picture in your mind, coz God is above all this, is merciful and is everywhere and nothing is unpardonable for him. What we think in our mind affects us, if you do repetitive actions to overcome something, just start thinking that its a disease and you have to overcome this. With medicines to balance your brain’s chemical composition and practicing Yoga, a strong will develops and one can overcome this OCD.
Counseling helps a lot, thank you my father who given me all insight of ‘what is religion’ and thank you Lord for telling about what is wrong and what is not in your Book.
Chandra, Thanks for the comment. That’s quite a recovery story! It pointed out the progressive nature of the disorder, specifically that it started small with actions you thought/ felt were benefiting your faith, and they may have up until the “get to” became a “have to.”
It is great to hear that you have found some medication and counseling that is helping you get a handle on these thoughts. The “proper insight of religion” you mention can also be seen as a more moderate or less rigid interpretation of your faith, texts, or dogmas. Maintaining a daily regimen of self care, in addition to your cognitive work, can yield great results. It sounds like you are well on your way to a more beneficial spiritual experience through these changes.
Hi, I’ve been suffering of episodes of scrupulosity for years, they lasted for months, the first one was at 16 with fear of having blasphemed, it was a terrible experience, the only thing that stop them was to stop going to the church.
Years later I return to the church and then another episode of guilt began, mainly feeling that I must apologize to everybody I had offended, then the fears of blasphemy return and it was horrible. Again I stop going to the church leaving me a feeling of guilt and some depression.
Two years later I got married moved to Spain and these last days I got feelings of guilt because 3 years back in college one teacher passed me an assignment (community service) without having completed. I feel that I must inform my university with the fear that they take my license/title away.
Sorry for my poor English. I think that your article is very helpful.
Yes, u quoted right, i m on the right path to a more beneficial spiritual experience through these changes and also more moderate or less rigid interpretation of my faith. Earlier I was more religious but now I am more spiritual and less religious, thanks to counseling. Now, if such images or guilt comes in my mind, i understand that this is a disease only and my God will not be angry with whatever comes up as images in my mind, b’coz whatever is going on in my mind is simply not in my control. I’m not responsible if my mind thinks that i have committed some sin, when practically I haven’t.
Chandra, Sounds great! Keep doing what’s working to maintain that progress.
Jose, Thank you for your comment. Your story shows how the obsessions often change over time, and the importance of facing the thoughts head-on rather than avoiding them. I want to encourage you to seek out a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD. I also encourage you not to contact your university about your alleged failure to fully complete your coursework. This sounds to me like a compulsive response to your Scrupulosity. A better choice would be to accept and live with the uncomfortable thought that you may have inadvertently gained from your teacher’s mistake.
” we shall assure our hearts before him as regards whatever our hearts may condemn us in, because God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.”—1 John 3:19, 20. What does “God is geater than our heart ” mean?.. That God knows us better than we know ourselves! ..& he deffinetly is aware to what point a disorder affects our life.
hey my name is audy and i just recent became a christian …i suffer from depression and its been hard on me too the point i had thoughts of killing myself and others then it went too having really bad thoughts of sexual thoughts wiith my pastor and the lord its been crazy now i have enxiety attacks and i am on meds for it i keep trying too gwt better and not think and if i think stuff i am at i dont careself cause i am literally going crazy i see a therapist for my emotions and feelings and now i begun taking meds but it is driving me nuts i am literally feel like i am losing my mind here helppp please !!
I am sure this is what I am suffering from.But I cant help but feel a little more hepless. you see my issues were that I was some how going to go against God himself….like satan did. ive had the blasphemous thoughts,fear of going to hell,fear of poking my eyes out,hurting my family,pastor….the list goes on….anyone I love has had a thought or two….my thoughts kept saying give in….your evil….accept hell as your home,worship the evil one. Now im just like do I still believe….now I feel like God has cornered me…which I know what the word says….he made us selflessly to love him and eachother….now I just want to accept Christ again without feeling nervous or forced….I want Christ and to go to Heaven. I feel like im giving in to my pride and thoughts..I just wish I never had my first thought wbich was fear that I could not live for Christ….that happened at the altar….I miss God and how I just depended on him….my thoughts are asking why about God why not you….why does he even have to be anyway….that is the enemy…but I feel like I vant fight….now im depressed….cant be happy cause God gave it….cant do nothing because God did it….WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????? Never in my life would I say that….but I am now…and am tired of fighting!!!!!Jesus erase my mind!
Great post tresdecopas. Remembering that can be encouraging to those going through treatment for Scrupulosity, especially for the exposure aspect. If God understands what you are going through, and knows the purpose of your action, then it opens one up to accepting the fear and doing it anyway!
Mr. Tuzzino, I just want you to know that I love you and God loves you. You are NEVER EVER too old! I will be praying!
thanks so much for everyones thoughts on this subject,I have been diagnosed with religious ocd and bipolar disorder,suffered from 1990 to the present,have made some progress and I still go to counseling with a baptist minister that knows about the disorder and is very understanding towards me,just seeing your thoughts has given me great comfort and the Lord is always with me too to encourage me in not giving up there is a song by albertina walker (a black gospel singer) called I’m still here,I encourage u to go listen to the words it is very encouraging ,God spoke to me in this song about being kept by His Love that is greater than our disorder……hope everyone on here is encouraged to keep on working on themselves and helping others too….luv u all
I have 2 question: With scrupolosity does the person recognize there tthoughts as irrational like w other ocd subtypes? & What if the person does nt carry out any compulsions bc they are too lazy to thnk about it..does this jst mean they are lacking faith lik a person w out scrupolosity ocd?
Thank you so much for this article. I am 54 years old and have suffered with Scrupulosity for as long as I can remember. I was diagnosed with OCD when I was 45 but it wasn’t until this past year that I read about Scrupulosity. Everything I have read talks about CBT which is terrifying to me. However, after reading your article and the posts of fellow suffers, I see that I am not alone and that others are able to talk about their obsessive thoughts and maybe I can, too.
Your comments are a great reminder to everyone that they can find inspiration almost anywhere to keep pushing through their discomfort. For those starting out in their recovery, a step that is often more difficult is to focus on the basis of their true faith, rather than just the trappings of ritualized compulsion. Focusing on one’s true faith can be very helpful when overwhelmed by scrupulous thoughts.
Like with other types of OCD, Scrupulous thoughts can be recognized as irrational. However, when they come to our attention, their irrationality is often clouded with doubt and exaggerated importance.
You can become more skilled at identifying irrational, unwanted thoughts by their trademark “this needs to be done now, or else” impact.
It is crucial to remember that giving in to the compulsion is not a direct reflection of faith or lack of faith, but an unwillingness to feel the discomfort of the perceived consequences of the intrusive thought. Perhaps I am unclear about what you mean by “lazy”, but not giving in to the compulsion and disregarding the intrusive thought is part of the goal in treatment.
Janet, Thank you for the comment. I’m glad you find some encouragement through this article and the comments from fellow readers.
While Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can sound overwhelming, remember that at its core it asks you to question if your thoughts are 100% accurate, and if there might be other more realistic ways to view your thoughts, yourself, and the world. And if so, are you then willing to do something different in response.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) often unnecessarily terrifies people. If your goal is run a marathon, you wouldn’t start your first exercise with a 26.2 mile run, but you’d get off of the couch and walk down the block. The next day, perhaps you’d go just a bit further, then jog, and so on. Working with a therapist skilled in CBT and ERP is vital to seeing your recovery as a progressive upward slope, and not like climb over Mt. Everest.
Hi my name is Nicholas,experiencing thoughts right now,one is sexual images about God,Jesus and other religious persons.As you all said,i also feel depressed and thought i can stop it if i does not think about god and jesus or i try not to see any of their images in my house,But unfortunately i couldn’t,i ask myself why i want to do that.I don’t want to loose my faith and i want to portray it.I was sad and depressed,whenever i speak to my girl fren i could not concentrate on our relationship,i told her my problem.She was upset and cried for me.I felt sad because of me my girl fren also sad.So i decided although i could be sent to hell or what,i want to live a happy life to keep my girl fren happy.I surrender to god all the time and i prayed faithfully.I ask god to forgive me and take away all the unrighteousness from me,for two days i make my self a little bit busy and forgot everything and was feeling well the next day but it continue again when another fear in me developed when i new one of my fren who slept with a prostitute in thailand and after two weeks he tell me the story and we went to watch movie together and share pop corn.Where im scared there would be any possible transmission of HIV from him.It all weakened all the confidence i had and now continue having the Scrupulous thoughts and words in mind again.Hope to forget it when i enter the working life because i would feel comfortable when i go out with my friends or go out anywhere.I truly and faithfully trust that Jesus will save me and give me salvation.He is faithful and just forgive us our sins.The only hope we have is jesus who will pour his divine mercy on us and redeem us.Please reside the divine mercy novena and prayer.It is JESUS’es unlimited mercy which will pour from his heart to save us poor sinners.That’s the last hope for who ever believes in him.
Audy, it sounds like you are taking the right steps by being in therapy and beginning medication to treat these thoughts. You share the same pain that a lot of people feel when they begin therapy. Continuing in therapy with a treatment provider who understands that these thoughts are just thoughts should help you see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Brittany, Thank you for your comment. The trap that people get caught in with OCD can be seen in the motivation behind their actions. Following through on religious acts ought to be done out of a desire to move TOWARD God, rather than just moving AWAY FROM anxiety. The same goes for a washer/ checker – are they washing because they truly want to be clean or only because they want to avoid feeling anxiety.
Once your are able to peacefully co-exist with the thoughts, you can make a conscious decision whether your previously compulsive actions truly reflect your goals and values, or if they were merely done to avoid discomfort.
Phew, I am not alone wrestling with my thoughts. For me all of this began with a “mild” psychosis. I studied a lot of math and physics when it suddenly hit me “Where does everything come from” in my mind I could not get the universe to work without God. And so I started reading the bible (on my own, which wasn´t a good idea) In around this time I had thought about hurting loved one´s and friends. I also remember having fear of knives and sharp objects because I saw images in my mind hurting my parents. Anyhow for me the obsessions where that i must keep my mind Holy that is not to think blasphemous thoughts, and so I read the new testament also on my own and got stuck with blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This was in 96 and i still have difficulties with unholy thoughts that from time to time give me anxiety attacks, the three first years were the worst I must say. I used to sleep a lot back then to escape my minds never ending chanting. I had constant headaches for these years and also had a lot of other frightening experiences like Sleep paralysis and “out of body” experiences during sleep. However in 2000 I studied health care and recognized my symptoms from psychology class and got my self medicated with SSRI medicine. It worked quite well for me, understanding my sickness helped me a lot to, now I´ve read most of C.G.Jungs works and some Freud and others. I´ve also gone to a psychologist to talk about my problems and it also helped a bit. Also my life got better since I got a job and found something else to do than being haunted by my thoughts.
I have also felt healed at times by God, it felt as if I was touched by warm calming hands on my head and all my head pains are gone since many years now! have never ever had the same type of headaches since then!
Hi my name is Gareth and i am 20 years old and have been dealing with psychosis and ocd since i was 13 and i believe it was triggered by guilt. Your article makes sense to me because i keep ruminating about god, religion, spiritualism and each time i reach a conclusion that helps me deal with everything like one day i will believe in god and it makes everything better and give me meaning and sense and in about the space of a week i start questioning it and it stops giving me comfort and i will move on to for example athiesm( believing that it dosnt matter anyway because i will be dead)nothing works and these thoughts consume me. Do you have any advice or ways of dealing with this that dosnt involve therapy( i am seeing one and it isnt helping) thanks
Thanks for the comment Nicholas. Your comment highlights how avoidance used in the pursuit of reducing anxiety does not prove effective in the long run, and ultimately pulls you away from your main goal of building a better spiritual life. Allowing yourself to experience your feared thoughts by recognizing they are just thoughts, while stopping compulsive behaviors (including avoidance), will help you break the OCD cycle.
It sounds like your faith is important to you, and in order to progress in your struggle with OCD, you will need to challenge your unwanted thoughts and do things that may feel uncomfortable.
Richard, great story! It sounds like you found a path that really worked for your particular thoughts and anxieties. A great deal of people also experience more than one focus of their fears (blasphemy, knives, cleanliness, etc.), but ultimately it’s the same cycle of anxiety. Keep going in your progress!
Being able to tolerate your uncomfortable feelings of guilt will be vital to your recovery. A question worth considering is “what do you believe and value”? Is religion/ spirituality something that enriches your life, or is it a tool for avoiding the discomfort of your thoughts? If your spiritual life is important to you, then I urge you to continue to pursue it despite your discomfort. Life, and your religion, is a “get to”, not a “have to”.
I just recently discovered that this is a form of OCD. I remember this started for me at the age of 5. What would trigger it at such a young age? And could this contribute to not having much of a memory of my childhood, which was I think, other than that aspect a happy one.
Hi everyone. This is my first time blogging about my illness. I have severe OCD. Out of all the doctors, nurses, therapists, etc., that I’ve talked with, the word scrupulosity was never used. Weeks ago, I found this website and read about scrupulosity. I think I can honestly say this is what I have. I asked my therapist if she would look it up and she did. I told her that scrupulosity describes me. My symptoms started late in 2010. By the summer of 2011 I was very sick. There isn’t any break from this. It is with me constantly. Rob
I just started suffering this 2 months ago. I have been a born again believer for over 20 years. Out of nowhere I had this thought on the existence of God. Now I live a life of fear, anxiety, and depression. I know that without faith I am going to hell, but how does one with ocd tod themselves of these doubts. All I want in life is to serve God. It’s killing me to think I may have lost that.
Hi, I have been dealing with intrusive thoughts for the past year. They were all centered around my beliefs in Christianity. At first I thought I was possed or something, which has turned into one of my fears and been the root of many of my intrusive thoughts . After speaking with my pastor about my experiences he told me to see my doctor and told me that it may be physical and not spiritual. I did a little research and found out about ocd and how it can relate to religion. Over the passed year these thoughts have come and gone, sometimes worst than others. Have you dealt with anyone who had the issue of believing that ocd was an attack. Also what have been some of the symptoms of anxiety that other suffers have had behind ocd
My son (22) has Scrupulosity OCD and suffers every day of his life. He often says he wishes he was never born because he can’t live with the fear of eternal hell anymore. I do not have the knowledge and means to help him in this regard.
He has studied both the Bible and the Quran.
Bottom line is, he says he has to make a choice and what if the choice is wrong.
He looks for facts and is wanting concrete proof of which religion is right. But also admits that he knows you will not find that anywhere.
The disease is totally debilitating. He had to give up studying at university in February this year and come home because he was in such a bad way.
For people who don’t understand this disease it is a case of “you are being ridiculous” but to him it is very real and affecting his well being.
It’s really sad!!
Do you know of any place in South Africa that would be able to help him?
Most people have hazy memories of their childhood, especially before age 5. So the vagueness of your memories is likely normal, rather than a result of childhood anxieties.
Anxiety can start at a young age, and having an anxious and sensitive character may predispose one to developing OCD or other anxiety based disorders. Regardless of how it started or when, the more important question to ask yourself is what are you doing now to manage it? I encourage you to seek out treatment with a therapist specializing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD.
Hi Rob – thanks for your comment.
Unfortunately, your experience with past therapists is shared by many people, as most mental health treatment providers are completely unaware of Scrupulosity. That said, it’s great to hear that you are seeking treatment. And now that you have some more details about your specific type of OCD, hopefully you can start to work with your therapist to tackle your symptoms using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Thanks for your comment. Right after you expressed doubt about your faith, and the consequences of that doubt, you wrote “All I want is to serve God.” This statement reflects a core belief that drives your intentions and actions, and indicates a lot of faith!
A life of faith is fraught with doubt, so adding the tenacious doubt of OCD will predictably make things appear even less secure. If you have not already done so, I implore you seek out a therapist who understands OCD, is experienced in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and is willing to work with you in your faith tradition. Often when OCD is present, we expect to see depression, however a therapist will be able to make a referral to a psychiatrist if the depression is becoming a barrier to accepting and challenging these thoughts.
Justin, I’m glad to hear that your pastor was discerning enough to refer you to a doctor. Further, you illustrate a wonderful truth about OCD, including Scrupulosity — symptoms come and go. You can expect that at times the thoughts will be worse, and at other times easier, but sticking it out through treatment will help to progressively get a better handle on them.
I have treated others with Scrupulosity who believe their religious obsessions are an attack. However that should not stop someone from moving forward with treatment using Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. With appropriate direction, you can actually use your faith as a tool with which to fight the OCD thoughts and feelings. I urge your to consult with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD as to how to best implement CBT so that your faith rituals don’t becoming compulsive rituals, thereby undermining the therapy.
Varinia. I’m sorry to hear of your son’s struggles. These obsessive thoughts can become debilitating if they are allowed to go without treatment or challenge. You are also right about the personal experience of the sufferer. From the outsider’s perspective, it can look many different ways, but the sufferer experiences a “fight or flight” experience to these thoughts, regardless of the thought’s presentation.
I’m not sure if what I do is ocd or something else. I constantly think about blinking. That my right eye represents heaven and my left means hell. So after I blink, I need to blink again with my right eye so I go to heaven. Now of course, I don’t believe this to be real. I just don’t understand why I still do this obsessive blinking if I don’t believe the reason behind it. am I sinning not because it is a thought/ worry, but because I do rituals or physical things with my eyes that are compulsive with a meaning behind them like I explained?i Would this be a form of ocd.. or something else? Also have you ever heard of anyone doing things like I explained above?? Thank you
I believe I have this. I have these thoughts and things that would be considered blasphemy. I freak out. I can’t stand the thought of blaspheming. They’re repetive. I haven’t done anything to help myself. My stepdad is a preacher and he often tells me that the devil is tempting me to not be so religious..but sometimes I think it’s really me thinking these thoughts and that I really mean them. But I don’t! I believe this is exactly what I have. At least I’m not alone.
My 10 year old son is suffering from scrupulosity. He’s in therapy using exposure and response, but we are finding it very hard to make him do “bad” things, such as writing something mean about a classmate or sticking his tongue out at his sister. It is causing such stress in our household as he confesses to all 5 of us for reassurance. How do we reconcile making him do things that he would normally get in trouble for and striving to be more like Jesus? It’s just so painful to watch him suffer.
One of the marks of OCD is when something in you says you need to do something right now to make you safe even though it doesn’t make any reasonable sense. Your blinking follows the classic OCD cycle – a thought, feeling, urge, or sensation that produces anxiety, followed by doing a mental or physical action to relieve the anxiety.
Have you connected with a trusted religious leader who could answer your question regarding what is and is not sin related blinking? I am confident that you would find that no sin is being committed in blinking or not blinking. Then you could try blinking however you want despite anxiety. Challenging your compulsive blinking would be a major component of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and I encourage you to find a therapist who specializes in this approach to treatment.
I’m happy you found this article, because you are not alone! Have you considered seeking therapy with someone who understands Scrupulosity? A competent therapist can work with you in your religious tradition to help you achieve a fulfilling spiritual connection, rather than one based on doubt. The trapped feeling you are experiencing, and the questioning of your intentions and thoughts, are consistent with OCD. People with Scrupulosity often get unwanted intrusive thoughts because it is taboo with their held beliefs and values. It’s a frustrating side effect of having a human brain.
I’m sorry to hear about your family’s struggle. It is wonderful that you sought care for your son so early.
Scrupulosity can be conceptualized as an irrational hyper-morality in which the sufferer is desperate not to feel anxious about possibly being “bad”. It is important to remember that your son’s compulsive confessing behaviors are motivated not by a desire to be a good person, but by a desire to not feel anxious. Supporting him through his exposures is helping him be an authentically good person on his own. You may want to seek individual support as your son is going through his own therapy. In addition to ongoing therapy, OCDLA offers consultation services for parents, and for those not wanting or needing traditional therapy for themselves.
My mom has this really bad. Just checked out of hospital a few days ago after spending two weeks there, and it came right back. All they did was medication. Do not even think they knew about this form of OCD as they did not even mention it the two weeks she was there. Just adjusted meds etc…
Is there a place in the MPLS area that specializes in this? She is tormented by this and is melting down again. Thanks
You are correct – chances are that the staff at the hospital had absolutely no idea what to do with your mom. Unfortunately, most mental health care workers do not really understand OCD, and most have never even heard of Scrupulosity. And hospitals are simply not set up to provide meaningful treatment for OCD. Your mom’s experience of just being medicated is the norm, not an exception.
To get real help, she will need to work with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD. Your best resource for finding such a therapist in Minneapolis is the website of the International OCD Foundation at http://www.ocfoundation.org. They have a searchable database of specialists. Good luck.
I obsess over honesty. I think it started with my ex continually calling me a liar and telling me I had mental issues because I lied so much. My mum also hated liars (I believe both to have NPD but neither is diagnosed). I only ever lied to protect myself from these volatile people and I certainly don’t believe myself to be a compulsive liar.
I don’t believe I’ll go to hell for not being completely honest as I’m not religious but it severely eats at me for with-holding information from my partner. Even if its just the smallest little thing or if its something that’s completely irrelevant that happened in the past before I even met him. I feel like I have to confess to him every bad thing I’ve done. If there is something that I feel I cannot tell him I punish myself and probably will continue to do so to deal with the guilt of holding it in.
Scrupulosity does not always focus on religion – for some people it focuses on matters of morals and ethics. We call that “Moral Scrupulosity”, and it sounds like that is what you are experiencing. We will have a future article specifically about Moral Scrupulosity.
You are not obligated to confess every little thing, and doing so will only make your OCD worse. Your job is to accept the feelings of discomfort you experience when you want to confess…but to not confess.
I ve been suffering from OCD 10 years now…I ve had my ups and downs… and when I seem to have put under control one aspect of OCD , other pops in my head- now I am in the phase of facing Scrupolosity more than I did ever before. It’s like they never stop… like I have set my brain to think that it cant go on without compulsions and overthinking. I am perfectionist by nature and that’s what probably ruins me the most. However lately I ve been obsessing with a dream I ve had.. I was dreaming my late friend and it was not a plesent dream… now i have a dillema if i should share it- but if i do i fear something bad might happen.. and if i dont- i fear that i might be ignoring any message that it could bring… I am torn apart…any answer would do… Thanks for reading
I don’t know if this is scrupulosity or not. Last year, I have been having thoughts where my mind is telling that I should abandon my religion in order to be happy, I wont enjoy heaven. But clearly it is making me depressed. I don’t want to abandon my religion – before this whole incident I was so happy being myself (proud to be Muslim and now my mind is telling me that I should lead to atheism.) Now I fear the word atheism because I went online to check celebrities’ religion and majority of them abandon their religion and I feel like a magnet is dragging me to atheism but I don’t want it. I’m losing hope because I don’t have self-trust , self-confidence.
Nick, I apologize but the lack of details in your comment makes it difficult to give a helpful response. I am unclear if the dream you are referring to is of religious or moral concern, or if it is related to something else entirely, so I am at a loss for how to guide you.
That said, knowing your history of Scrupulosity and the intense anxiety and doubt associated with obsessive thoughts, you probably can assume this is an OCD thought. If you have not done so already, I would encourage you to connect with a therapist who specializes in CBT for OCD who can help guide you through this difficult time. As with all OCD thoughts, it ultimately comes down to you taking a risk rather than being stuck in your fear.
In your break down of religions and how they contribute to this problem, I believe you need to specifically mention Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have a long standing policy of being very critical psychological help. As a child, I suffered from this for years. My parents dragged elders to the house to talk to me, they were uniquely unqualified to help in anyway and only said stupid things like “don’t think those thoughts’ and “I don’t know if you committed the unforgivable sin or not”. I desperately needed mental help, but it was very strongly discouraged, as a psychologist might disagree with Jehovah’s Witness teachings or contradict some of their beliefs. My parents instead let me suffer and thought perhaps I came into contact with demon-possessed objects and they purged our house of suspected items, which was hardly helpful.
Hi, I’m a devoted Catholic with OCD who’s been suffering from OCD for over three years, and I have thoughts like the article mentioned above. I am afraid that I might have actually whispered these thoughts to myself and have committed the “unpardonable sin.” I also sometimes fear that I could accidentally say the Lord’s name in vain, so I sometimes might whisper my scrupulous thoughts. Other thoughts that accompany this scrupulosity are indifferentist thoughts, thinking bad things about holy figures, or changing up my prayers into something evil.
The thoughts got worse though when I was at the Blessed Sacrament one day, because I was reading the Bible and that’s where I learned that an unpardonable sin exists. Similarly, during mass in a later week, I learned that God will punish those who curse Abram, or something like that. That is where my mind is trying to make me think those thoughts. I am also afraid that I might have committed this sin through my actions.
At the beginning of my OCD, I feared that I wasn’t straight and started looking at any male and twitching myself in a sinful way. I did this out of fear though, not out of lust. Recently, a thought of extreme blasphemy (i.e. the aforementioned sin) accompanied this twitching.I know that I am straight, and I’m not even at the point in my life where I should be thinking about love and marriage; but when I experienced this extreme fear or doubt, along with the scrupulous thoughts, my compulsion is to do this twitch.I’m afraid that I could have or did commit this action by choice, and I am terrified, because I didn’t mean it.
I have been depressed now and I feel that my life is pointless now, because I fear that I have failed my mission in following God. I have been continually praying and apologizing to Him to save everyone else in my family, because I don’t want anyone else to suffer in the eternal furnace. I have also been continually asking for His mercy.
I don’t mean the thoughts or anything that I could have whispered or done, but I am terrified that I am beyond redemption. Will God forgive me if He knows I never meant any of it?
I want to be saved, and I want to keep following God, no matter what. These thoughts and actions have become unbearable and I don’t want them anymore. Can I get rid of them through prayer, and, again I ask, will God forgive me. I broke down in confession too, and the priest who confessed me told me its what I do with the thoughts that makes them sinful. Again I mention that a lot of my OCD is forced habit, but I’m afraid that I did or could have done the blasphemy by choice. If I did do it by choice, I am extremely regretful and sorry, and I will not stop being sorry for my sins.
I’ve researched the “unforgivable sin” and have read that it consists of a constant spirit of rebellion against God and it is the final, ultimate rejection of God. I have no intention to rebel against God, and I only intend to follow him for the rest of my days, so that I will be able to join the Lord and my family- living and deceased- in heaven forever.
My husband suffers some degree of this kind of OCD at least according to my conclusions. I am really concern because it is damaging our marriage. Many times I am the one feeling inadequate next to him because I don’t worry or emphasize to extremes the religion. I try my best but I don’t worry to much for not being perfect. I have got to the point that I am starting to hate the religion just by seeing him go to extremes. He of course doesn’t see it but I do and I don’t know how to help him and help myself. He has done things (good things) in the 10 years of marriage we have to help other or strive to do his best and he is an awesome man and loving and respectful but a lot of those good deeds have to do with putting us me and kids sometimes as second place in priority. An example will be I needed him to be home for something that I needed to do but he decided to visit a less active member instead and his respond to that after I get angry is…The spirit prompt me to do it. So I feel left out and with less importance even when he assure that his wife and family are priority but one thing after another has left me believe that maybe not; that his anxiety to help and feel relief by doing too much is stronger than even us. How can I help myself and him? I am really desperate because few days ago he had another episode but this time with money. I got entry with him for him getting frustrated to pay for 15.00 for some pictures but the following day he paid 230.00 to some strangers that asked for food and money for gas to get to NYC. I wasn’t present when that happened otherwise I wouldn’t let that happened. His respond was how could he pray to God with a clean knowing that he had money to give…we are not rich at all. I have a very strict budget but for him was more important to relief his anxiety and feel accomplished that didn’t care about even calling me to ask for my opinion. How do I am suppose to feel about this? I devastated in my heart. How can I trust that we will really be priority for him in all areas? I am really suffering because of the religion and the behaviors of my husband. What would be your advice here for me as a wife.? Thanks.
Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry that you had to endure such treatment defended by religious belief. Your comment punctuates the importance of making information about Scrupulosity accessible, understandable, and palatable to people of all faiths.
While we are doing what we can do accomplish this task through this series, we are unable to specifically reference how Scrupulosity plays out in all variations of all faiths. You however, as someone who understands Jehovah’s Witnesses and OCD, are in a great position to work with your church to help them understand. It may be difficult at first, but as an insider you hold more authority an authenticity than I.
Thank you for your comment. It sounds like you are going through so much pain right now, and I am glad you found this article.
First and foremost, if you are not already doing so, please consider seeking treatment with a therapist who specializes in OCD. You mentioned a number of overvalued thoughts that may be misguiding your responses, which would be addressed through the cognitive restructuring portion of treatment. I would encourage you to also read the second installment of this series that focuses on cognitive restructuring for religious based Scrupulosity.
Another helpful resource for the scrupulous Catholic can be Scrupulous Anonymous. They put out a monthly newsletter with information relevant to Catholic spiritual life from a Scrupulosity perspective.
Lastly, I agree with your description of the unforgivable sin, and would add that if you are worried about it, you probably havn’t done it. Moving forward with OCD treatment may help you move toward your professed spiritual goals with, and despite, these thoughts.
I will respond to your comment under the assumption that your husband does in fact have scrupulosity, either religiously or morally based. Your comment clearly shows the impact of scrupulosity on others, which is not often discussed, as we usually focus on the sufferer’s individual experience without considering the pain it may cause to their loved ones.
The main issue I am seeing from your comment is that you two are not on the same page with your values and are operating your marriage from different rules. While your husband may be doing good things, it is not in respect to your budget, which I hope you two have discussed and are in agreement. Your husband may be caught up in anxiety, or may not recognize it as anxiety, which may make it difficult to encourage him to begin treatment. What he ideally should be able to see is that his actions are causing some issues in the marriage, which may be a motivating factor to getting you two into couple’s counseling where you can openly discuss your concerns about his anxieties with a trained psychotherapist. If the therapist identifies a genuine anxiety disorder, he or she may refer your husband to treatment for anxiety, but it is up to your husband to follow through.
Asking him to read this article then have you express the concerns in your comment may be the catalyst to pursuing marriage counseling to discuss these issues in greater detail.
Hello I came upon this website while doing some research on this topic being I believe I have scrupulosity. I do have a question about it. I suppose the reason I am asking this is to gain some kind of reassurance (another sign of it haha) that I do indeed have some kind of religious O.C.D. I will be tormented about sins, blasphemous thoughts doubts in my faith etc. etc. But at times I will not think about these things and for a moment my mind is free from those thoughts, and shortly after that break I worry that “well then because I didn’t think about those things I must not have scrupulosity so it must just be truly me.” Then the cycle continues.
These thoughts are often triggered by many many things especially hearing or seeing religious things on T.V. as an example and all of these blasphemous and doubting thoughts will rush through my mind and I will absolutely feel horrible about it. Thinking I am a horrible person doomed to hell for sure, and the cycle repeats over and over throughout the day.
So does that sound like an O.C.D./scrupulosity issue to you? (keep in mind I am also a worrier so I worry about EVERYTHING.) Thanks so much for taking the time to read this!
Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you found this article helpful.
While I can’t provide a formal diagnosis via a blog, the symptoms you describe in your comment strongly suggest Scrupulosity. By noting that you are having unwanted intrusive thoughts of a religious nature, and researching Scrupulosity, and then posting a personal comment on a blog about Scrupulosity, you may be answering your own question.
Further, you astutely note that your comment is to some extent an attempt to seek reassurance, which is one of the four main ways that people with OCD act compulsively in response to obsessions. Also, your concern that, if you are not overwhelmed with religious obsessions, then you must be “a horrible person, doomed to hell” is an example of what is known as a “back door spike”. Simply put, a back door spike is a colloquial term that describes an increase in OCD that occurs when a person becomes anxious that they are not experiencing their obsessions as severely as they previously did. In other words, you get a little relief, and the OCD goes around to the back door looking for a new way in – and finds it!
I’m not here for advice, but rather, to share a little of my story so that if there’s someone out there like me, and they read this, they will know they are not alone. Many of the previous comments here have done this for me, in a sense.
I have been plagued with anxiety for most of my life (I’m 23). I remember as a child, very small, maybe 6 or 7, I would worry about death, I would panic over the thought. Count up the years until 2012 which was when I thought the world was going to end, so I would know how long I had left to live. I was completely terrified. I was introduced to Christ years later and became aware of an eternal resting place after death. So now my fear of death had a different turn, not only do you die, but you can also spend an eternity in Hell!! I prayed for God’s gift of salvation as a young teen, and lived for a short time for The Lord, but eventually kind of fell off of it. A few years later, I felt conviction of sins I was committing in my life. I would willfully and knowingly commit sins and tell myself I could pray for forgiveness later. Eventually the guilt caught up and I realized God only forgives if you are sincere. I repented and tried my best to turn away from the sin and make everything right with God. I became curious and googled whether or not one is able to lose salvation and was met with slews of articles with dire warnings and Bible Scripture claiming that falling from grace is a very real thing. I was terrified. Utterly terrified. Felt like I had ruined everything, lost my salvation and couldn’t get it back. I didn’t want to believe that I could be hopeless, although I surely did. My life was so much more stressful after this. I refused to just give up, however. I would pray the same prayer over and over again until I felt it was acceptable to God. I would consciously examine my every thought and action as to ensure I wasn’t willingly and deliberately sinning anymore. If I wasn’t sure if something was sinful, I would avoid it because it’s ‘better to be safe than sorry’. I was always confessing things to others, if I felt I may have deceived someone in any way, I would make certain to “make it right” and confess to them the whole truth, and if I delayed in doing so it was absolute torture, I would feel heavy with guilt. I would make sure to follow OT law, and follow through with any thought that came to mind. If I thought I should literally shout praises to God, despite where I was at the time, and I did not want to do it, I felt it was because I was ashamed of God, and I didn’t want Jesus to be ashamed of me before The Father so I would quickly remedy it by literally shouting out praises to God. I’m sure people thought I was insane. It became too much to bear after almost a year of that, so I gave up completely. Pushed everything away. I’ve tried and failed multiple times since then to get myself into a less stressful relationship with Christ, but it never lasts. I always give up. The anxiety is too much. I always find myself wanting to go back to God “for good” but feeling hesitant. Staying away from Him doesn’t help. I still have the obsessions and compulsions regardless. I’m at a point in my life right now where I still question everything. Do I even have a chance anymore? What I’m forever condemned? What if I still have a chance, but don’t find the ‘right’ way to Heaven? How do I live my life for God? Is it like I have done before, carefully examining each action and motive I have? Certain Bible verses trigger horrible feelings of hopelessness and guilt within me. I can’t look past them. Every time I open my Bible I find more evidence telling me to just give up because I’m damned. I feel terrified and I sob uncontrollably, and sometimes I wish I wasn’t even born because this life is so miserable for me, and to only have Hell to look forward to after it all? What a terrible way to live. I have this unending feeling of time running out as well. Like I’m running on an hourglass and if I don’t figure everything out before it’s empty, I for sure will have reached a point where it’s too late and will end up in Hell. 🙁 this is where I am today. I don’t want to believe I’m hopeless and that my only thing to look forward to is an eternity in Hell, but I do. This is an everyday thing for me. I don’t even want to wake up in the morning. The anxiety hits me as soon as I wake up and doesn’t stop until I go to sleep. I feel like writing letters to loved ones, letting them know that when I die, if I end up in Hell, that I still love them even though I will have no love in my heart in Hell. That it’s not by choice but that I am just in a place where love is nonexistent. I look at things I enjoy in life and am always struck down with intrusive thoughts reminding me that these things will not be in Hell and to enjoy them while I still can. I just want to go to Heaven, but I feel afraid that it is something a lot harder to attain and easy to lose because it is HEAVEN and it is eternity, and a very serious thing, and because God is God and even though he does love everyone, He is also just and must punish sin.
Thank you to anyone who took the time to read all of that. It’s a lot, and there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s such an overwhelming thing, over such a serious and life changing subject and it really affects you as a whole. I was diagnosed with OCD 5 years ago, by the way.
Thank you for being so candid about your struggles. Your story clearly outlines how scrupulous unwanted thoughts can twist something that could be rewarding into something defeating. Specifically, you illustrate how agonizing it can be to over-focus on God’s punishments as opposed to balancing that fear with an objective evaluation of your actions (i.e. does the punishment fit the crime), or considering the role of grace and/or forgiveness in your faith background.
Connecting with a pastor who understands Scrupulosity can be helpful. They would be able to talk about the theological basis of some of your concerns and perhaps guide you if you wish to continue in your faith with knowledge and confidence.
More importantly, connecting with a therapist who understands and has experience with treating Scrupulosity will help you more effectively challenge the irrational fears that are feeding your OCD. Ultimately, you will need to expose yourself to these fears and eventually tolerate the unknown that is “faith”.
Again, thank you for sharing, and keep going toward a life you find of value, and a faith you find true and rewarding.
Hi, I came across your article after doing a little research online. Basically its a family member of mine that has recently had some sort of breakdown. It was only a matter of months ago that a friend informed my parents that she noticed a change in my brother. He started reading the bible, articles online etc about Christianity. My brother is gay and is trying to convince himself that he is not – after what he has read online and in the bible – he is terrified of what might happen to him. This obsession has now turned into “the end of the world” – he spends most of his day in his room, in front of a computer reading articles and listening to speeches made by certain individuals re the 2nd coming of God. It has taken over his life. He has been diagnosed with OCD a number of years ago and I was wondering if this type of behavior was familiar to anyone? And if anyone had any advice? He has been seeing a counselor that his workplace put in place but I fear that they are not the right person? I also fear that my brother is not informing this counselor about his compulsive behavior and therefore it will be going untreated at their sessions? My brother has always battled with depression and anxiety and has been on medication for as long as i can remember. He is 35 years of age. He professes that this is the “happiest” that he has ever felt in his life but as a loved one looking and observing hims – its the unhealthiest he has ever been in his life. This obsession with the end of the world has literally taken over his life and its all he wants to talk about.
Seeing a family member struggle can be painful, especially when it appears they are not seeking the help they need. Unfortunately, we cannot force people to see problems in their life, even when it may be obvious to those closest to them. We also need to remember that someone’s happiness is subjective despite how it may look on the outside.
Two things may be going on: 1) He is going through genuine conflict between his sexual orientation and some religious teachings, or 2) he is on the OCD/ Scrupulosity carousel.
Knowing his history of OCD, you can offer your observations about his professed happiness in contrast with his behavior, and express your worry that he may be having a new and heightened episode. You can also encourage him to read these blog posts in the hopes that he may see some of himself in the articles’ examples.
People typically don’t seek help for their anxiety until it becomes a significant and increasing burden on their lives. This can take time, and your encouragement can help, but it is not your job to make him see a problem in his life. If you need further support I recommend that you speak with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention.
I have had several forms of OCD for several years. I seem to have the most trouble with scrupulosity. My problem is that I often take innocent actions, thoughts, or something in one of my prayers, and begin to fear that maybe God took it a different way than I meant, or that I accidentally may have disrespected God. This will often lead me to an urge to say what I call a clarification prayer. I usually try to do these prayers in a quiet place so that I can have more certainty and acknowledgement to myself that I actually said the clarification prayer and that it was done effectively enough to clear up any possible misunderstandings by God of my actions. The problem is that often, because of the high anxiety level and perfection I am looking for while doing the clarification prayers, new OCD triggers occur while doing the clarification prayers resulting in a rapid session of repetitive clarification prayers. It can become very exhaustive and sometimes difficult to move forward from. At times I am able to successfully complete a single clarification prayer and move on, but it still creates a lot of anxiety and frustration. My problem at the moment is that I recently said a clarification prayer and said, or thought, a couple of words while saying the prayer that I thought sounded sort of like a couple of other very disrespectful words and became afraid that I may have disrespected God. This all goes back to the root fear of being afraid I may accidentally do an action, or say something during a prayer, that may be misconstrued or taken as something else by God, causing me maybe to not go to God’s Kingdom when I pass away. I have read the wonderful scrupulosity literature by Kevin, and am fighting the urge of either trying to perform a new clarification prayer or keeping my Faith to Trust that anything the may have actually happened could be a distorted thought or something that God would know was not intentional. It is so easy to want to do the clarification prayer compulsion, hoping that it successfully calms my fears, but I also know that it is risky and may cause a repetitive prayer cycle and more anxiety. The compulsion is attractive because it may provide a quick fix to my perceived problem. Kevin, please explain what is going on with me and why it is so much better to not do the compulsion, knowing that by not doing the compulsion I have to deal with the uncertainty of the event and possibly more fear.
I have been diagnosed with OCD, and do have a history of it since childhood- fears of nuclear war , having cancer, immaculate conception, etc . A few years back I went on a business trip and found myself flirting with a man. We are both married. We almost kissed, but he backed away and nothing happened. I lived in constant torture for the next four years wondering if I needed to confess this to my husband. I finally broke down and told him, but now I am having all kinds of similar obsessions about other interactions with men. I have one encounter in particular that I keep replaying about a time I was delayed at an airport and met a man from my hometown. We hung-out and talked until the plane finally took off. I told my husband about meeting this guy, but it wasn’t until this latest round of ocd ( I hope that is what it is) that I started to panic and think that maybe I was horribly guilty of sinning, that I didn’t tell my husband that I was attracted to the guy, etc. Now all that I want to do is confess… My friends and family keep telling me that my interaction with this latest fear is my ocd, but I constantly doubt it because it isn’t simply an unfounded mental fear, it is something I “did”- talked to this man when I didn’t have to, felt attracted, etc. Is this scrupulosity/ confession ocd, or am I just a bad wife?
I have multiple forms of OCD I think, but my main issue is thinking that somehow, I’m losing my faith and that I’m going to turn into an atheist. And now it’s getting worse; I try to read my Bible and I can’t stop myself from questioning whether or not I believe it. I look at people on the street and wonder if they believe in God. I wonder why I’m not moved by some of the things “real Christians” are, and I’m so scared of doing something wrong that I’m not having fun anymore; I’ll say something untrue by mistake and have to correct it because I don’t want to sin. I even look up to see whether or not celebrities are atheists. I just want to be able to live for God without these thoughts popping into my head. I’m so scared to talk to a therapist because I’m scared they’ll tell me that I really am an atheist, and I honestly can’t give up my faith. I don’t know what I’m going to do but I’m scared. I can’t even go to church anymore, because those thoughts happen. I can’t even say that I’m truly a Christian, because then I think “oh, well you must be hiding from the truth, you aren’t really, just give up.”
I just don’t understand why the one thing I need to be untouched by my issues is the one being attacked the worst. I’m scared I’m actually losing my faith.
I just need someone to tell me that I’m not alone and that this is OCD and that I’m not losing my faith.
Hello I am Muslim, follower of Islam and I have had religious blasphemous thoughts for a long time, I would see that i would have the holy book underneath my right foot – which obviously is very blasphemous, the thoughts would alternate, one day i would be sitting on the book (in my head of course), next day it would be God’s name underneath my foot etc and if u really believe in it then it is apostasy and eternal doom – so my OCD actions would be like shaking the head, and slapping my foot, – goodness it was a horrible thing to go through!! – i went on meds which helped like lorazepam….
eventually i realised the only real way to get rid of it (u guys might not agree with me on this but stay with me…) – its mental toughness and willpower – toughness ur mind up like a brick house and the thoughts will go away. Don’t ever fight against the thoughts – it will get worse – like quicksand – the more you fight, the deeper u sink.
dont just leave the thoughts because that will increase you in stress. the only way is to toughen up ur mind that is inside ur head
To answer your questions briefly would be:
1) I can’t provide a diagnosis via a blog comment, but it sounds to me like what is going on with you is that you have OCD.
2) Not doing compulsions, while allowing for temporary discomfort, does not reinforce the obsessive thought. In fact, it is the very definition of Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
A common fear within Scrupulosity is the worry that you will say or think something that will surprise God, as if God doesn’t know what you are thinking, feeling, or experiencing, i.e. OCD. By its definition, faith comes without certainty. Conversely, OCD demands certainty. Saying the prayer “just right” does not make it more acceptable to God, and allowing for the human error affirms our humanity and allows for exposure to, and tolerance of, the anxiety of doubt.
I encourage you to speak with a local pastor/ priest about prayer, and then follow their instruction despite what your anxiety would suggest. I also encourage you to connect with a therapist who understands Scrupulosity so you may discuss ERP.
Thanks for the comment. The situation you wrote about has several elements that should be addressed within the context of therapy with a trained therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
To address one concern, it is wise to accept that, despite being married, we will at times be attracted to people who are not our spouse. Despite this attraction, we actively decide if we are going to take steps to pursue the attraction. As a rule of thumb, if you think it’s OCD, you can treat it like it’s OCD by avoiding the compulsion of confession, while tolerating the discomfort and uncertainty that you may have done something wrong.
From an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) perspective, it is wise to consider how our actions do or do not fit into and/or support our stated values system. Feeling guilty about flirting with and nearly kissing a man other than your husband may not be just OCD, and may be the emotional consequence of acting outside your desired character and convictions. These are some issues to work out in therapy.
Thank you for commenting, and I’m glad you found this blog. I can only answer your questions in part.
You aren’t alone. In fact, many people suffer from the same anxiety about their faith. I argue that doubt and struggle within your faith journey is normal and should be embraced as a learning and building phase.
This might be OCD. I cannot tell you for sure that this is OCD for sure or in full, especially given my previous comment about the prevalence of doubt within faith. Having a history of OCD would lead me to think it could be OCD related, in which case you would be wise to initially treat it as it is OCD and work through it with a therapist.
I cannot, nor can anyone, give you certainty that you will lose your faith, or retain it your whole life. This question is very human, but also extremely OCD driven. One goal of Exposure and Response Prevention for treatment is to accept the uncertainty in life, which for you may be accepting the possibility that you may lose part of your faith, have it transition into another manifestation of faith, or lose it entirely. Comparing yourself to others through mindreading wont help your faith, but rather, will make it increasingly anxiety based, rather than a genuine striving toward the divine. I highly encourage you to seek out treatment with a therpaist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD, which should help you discern what parts of this are OCD, and what parts are not.
Thanks for your comment.
It sounds like you were able to find a way that worked for you, but I think the idea of “mental toughness and willpower” can be problematic. Struggling with one’s irrational, unwanted thoughts by giving into compulsive behaviors is a sure way to firm up the foothold that OCD has in your current experience. At the same time, attempting to block out a specific thought or feeling is known as “Thought Suppression” (or as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) would call it, “Experiential Avoidance”). This sounds like your brick house metaphor. Attempting to block a thought like this tends to increase their presence in your thoughts, not decrease them, and no amount of mental toughness can help reduce the occurrence of these thoughts.
Building on your metaphor, devaluing OCD thoughts and recognizing them as unimportant and irrelevant to one’s present experience is like opening all the windows and doors to your brick house. It freely allows the thoughts to come in or leave at their leisure. We don’t like these thoughts, but once you’ve built up your solid brick house, you’ve locked them inside with you for them to grow and fester. ACT suggests allowing them to come in freely, and go just the same way, because they are just thoughts and not important!
Again, we may not like these thoughts, but you can allow them to exist. What’s important is how you act out your faith and life, not what you feel obligated to do based on an irrational, unwanted thought.
Hi my name is Leo
Im a catholic (christian)but go to catholic hcruches. I have been having evil blasphemous thoughts and its really freaking me out. I started like 2 weeks ago when I was reading the bible and I found out that blasphemy against the holy spirit shall not Never be forgiven. And I got really scared and worried. Also been crying to god. One line from that verse I got scared and right now I’ve been going through a lot of horrible thoughts and confussion. I also thought that I spoken bad about the holy spirit. But I don’t mean to think all of this stuffs. I was scared that Im going hell and I don’t want to. And thinking how I can’t see my family anymore because I thought that I blasphemy the holy spirit. Sometimes think that god is angry at me or hate me. I’m only 15 years old and I don’t think god would put a young teenager to hell. For something I didn’t mean to. I’ve repenting and asking for forgiveness if I ever done it. But I know I did not blasphemy. I’ve been like this for weeks now and I am really worried that I committed this sin. Is it ocd because I’ve been like this for weeks. Thank you for your help.
Fear that one has committed the so called “unpardonable sin” of blasphemy (see Matthew 12:31-32) is remarkably common amongst those with Scrupulosity. Generally speaking, the rule of thumb for this fear is “if you are worried that you blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, you probably didn’t.” That said, I can’t read your mind, I don’t know your past, and I don’t know what God is or is not going to do in response to this ambiguous passage.
Without knowing any more, or attempting to speculate or provide unfounded reassurances, I highly recommend you seek the help of a psychotherapist who specializes in treating OCD and understands religious Scrupulosity, as well as a confessor or priest you trust who knows about OCD and Scrupulosity. Discuss your concerns and follow their directions.
An online group, Scrupulous Anonymous, is a great place to read more about scrupulous issues from a uniquely Catholic perspective.
If you would like to conference about this issue, or Scrupulosity in general, you may contact us through our website in order to set up an appointment. If you cannot find a priest or pastor who understands Scrupulosity, one of our therapists can also consult with them in order to help you through this time. Thank you for the comment.
Hi, I have posted on this site before and after doing some research i thought of a few questions that I cannot seem to get clear answers on. I am very much attacked by intrusive religious thoughts that RARELY leave me alone, every time I hear, read or see something religious my mind goes crazy and thoughts like, god isnt real, or god isnt good, what i just saw is a lie, thoughts that exalt the devil and thoughts about following the devil, the list goes on and on. When I am not around religious content the thoughts don’t go away, sometimes they calm down but they don’t go away entirely, and if they do its very rare for them to go away for a short time. So my first question is 1. If the thoughts quiet down and seemingly leave me alone for a while, is that a good sign that Im learning how to cope with my religious O.C.D., or is it a sign that I don’t have religious O.C.D. and it must be what I really believe (then I feel bag again and it bothers me.) 2. It has gotten to the point where the thoughts are not as bothersome as the used to be, they are still bothersome during the attacks, but not as bad, so is it a good sign im getting used to them (as horrible as that sounds.) or is that a potential bad sign? And finally, is this something that can ever go away or will these thoughts and strange fantasies always haunt me? Thank you so much for reading this long entry, and a response would be so helpful!
Hello again Dylan,
Thanks again for your comment. Before I answer your specific questions, I want to point out that excessive research is not a substitute for treatment, and can be a compulsion in itself when one is re-reading previous or similar information to relieve anxiety, or searching for a “quick fix” or “ultimate fix” answer. At some point in the education phase of treatment, one has read enough, and it becomes time to begin active participation in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
On to your questions. Throughout your life, OCD will ebb and flow at unpredictable and sometimes inconvenient times. It can be a sign you are getting a handle on using some treatment tools, but it can also mean you are in an relatively easy phase of the cycle. Remember, OCD is a pattern of thinking based in a brain chemical imbalance, so it will most likely be with you for life in various permutations, but you can learn to live a full life with it and despite of it. Since you cannot fully control what thoughts are or are not in your head, a goal of treatment is to learn to tolerate these unwanted thoughts without needing to rid yourself of them entirely.
Rather than putting a qualitative (good vs. bad) label on the thoughts, observing them objectively may help you disconnect from their impact on you and your anxiety. In other words, accept that they are part of your thoughts and pursue your spiritual, personal, and professional life with these thoughts present in your mind, instead of spending valuable time and energy on trying to control thoughts that you don’t value and don’t benefit you. What you describe in your comments is consistent with religious Scrupulosity, and I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with CBT.
That was such a perfect comment! Thank you very much for your help, it is very precious!!
Hey me again. Right now I’m just confused. I haven’t yet gotten to a therapy or a doctor. Know I feel really weird. Yesterday 8-30-14. I was praying to the wonderful god. And I stopped and made a pause on that prayer. Then all of a sudden I thought something wrong about the holy spirit. Then I got really scared and thought that I said something wrong. I continued prayer. I got really mad at god and jesus. Yelling and screaming at him. Telling him that I didn’t say anything wrong,but I had this feeling that I did say something. I didn’t remember what I said or thought. Then I felt really sad and started crying. That I might committed the unforgivable sin. I felt so left out and felt that the holy spirit departed from me. I didn’t feel joy happiness any more:( I got scared that I couldn’t pray anymore or repent. And that it was to late for me. Today in the morning
8-31-14 I was praying and again I thought I said something wrong. So I got scared, I started praying really fast and repenting a lot and fast. Because I was scared to lose repentance. Now sometimes I can’t read the bible for some reason. I look at it and don’t feel like reading it anymore. I went to church and didn’t feel that joy of going to church. It was werid because I felt like did wanted to go to church , but at the sometime I didnt . I was really in to what the priest said and I was really down for reading verses on the bible. I feel sad,lonely, and it seems like I don’t care anymore. Like if I don’t want to learn the word of god anymore. I’m paying attention to it. But I’m mean its really weird because I could pray and repent but Im just scared to lose repentance. Help me please. Is it the same OCD?
Hi, I first want to say I definitely dont feel so alone after reading this article, and that is very comforting. I haven’t been diagnosed with OCD but I am pretty sure if I went I would be because I fit 90% of the criteria of being a OCD ssufferer.
I wanted to as you a question, would getting repeated horrible thoughts about past religious figures be considered an OCD. Also the thing is that I dont want try the therapy method.of purposely thinking about it because that to my religion is blasphemous. So what else could I try. I am sick and tired of all this and I just want to live a peaceful life where I can observe my religion peacefully.
Hi my name is Timmy. I just want to thank God for sites like this. I am 15 and I don’t why my mind is out to ruin my eternity. I always make sure I rebuke bad thoughts in the name of Jesus but this action makes it much more powerful. Lately, I have been paying less attention to those blasphemous thoughts. But whenever they crop up and I am not worried about it , I am often scared, hoping that I have not committed the unforgiven sin. pls help me . I love God and I often bow down to him and proclaim that he is Lord over everyone. I do this to show that I love him and that blasphemy isn’t an option for me….This OCD stuff has driven me to mental torture….sometimes I get suicidal just to avoid these thoughts. My life is in a huge mess right now . I need your prayers …..what saddens me most is that I am only 15..I seriously hope that I have not prepared my place in hell…..I will continually worship God and give my all…hopefully, in the end , everyone of us on this thread will make heaven rejoicing that OCD didn’t prevail over our spiritualal lives…..
As I mentioned in my response to your previous comment, I cannot acknowledge via a blog comment if this is OCD, or the “same OCD”. However, what you write is consistent with your pattern of doubt, which is a hallmark of OCD.
To be direct, your emphasis on the importance of feeling right, good, or motivated to pursue religious behavior is overvalued. You said “I can’t read the bible” because you didn’t feel like reading it. This is similarly echoed in your church attendance and your fear following anger at God. Simply put, our feelings regularly change, and this change is sometimes inconsistent, inconvenient, and unwelcome. The trick with OCD, and faith, is to accept the fluctuations of our feelings as part of the natural ebb and flow of our emotions, not as the fruit of the spirit, a lack of faith, or the clear result of sin (known or unknown).
I also want to give you the permission to be mad at God. Just read Psalms and Lamentations and you’ll see a snapshot of people who are angry and confused with God.
That said, I again encourage you to seek the guidance of a trusted confessor or priest who can answer some of these questions. Asking them the first time isn’t a problem, but repetitive reassurance seeking, despite receiving the same answer, reinforces the cycle of doubt. In order to beat this problem, you will have to pursue your desired religious/ spiritual life when you do and when you do not want to, all while accepting the uncertainty of its meaning. Remember this – if you are worried that you blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, you probably didn’t.
Thanks for finding the article – I’m so happy it has been a validation and an encouragement!
First, remember that Scrupulosity is just a word for a specific set of symptoms in OCD. OCD can be defined as a pattern of unwanted, intrusive, and thoughts, feelings, images, and/or urges resulting in anxiety. The individual with OCD then tries to resolve the anxiety through rituals, avoidance, repetitive behavior, and/or reassurance seeking. So, it’s possible your thoughts are OCD related, but nearly impossible to definitively answer without a full assessment.
The most effective treatment for OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and for those with Scrupulosity, resistance to ERP is common. Our approach also includes Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with an emphasis on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. MBCBT would help you to tolerate the discomfort of the unwanted thoughts without intentionally trying to reject them. But ultimately, avoiding and resisting fear and anxiety will only feed the monster.
I’m glad you found this article helpful.
My first point of concern is when you said “sometimes I get suicidal just to avoid these thoughts.” Please speak to your parents about this, and seek the guidance of doctor or therapist immediately in order to ensure that you don’t harm yourself in any way. I truly want you to begin living the life you want to have, spiritual and otherwise, but that can only happen if you are alive.
To emphasize my previous suggestion, seeking treatment with a therapist who understands OCD and Scrupulosity will help you get a hold of these thoughts. It sounds like you have a basic understanding of how to approach these thoughts, but working with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD can help you further refine how to approach them, while also keeping an eye on your suicidal thinking. So, for several reasons, I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking professional therapy.
To be specific about your concerns about the so-called “unforgivable sin” passage, in general, if you are concerned with it, you probably haven’t done it. This passage is notoriously ambiguous and is a common area of focus with the religiously scrupulous. Remember that not all our thoughts are important, worth our attention, or reflect our honest personal sentiment. I like to think that there is a part of our brain that is only there to think about terrible things, but their presence in our mind doesn’t make them worth any further attention. Lastly, we are capable of blasphemy, but not all blasphemy is unforgivable.
Thanks for comment, and best of luck!
Hi. I’m a Christian teenager who’s been diagnosed with OCD (I was on medication for obsessive checking behaviors). I’m trying to figure out if I have Scrupulosity. I only have one of the obsessions listed in this article. I frequently have high anxiety over whether or not I am going to die and go to hell. Lately I have been praying the “salvation prayer” about twice a week. What’s really strange is that I don’t typically have anxiety about my salvation during the day. It seems to only flare up at night. Plus, when I’m not having anxiety about my faith, I’m not a very conscientious Christian. I basically ignore my faith until I have a bout of anxiety. Do you think I could have Scrupulosity OCD?
You ask a great question that deserves some background before it can be answered. “Scrupulosity” is a subtype of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD in general can be described as a pattern of obsessive thoughts that cause significant distress, for which the sufferer engages in behaviors to reduce the anxiety caused by those obsessions. The subtype title (Scrupulosity, HOCD, etc) is just a shorthand method of communicating the general symptoms, but it is not a separate diagnosis.
The typical religious experience can include anxiety, and a religious response to anxiety is often prayer. We need to be cautious to avoid pathologizing a normal range of anxiety and prayer, or other religious coping mechanisms. You’ve mentioned “frequent… high anxiety” and some subsequent prayer, which may be consistent with OCD. But your report that your worry is inconsistent suggests that it may be just a fleeting over-attention to religious adherence.
Given your previous diagnosis of OCD, it is possible to engage in the same OCD cycle with your religious faith as you do with your other obsessions. With the lack of detail or assessment, I would be unable to definitively answer your question. But the fact that you sought out this article and decided to comment suggests your distress is significant to you.
I encourage you to discuss this issue with your therapist, psychiatrist, parent, and/or pastor, so long as these people are aware of, and sensitive to, OCD. If you are not currently seeing a therapist, please consider talking about these concerns with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Thank you for your comment, and good luck.
Thank you for this article, my husband has been diagnosed with OCD but suffers very little with obsessive behaviors most people associate with OCD, such as washing hands and rituals. He does, however, suffer greatly from obsessive feelings in our religion, feeling the need to confess everything all the time, feeling like God can’t forgive him as quickly as someone else, and feeling like he can never be righteous enough. It is painful to see someone you love feeling so hopeless, now I know that he is not alone in his feelings, thank you.
Thank you for your comments. We are glad to hear that the article has helped you. We encourage you to have your husband read the article, and to have a discussion with him about seeking treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You may also want to click here to read our article on cognitive therapy for Scrupulosity. Take care.
Is there a organization of priests who know how to treat scrupulosity. Also I have comorbid ptsd. The severe ocd
And ptsd feed off each other. Treating one makes the other worse. Any advice?
Hi. For many years know I have had feeling that my bad thoughts can actually make things happen. Say for instance If a thought pops up that I want a plane to crash, it seems like quite often, it happens. Can thoughts and feelings make these things happen? As you can imagine, the guilt I feel afterwards is horrible.
Thoughts that you may somehow be responsible for something bad occurring are quite common in OCD and are considered to be a symptom of what is colloquially described as Harm OCD.
Thoughts cannot make things happen – they are just thoughts. The phenomenon you are experiencing is called “Thought-Action Fusion“, and it is quite common in the more obsessional forms of OCD such as Scrupulosity, HOCD, and Harm OCD. You can click here to read more about Thought-Action Fusion. You may also want to read our series of four articles about Harm OCD starting at https://ocdla.com/harm-ocd-1-1982/.
Thank you for posting this article. This article has given me more insight on what I have been experiencing most of my life and I now feel less alone. Ever since I was old enough to say my first bad word, I suffered from horrible intrusive thoughts, thoughts of calling God and all that things holy bad things and bad names, it was to a point I feared I was cursing at God or cursing his name. As I got older the thoughts progressively got worse and I began to have sexual thoughts about Jesus and it wasn’t just about Jesus but others as well, such as my priest or a family member and this made me feel very disgusted and ashamed.
I have battled immensely with theses thoughts and prayed and just became exhausted. It has affected my faith and my relationship with God for many years. I’ve turned to scripture many times, hoping that would help but I just find myself getting exhausted and more fearful and feeling guilt and shame. I even often wondered and feared that I was possessed because I could not help but to think that was the only thing that made sense as to why I was having these horrible thoughts. I’ve tried talking to others about these unwanted thoughts and feelings and not too many seem to fully understand.
I am 29 now and dealt with these unwanted thoughts and feelings most of my life. There have been times were I have had control over theses unwanted thoughts and feelings and they would go away for awhile and then come back. I’ve noticed in stressful situations they are the most intense and to the point where they are unbearable.
I recently got into a relationship with someone who is like me Catholic. I have been single for a very long time up until I recently met and got with this person. These unwanted thoughts and feelings have not only put a strain on my relationship with God but with others. I fear that by being with this person I am not fulfilling in Gods will and that I am going against Him and His will along with the Holy Spirit. I fear that I am focusing too much on what I what and not what He wants for me. Because of this I have had a lot of unwanted thoughts and a lot of feelings of fear and guilt. I fear that the only way to get Gods approval is to leave my partner. But I can’t help but to think by leaving my partner fear would still persist and will not go away. He is a very good man and so far being with him has been one of my best relationships and he certainly does not deserve all of this. He thankfully has been patient and I have been able to talk to him about all this but the fear and guilt still exist.
I don’t know what to do and I’m just very worried to the point I have been physically sick. I don’t want to hurt the ones I care for and I don’t want to further destroy my relationship with God. Any advice or help would greatly be appreciative because I am so lost and tired of feeling this way and don’t want to destroy every relationship I have.
Thank you in advance for any help or advice!
Hi everyone. My name is John. For as long as I can remember I’ve been suffering for a lot. When I was younger It was stuff like ADHD. Long story short I KNOW I’m suffering from OCD right now and, more specifically, Scrupulosity. I keep thinking that I don’t believe in Jesus despite being raised to an wanting to. The reason I’m so afraid is because I’ve read that if you don’t believe in Jesus or believe that he was raised from the dead, you will go to hell. I am however, Taking steps towards treating my OCD. I always take my medicine and listen to my doctors. I’m even seeing a therapist who specializes in OCD treatment. I guess I just have a question maybe you can answer Kevin. With OCD is it possible for it to manipulate you’re mind into thinking that you don’t believe in something even though you know you do? Sorry if that doesn’t make seance.
Hello, I grew up with a Pentecostal minister for a father who always preached about “the end times”. As a child I felt like I had to rush my life and do all the things I wanted to before Jesus comes. This resulted in my resentment of God and rebellion when I turned 18. A few years later I started speaking to my father again and going to church every Sunday. I Love God and pray every morning to him and for my family. I want to move in with my boyfriend this year but I know that I will be living in sin and my father will know about it. I am thinking about marrying my boyfriend (of 2+years) JUST to please my father and God. I can’t be who I want to be because that is not what God wants. I can’t listen to my father because he is irrational and controlling. I am afraid I will make a mistake and also that I can never do what I truly want to do because I have to do what God wants.
I am unaware of an organization consisting of priests treating Scrupulosity. I would encourage you to visit the website of Scrupulous Anonymous, which may have some resources that can link you to priests who understand Scrupulosity.
Please understand that a priest is not trained to threat the psychological components of OCD, much less understand the treatment of PTSD. If you are seeking treatment for Scrupulosity, I would recommend you seek a professional therapist who is trained in the treatment of OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and has an understanding of, or is willing to learn about, Scrupulosity. An assessment with a professional therapist will also help verify and differentiate the presence and impact of PTSD on OCD.
Thank you for the comment. I’m sorry that you are enduring this strain on your relationship. Your post outlines many thoughts and fears common to those suffering with Scrupulosity obsessions, especially the fear of cursing God or others, and interfering with God’s will. Knowing you have a history of religiously based obsessions, you may benefit from treating this no differently than you would any other OCD obsession. I have no way of knowing what evidence you have that suggests your relationship is opposing God’s will, but I do hear anxiety that should be talked about with a therapist who can be sensitive to your religious faith.
Treatment for OCD ultimately aims to help the sufferer habituate to the feeling of fear. Once the fear can be tolerated, the sufferer is better able to evaluate personal motives and values, and in your case decide if your relationship is in-fact infringing on God’s will. Until that time, breaking up with your boyfriend based on the feeling of fear would be a compulsion, not a decision based on rational, objective, values-based consideration.
Please consider processing this with your therapist. If you do not have a therapist, I encourage you to work with someone who is trained in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You may also want to consider working with a therapist who uses a specific type of CBT called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which is designed to help people live their lives rooted in values and meaning, not fear and avoidance. Good luck, and thank you for the comment.
Great question. Yes, it is quite common for OCD to manipulate the way you interpret the meaning of thoughts and experiences. This is a process we call Cognitive Distortion. This process doesn’t necessarily make you believe something that you don’t truly believe, but it will present you with thoughts that often conflict with what you do believe. It’s like a person who gives really bad advice.
Our second article in this Scrupulosity series illustrates how to challenge these distortions by developing more rational and evidence based thinking. I encourage you click here to read that article, as it may help answer your question in more detail.
I was about 21 at the time I began hearing thoughts, “your going to kill yourself.” My lifestyle at the time certainly could have led to that, however these were tormenting thoughts. From that point I have overcome, became a Christian and yet other thoughts have come at times. Such as, “are you sure you paid that tax?”, “was I baptized the right way”, which led to me being baptized again. “Do you understand the Trinity” that tormented me for some time. I had issues with relationship rightness. Now I am at a point where years ago I thought, “you should be out alone preaching on the corner you grew up on” if not your ashamed of God, embarrassed and a failure and should be guilty. At the time I was so tormented I said, “God when I’m a minister I will do it” Naturally I thought it was God telling me I had to do it. Now I have the compounded issue that I told God I would do something. With all that said I am the Pastor of a flourishing church, I do very much in the way of evangelizing my community, with the results that people are sitting in church due to my direct contact with them on the streets. I have street preached before and feel the other ways I am doing it are more effective. Despite all that I feel so depressed at times, guilty and confused. Feel as though God were far from me and I am not good because I have not preached on the corner I grew up on, thus I am prideful and ashamed of God. All my old friends know I’m a Pastor. Some have even seen me preach at church. In my mind I’m stuck on the thought I’m not good because I haven’t done this. How can I call myself a Pastor???? This has led to serious depression at times. Sometimes it seems to break a week or so.
Hi James – thank you for your comment.
I read your conflicting statement that you feel guilty about not following through on this promise to preach on that specific corner, yet you realize that other forms of preaching are more effective for you. Preaching on one specific corner is not going to satisfy the OCD voice that you aren’t good enough. You will need to humbly and painfully accept that your goodness is not based on where you preach, no matter what you said to God. It will be worth talking with a trained therapist who can help you unpack your OCD-distorted view of God in order to work toward a relationship with God that is not based on obligation and shame, but forgiveness and trust. Best of luck.
Thank you for the comment. Your pain and discomfort are very evident in your comment. I understand your desire to do right by people in your life. However I cannot dissuade you enough from marrying your boyfriend solely on the basis that you want to make your father and God happy. You are an adult with free will and can choose to marry him if you want. Marrying him to please others could lead to further resentment against your father, and potentially against your now boyfriend.
Like everyone else, you are going to make choices and mistakes in life. But the best you can do is make decisions based on the best of what you know about yourself and what makes the most sense for you, not what makes the most sense for others. And those choices will have many possible consequences, both good and bad.
If you are not already in therapy, I would recommend you seek the guidance of a trained therapist who can help you through this difficult decision, and to help you process the feelings you have about your father. I wish you the best of luck.
I have thoughts of being possessed. I rather not fear them but do anyway. I don’t understand how this could happen to anyone. I haven’t seen anything, but correct my intrusive thoughts with call upon god or true holy faithful Angels of God and Jesus Christ. I truly hate evil, it’s crazy to call upon it.
Your comment illustrates the fact that, with Scrupulosity (and OCD in general), an individual’s unwanted thoughts are generally ego-dystonic, meaning that they are not in-line with your expressed values, character, and beliefs.
Be mindful that what is “normal” within one’s religious tradition may not be appropriate when dealing with OCD. For example, prayer for spiritual guidance is a normal part of faith, but praying compulsively and repetitively in an effort to reduce anxiety related to unwanted thoughts is a symptom of OCD. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in CBT for OCD. Take care.
I started off with with intrusive thoughts about blasphomy a few years back. I sought treatment and was able to come to the conclusion that the thoughts I was having were not inline with my feelings and did not mean I was going to hell. I was good after that but now I am struggling again. I had the random thought what if I heard an evil voice. From there it was like I imagined a voice saying negitive things and that made me question weather I actually was. The crazy part is I know that Im not and I know it is in my head or intrusive thoughts but they can be very random. Have you ever had anyone with these symtoms? In this inline with Scrupulosity Ocd?
Based on your history of OCD and scrupulous symptoms, it’s very reasonable to assume this could be another obsession. You used the tell-tale words, “What if…”, when discussing the thought, so answer the question – what if you did in fact hear an evil voice?
This thought is likely a part of OCD if: a) you do compulsive behaviors in an effort to alleviate any anxiety related the thoughts; b) if you attempt to nullify or answer the question; or c) if you seek reassurance about the thought.
If you are not doing so already, I’d encourage you to discuss this issue with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) who can help you explore these thoughts and craft some exercises to help effectively and appropriately manage these thoughts. Good luck!
I’m 55 and have struggled with Scrupulosity since I was 19. My fear is that I have committed the unpardonable sin or that I’m on the path to do so.
My current anxiety is off the charts right now. I can barely make to work, let alone function normally. I don’t have insurance and it’s tough for me to pay for counseling sessions.
Is my OCD getting worse, or am I really on the path to hell? How do I distinguish between if my OCD is destroying me or if I truly am headed to eternal damnation?
Hoping for a reply…
The so-called “unpardonable sin” is a somewhat obscure passage in the New Testament. Unfortunately, it causes disproportionate anguish in those concerned with it. My favorite guideline about this passage is “if you are worried about it, you probably haven’t done it”. That said, no one, including priests, pastors, or therapists, will be able to confirm if you are on the path to Heaven or Hell.
I also can’t say if your OCD is getting worse, but you can expect your OCD to ebb and flow in it’s intensity, morph into new fears, or expand its fear territory, especially if you are consistently seeking reassurance through compulsive means.
If finances are of concern, you should consider starting with some books on OCD and begin working through them. Please see our suggested book list for more suggestions, but consider getting The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD by Hershfield and Corboy, The OCD Workbook by Hyman and Pedrick, The Doubting Disease by Joseph W. Ciarrocchi, or Understanding Scrupulosity by Thomas Santa. Thanks for the comment, and good luck.
I’m working with a therapist and a religious adviser to get my OCD better. I’ve been trying the mindfulness approach (I picked up a copy of the Mindfulness book and I love it), and we will be moving towards ERP in the coming weeks.
Lately I’ve had an obsessional fear that God will test my faith by making my biggest fear come true. Sometimes I worry that I have the wrong faith and that a different god of a different religion will test my (non-existent) faith by making my worst fear come true.
I’m wondering if you’ve ever encountered other people who have a fear that God will test their faith? Do they worry that something they’ve done or thought will make God test them? I just want to know that I’m not alone in this fear. FYI, my worries revolve around demon possession and whether I can cause that to happen to my son.
Great question, and thank you for the comment. With or without OCD, people of faith very often have fears that their faith will be tested by God in a way that would be excessively challenging, cumbersome, or even painful. So, you aren’t alone. That said, the nature of the fear and the perceived appropriate response may be distorted and exaggerated by OCD.
While I encourage you to follow the direction of your therapist and religious advisor, a good rule of thumb is “if it feels like it may be OCD, treat it like it is”. Said in another way, unless you are 100% certain that you are receiving a message from God, then consider it OCD just as you would any other obsession. Best of luck in the process.
Thanks for the comment. It is a relief to know that I’m not alone.
It’s been a couple of months since my original post and I’m still struggling with this. Unfortunately due to my personal calendar and scheduling confusion, I haven’t seen my therapist in 8 weeks (we’re scheduled for tomorrow, thankfully). That means I haven’t been working on CBT. The past few days have been rough, so I’ve been refocusing on taking a more mindful approach. I took a yoga class (which wasn’t helpful, but I’m willing to try it again), and I’ve been taking my dogs on long walks. This seems to help the most as it gets me out of the house and acts as a good distraction, as well as clearing my head.
Thanks again for the reply and the support.
Thank you for checking in. Keep pushing forward with your self care, and hopefully you can connect with your therapist on a more consistent basis soon. Best of luck!
My mane is iris and I think I may have this .. I’ve been through a torment this past couple of weeks … I’ve always been good mentally but to be exact around sep23 something happen that my life changed for ever .. I had intrusive thoughts and have sinned against God .. I stopped eating , sleeping I had a gran depression nothing was the same couldn’t function .. All my mind do what s think of the horror of my thoughts … Since then all I do is try to go online for help .. I have a Cristian counselor who has helped immensely with articles about blasphemy and it has given me hope that I’m not lost and saved …I love my church … Love my God so much and I hate this I hate the lack of disrespect I have towards God … Why me !! Why … I want to go back to who I was before all this … I’m in need of help but don’t know where to start … I read some of the comments here and feel that there might be hope … I hope God know that these are unwanted thoughts .. This is affecting my personal life even my marriage too even though my husband doesn’t know .. Only that I’ve through some depression … I have try to abstain from even having sex cause of fear of thinking horrible things …
Thank you for your comment. I’m encouraged to hear that this website has been a help to you.
It sounds like you have a good relationship with your current counselor, and I suggest you share our series of articles about Scrupulosity treatment with him/ her to further your treatment progress. If you do not make the progress you are hoping for, please contact a professional therapist who specializes in treating OCD and who uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with an emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Thank you for your comment, and good luck in your recovery.
I am agnostic leaning toward atheism. But my pure-O OCD has roots in beliefs that were shared with me in my teens (I’m 54 now) combined with, of all things, an Emerson Lake and Palmer lyric from their song “Pirates:” Now open wide sweet Heaven’s gates / Tonight we’re gonna see if Heaven burns / See how she burns… / Oh she burns. I started having this thought that “Heaven will burn” if I did [something I wanted to do]. It morphed into “Heaven will burn forever if…” or in place of Heaven, Mom, Dad, Sister, Jews, someone I passed on the sidewalk, my wife, my kids, etc. As a recording artist, I’ve been in the studio and had a perfect take, at the end of which I’d have such thoughts that “X will burn forever if you don’t redo it,” and I’d waste countless hours redoing stuff. I’m a pro writer/designer, too, and I’ve redone stuff over similar thoughts. Once I didn’t buy a sports car I really wanted, because of such thoughts. And on and on. Most of the time I can get past this and be productive, but 40 years on and I’m still dealing with it. I must ask: Is this the most bizarre manifestation of Pure-O you’ve seen? It helps to share, as doing so helps disarm the disorder. Feedback?
Thanks for the comment. Your concerns are hardly the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard.
You can re-frame your obsession as “What if something bad happens to ____ if I dont do ____”. This is the basic structure of all Harm OCD thoughts, and Scrupulosity can be seen as an elaborate Harm OCD thought with a religious and/ or moral flavor.
Anxiety convinces you that a particular outcome will happen despite your logic, beliefs, and lack of evidence. But anxiety never cares about reason. Part of treatment would be challenging your fears with rational thinking, then testing the “what if” to see if anything disastrous actually happens. Remember, coincidence and correlation is not causation, and we can’t have certainty that a particular action or decision absolutely causes “X” to happen.
If you are looking to get a handle on these thoughts, please consider starting some counseling with a qualified therapist who specializes in OCD treatment. Best of luck!
This was a great read. I have OCD and it’s always centered around my faith, I never knew that this was a specific type of OCD with a name. I recently started seeing a therapist but it’s hard for me to continually see her and work towards fixing my OCD because I travel a lot for work.
My OCD is all about prayer, making sure I pronounce every word and letter of my prayer properly otherwise I have to start again but not before apologising to God for my mistake. I almost always cry every day about it because I get panic attacks and anxiety from it. I also get panic attacks when someone around me swears or does something un christian like around me, including songs, movies, tweets, Facebook posts (you name it).
I can’t have good thoughts about my future or life without freaking out that i’ve jynxed it and needing to say a prayer & if a negative thought happens it’s even worse. This is the first time I publicly post about my OCD and it was just because your article was great. I will definitely keep reading on 🙂 Thank you.
Thank you for being so bold to share! Being open about these thoughts is really a great first step toward your recovery. Part of the magic of therapy (which isn’t magic at all) is that when we audibly verbalize our fears we hear them from a different perspective that often allows us to see their errors. So, keep sharing with your therapist.
In regards to your panic attacks, remember that we are not in control of what others do, no matter who they are, and we are not responsible for their actions. Reminding yourself of this can provide enough grounding for you to hold back on compulsive, unnecessary prayer, and ultimately help you to live a faith of enjoyment rather than obligation and fear.
Thanks again for your comment.
I have to also say thank you for this article. I left a physically and emotionally abusive husband almost 30 years ago. We were Mormons, and I am glad you included the fact that scrupulosity crosses all faiths. For seven years, I never had a normal life. My partner spent hours praying in his room—sometimes up to seven or eight hours. In the last year of our marriage, he came down on Thanksgiving day at 4 oclock in the afternoon. Christmas day–he would get up, open the small gifts we had, and then go back upstairs and pray for another seven hours. It was impossible for him to keep a job. I felt ashamed and upset and “hid” what was going on….even after I left him. There just wasn’t any information about what I was going through and I did not want to jeopardize what small career he had. I felt like I could not expose what was going on….but I knew it was nuts. It was like be married to an alcoholic. Compounding my own isolation was our living in another country, my mother’s death and my father’s stroke which meant that my wonderful parents could not be there for me. I lived a nightmare. Thanks for this article–now I can clearly see what was wrong with him.
Thank you for the kind words. I’m glad that our article could bring some comfort to you. More importantly, I’m happy that you have taken steps to empower and liberate yourself. And yes, Scrupulosity can affect people of any faith (or no faith).
Though it’s difficult, we must remember that we cant help people who dont want to be helped, and we must tend to our own needs. Keep pushing forward, and thank you again.
Hi I need help and advice. I have been studying the brain and hope to go into neurology someday. My brother has this thing that if he moves past line he is blaspheming the holy spirit and he has obsessive thoughts that wont go away. He stand for hours immobilized by his fear of moving past the line and in doing so blaspheming the holy spirit. It was not as bad at first but now its hard to get him to do anything. My mom has the same thing but she got over it. The thing my brother is dealing with is causing a relapse. Who should I contact because I know its more likely he will listen to someone who is a specialist in this area.
You can first direct your brother to this article and the rest of our series on Scrupulosity, and encourage him to see if anything in the articles resonates with him. That can be a good start to getting him into treatment or at least talking about these issues with a professional.
Thank you Kevin R. Foss your patient, loving responses I’ve read in the comment section of this article. I’ve had OCD for 36 years, although I had traces of it earlier in life. The OCD has an ebb and flow to it. It seems as if stress makes it come back on stronger. I had a strange mother who when I was growing up told me that I did something wrong ( I don’t know what it was or if she ever told me what it was ), and God *wouldn’t* forgive me but she could work out a deal with God. I sometimes wonder if abuse is the cause of a certain percentage of those with OCD. I also think this is why I have had trouble with feeling unforgivable. Anyway, have you ever heard of something like this? She also would stress that drinking coffee was bad even though she drank it herself and sometimes she would give me coffee in my milk and I felt conflicted. She would talk two ways about other things too like I shouldn’t let anyone see me in my pajamas but at other times take me and my siblings out in the car in our pajamas at night for a ride. I could go on.. Thanks for any response.
The research on OCD has yet to identify why a person has a particular obsession or focus of their obsessional thinking. While some can point to a specific event that initially triggered an anxious or fear response, others can make no such connection. Research suggests that OCD sufferers are predisposed to having obsessional thinking regardless of their upbringing or experiences.
I have treated clients who, like you, have had troubling childhoods, and subsequently have obsessions focused on themes related to their childhood struggles. I’m sorry that you had to live through those experiences, and that they persist through your OCD’s ups and downs. Mindfulness based treatments, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), combined with Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), could be a great approach to help you manage OCD’s unpredictable fluctuations. You aren’t alone in the process of recovery. Good luck!
I think I have OCD but I’m not sure. I get so many bad thoughts about everything that has to do with my religion, thoughts that I can’t control. For example, right now I’m facing the unpardonable sin thoughts. Bad thoughts about the Holy Spirit come to my mind and I get so scared and worried that I might commit the unpardonable sin. All of us know that the unpardonable sin is when we say that the works of the Holy Spirit come from the devil or when we resist and try to get the Holy Spirit away from us when he tries to get us close to Jesus, right? So an example of a bad thought is when it says the the Holy Spirit is from the devil and I say no, I know it’s not, my faith tells me it’s not true. But then I try not to be worried about it because I’ve read so many articles where it says that Jesus’ people can’t commit the unpardonable sin, if you believe in Jesus Christ, if you believe he’s the son of God, if you believe that he came to the world to die for our sins then you can’t commit the unpardonable sin because you already accepted the Holy Spirit in your life. I want to say so much more but I hope you guys can give me tips and tell me if I’ve committed it. Thank You.
Thanks for the comment. The so-called “unpardonable sin” passages are one of the greatest sticking points for Christian OCD sufferers. Confusion and fear often develop when we have a lack of information, which is followed by our mind’s attempts to apply, compare, and predict what may happen under all sorts of scenarios. These passages offer little detail, and no follow up definition in any of the subsequent gospels or letters.
As a rule of thumb, if you are afraid of committing the unpardonable sin…then you probably havn’t done so. My atheist and non-Christian friends don’t care whether they have or haven’t committed this sin because they aren’t Christian.
As an OCD sufferer, you also need to accept that you may never “know” with certainty if you have or have not committed the unpardonable sin. But unless you are 100% certain that you have, the best course of action is to proceed in life as if you have not, without doing any compulsions, confessions, or reassurance seeking. Good luck.
I am Christian, but I suffered this for 4 weeks straight, my anxiety/BP was thru the roof, and I started having panic attacks that I had to go to the Emerg Room to get an anxiety shot and some Xanax. Then I was in the ER with a copy of the bible in the room, so I had to hide it behind some paperwork, as just looking at gave me anxiety that I was going to hell for thoughts that were not mine. This caused me to NOT be able to sleep at night, and when night was coming, I would get anxiety about having to fall asleep as I was having nightmares & waking up, that I didn’t want to go to sleep, so I was getting no sleep, and it made my condition worse. I was certain I made God mad & I was doomed for eternity, but then a couple nights ago, I had a dream and was giving a bible passage in Isiah 50, but I was scared to open the bible to read it, as I assumed I was going to read that I was eternally damned and further lose my mind, but the bible verse said contrary. Last night I had another dream that God told me that all is fine, that God is NOT done with me yet, and has plans for me. Blasphemy is not accepting Jesus as savior and forgiveness, not words or thoughts you have, I found peace
Great comment! Our mind will, whether we like it or not, and whether we agree with it or not, give us an unlimited range of thoughts that we cannot control. We must, however, acknowledge and accept that some of these thoughts may run counter to our expressed desires and values, but we are not held responsible by God or man for them. When it comes to recovering from OCD, what you do with these unwanted thoughts is what counts, which is why not doing compulsions and avoidant behaviors is the key to progress. Keep it up!
Hi, my name is Elisabeth and I am now just stumbling upon this website.
I am turning 25 years old in a few days and truly feel that I’ve struggled with OCD my whole life. I did not think, until recently, that my OCD way of thinking took religion way too far and kept me in chains. I have felt tormented by guilt for years but my guilt was more so focused on “sexual thoughts” and being afraid to even think about touching another person. I do also over analyze whether or not I’m “sinning” way too often, and it has driven me mad for years. Although I don’t have gay OCD, the one “tormented guilt” that remains in my head is that I am “gay” for one person, although I identify myself as straight. Is this a “sin” or is this just me? It’s still something I’m on a journey to find out. I’m not sure if someone can shed some light of knowledge for me, or if it’s even possible to be Christian/religious and be “gay” for one person.
Thank you very much for this article…so much makes sense to me now, and I do need to begin a healing process to unchain myself from this guilt and shame I’ve held on to for years.
I’m glad you found this article helpful. Guilt and shame are bullies that drive us into a dark corner within ourselves, while also drawing us away from that which we genuinely need – relationships with others. Healing happens when you can talk freely about that which is fueling this guilt and shame in a non-judgmental environment.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to look into seeking some counseling from a qualified therapist who specializes in treating OCD and is open to integrating your faith into the discussion. Thank you for the comment, and I wish you the best of luck on your journey.
i have an ocd scrupolosity , i have it when i was grade 6 and until now im 4th year college i still have it , it affects on my daily living i really want to overcome it without losing my faith i really love God , Can you help me ? God Bless us
I would be happy to help, but the first and most important thing you can do for yourself right now is to reach out to a qualified OCD therapist that you can begin working with regularly. To find a therapist in your area, you can contact the International OCD Foundation at http://www.iocdf.org and use their search engine to find a therapist near your home. If online therapy with us is an option for you, you can reach us via the contact page of our website at https://ocdla.com/contactus/. If you are unable to begin working with a therapist, please consider getting a book on OCD, such as The Imp of the Mind, by Lee Baer, or The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD, by Hershfield and Corboy.
Hey everyone! Thanks for the great articles, they´ve been very useful to me.
I´ve suffered from religious OCD since the age of 13, now I am 26. I attended a Catholic school and the Religion teacher once said that making a deal with the devil was a terrible sin. Ever since then, I´ve been haunted by thoughts related to that topic, and I was very afraid of getting so anxious that I would say those thoughts aloud.
I started doing ERP with a cognitive psychologist last year and she encouraged me to actually SAY those thoughts aloud, so following her advice and as a way of exposing myself I put the thoughts into words, I said I sold my soul to the devil in exchange for something. Of course nothing strange ever happened, nor did I get anything of what I was asking for. But I started doubting whether that was the right way of exposing myself or not. Because to me, saying those scary thoughts aloud meant doing what I did not want to do, just like it would feel for someone with sexual OCD to carry out their thoughts.
I´ve been agnostic for a few years, but I still doubt whether it was advisable to do ERP in such a way. Do you think that was the way to go for someone with this type of OCD?
You ask a really good question that is frequently asked by those with Scrupulosity. CBT/ ERP is very broad tool and can be applied in a number of ways. Unfortunately some exposures may feel insensitive or outright offensive. This is subjective to the clinician and the client. I cannot make a judgement on the work offered by your previous therapist as I was not present in your treatment, nor do I know your attitude toward this exposure at the time.
That said, all exposures are up for negotiation. You should, however, be challenging ALL grey areas of doubt with your therapist, possibly with the participation of a spiritual leader (if you have one). While ERP is the gold standard of treatment, some exposures may feel unreasonable or unethical, in which case, they may be better addressed through imaginal exposure and/ or mindfulness techniques, like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). If in doubt, discuss the rationale of exposures with your therapist who should be open and flexible, especially with faith.
I would also like to note that I disagree with your comment that saying “I am selling my soul to the devil” is the equivalent of someone with a sexual obsession acting on that obsession. It is only the equivalent of someone saying that they want to act on that sexual obsession. Saying and doing are NOT the same thing. For someone with your obsession, the equivalent of acting in a sexual manner that is inconsistent with their true beliefs would be to actually sell your soul to the devil. We frequently assign clients with sexual and religious obsessions to say the things that they fear (usually because they are compulsively avoiding even saying these things for fear that doing so would make them come true), but we do not ask people to do any behaviors that are inconsistent with their beliefs.
My obsessive thoughts are about Christian lessons on wives. They often anger & confuse me. I am familiar with every verse/section in the bible that deals with wives/women. I have studied them extensively & obsessively to determine what is the spirit and message of God’s commands to wives. I look at the teachings from men & note thoughts & ideas presented as God’s will that are contradictory to other biblical teachings, then I conclude teachers are misrepresenting God, but I worry that maybe I am biased & can’t see the truth? My husband often says you know you are right, why do you pay them heed? I don’t know really, I just want absolute certainty that I am right? Yet, even when I believe I’m right, I keep searching & reading garbage. A lot of which really angers me. It often leads me to bouts of depression & suicidal thoughts. Although I wouldn’t commit suicide because I don’t want to go to hell. Yet I worry because as long as I resent and carry anger towards God, hell is where I would go anyway. Not enough space to adequately convey the distress, hopelessness, anger & endless mind loops this subject puts me through. I hope someone knows a way to help me stop this.
Thank you for the comment. First and foremost, OCD is driven by indulging in the compulsive search for certainty. Your struggling through “endless mind loops” will not result in an answer, but in more confusion, disappointment, and anxiety. People who read the Bible, especially those with OCD, must accept a level of uncertainty. You must accept that you may never find a full and complete answer that satisfies your doubt.
On a smaller note, there is nothing that says you cannot be angry with God. Re-read the Psalms and Lamentations. They are full of writing that expresses anger and heartbreak with God. This point is better unpacked with a knowledgeable and trustworthy therapist who specializes in spiritual integration. Either way, speaking with a therapist who also understands OCD can help you get a better handle on this.
Hi,I have ocd (scrupulous) for ten years now.i was for some years without therapy.i worked on not dwelling on my thought and recognising it as not true after finding out what I had was an illness.i thought it was gone forever and was so sure it won’t reoccur.But lately it’s back, and I am wondering why would God let it after healing me.i am trying to stay strong but sometimes I just get so frustrated and cry.Seeing this article just kind of made me feel better and I want to say thank you.i want to know if it can be totally cured.
I’m glad this article served as some encouragement to you during this most recent spike.
Unfortunately, OCD tends to be a life long pattern of thinking that has patterns of ebb and flow. The good news is that it can be effectively managed with treatment and persistent discipline in aftercare. Despite effective treatment, anxiety and OCD will still fluctuate in intensity, but may not be nearly as disruptive or last as long as previous spikes. I encourage you to approach this current bout of anxiety with the same tools and techniques you learned and used during your earlier time in therapy.
I’m so tired of my lifestyle because my whole energy and time are consumed by my OCD. I don’t know anymore if I am a good or a bad person! I just want this to stop and end. I am so embarrassed to tell anyone about my intrusive thoughts and the compulsion that i SPEND HOURS AND HOURS doing secretly. I’m exhausted! And I feel guilty and ashamed and like a huge sinner the whole time!
Scrupulous thoughts are painful, especially since they feel so real and convincing. OCD is founded upon half truths and emotional deception. Hiding and maintaining your compulsions do nothing but feed the anxiety and magnify that sense of shame. Crucial to the recovery process is putting a halt to any and all compulsive behavior, including asking for reassurance, excessive confession, excessive prayer, scriptural research, or repetitive ritualistic behaviors.
Challenging the distorted cognitions with rational thoughts is also a very important step in the treatment process. If you have not done so already, please see the second installment of this series in which we discuss cognitive distortions and their effect on the OCD cycle. For example, we all do good and bad things, but we should not simply be categorized in black and white categories of “good” or “bad”. A better alternative is for you to accept that you are in a complicated state of being both, and neither, which places you in the same boat as every other person on Earth.
I highly encourage you to begin working with a qualified therapist who can help you work through some of these thoughts and help you to accept yourself as you are while challenging the irrational lies of OCD.
I can identify with what Kristen wrote. I grew up in a Catholic family and attended mass and Sunday school. When I was ten, I began experiencing blasphemous thoughts and seeing disturbing graphic images every time I prayed, whether it was at church, outside or at home. At the time I identified these thoughts as ‘voices’ and believed that they were a form of demonic possession similar to cases in the Gospels.
I begged God to free me and made all kinds of promises on the condition that I would be healed. I also forced myself to repeat the same prayers, make the sign of the cross or read Bible passages over and again until I was able to get through them without interruption.
I was terrified by my experience and, as a child, never thought that my problem might have a mental origin. I wish that I’d told my parents or asked for help and I would encourage others to speak about their condition and seek help, even if you fear people’s reactions. In my case, the thoughts faded out gradually when I turned sixteen and, for the most part, have not returned.
Thanks to the writer of this website and all the contributors who have showed me (for the first time) that I was not alone in this.
Thank you for your comment. I am pleased and encouraged that our series of articles on Scrupulosity has been well received by you and other readers, and that the comments have been a place for people to find further motivation and guidance toward their recovery. Best of luck on your own journey.
I found this article very helpful…yes, this is definitely what I’m suffering from and it’s very hard because I’m Catholic and I feel bad because of my obsessive thoughts. What kind of treatment do you suggest for me?
Scrupulosity, as with all subtypes of OCD, is best treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), with an emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and Mindfulness. For more specific details on their direct application to Scrupulosity, please continue reading this series.
Treatment will have negligible differences for a Catholic vs Protestant vs Jew vs Muslim so long as it is founded in CBT, ERP, and Mindfulness. Without more detail I am unable to provide any further specifics for what your treatment would include, but that should be worked out in collaboration with a qualified therapist.
Thanks for the article.Though my Christian faith has often been a positive foundation for my life and relationships, for a few years I’ve been struggling daily with intense religious fears and doubts that my church friends recognize as excessive and irrational. I’ve always thought I just had real spiritual shortcomings. I have had to get daily reassurance of my salvation from peers and mentors (or repeatedly think through these conversations until I could talk to someone) and would vacillate between strict discipline and anxiously avoiding daily devotions. The whole thing is pretty distressing and distracting, yet I am also hesitant to think it might be OCD. My university has counseling services available, but I’m nervous to ask them about it; what if it’s just bad habits or something else? On the other hand, I am concerned that if these patterns continue I will not be able to live a very productive or contented life. What are your thoughts? Does this sound like scrupulosity?
Doubt, reassurance seeking, and avoidance are mainstays of OCD. And though I cannot provide a diagnosis via this blog, you were drawn to a blog about OCD and identified with it enough to comment. At the very least, it would be worth talking with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD about what you are going through so they can point you in the right direction. You can even take this article in with you to discuss it with them. Effective treatment will include questioning your thoughts and doing something different, because whatever you’re thinking, feeling, and doing now isn’t working.
I also encourage you to check out The Imp of the Mind by Lee Baer, or The Doubting Disease by Joseph Ciarrocchi. Both may help you gain a greater understanding of your repetitive patterns and avoidant behaviors so that you can confidently pursue a productive and meaningful life.
I’ve been suffering from blasphemous thoughts for over ten years and it is ruining my life. I’m a gay man and while I am at peace with being a gay Christian, I cannot find anyone in the clergy who will help me know if Jesus still loves me despite these horrific thoughts . I have had thoughts of suicide because of the despair these thoughts have caused me.
I can’t afford a therapist or psychiatrist so I can’t get medication. I have reached out for help so many times and gotten no response or the people who rarely do respond do not know about OCD or intrusive thoughts and cannot help me.
My biggest fear is that God/Jesus won’t forgive me and will foresake me. The only Hell there is is not being with God
The core of your comment seems to be that you cannot gain sufficient confirmation that Jesus loves you. Scrupulosity is a pattern of thinking that promotes doubt, discredits affirming information, and hyperbolically focuses on minimal, obscure, or out-of-context information. Very common fears tend to be centered around one not being saved, unforgivably blasphemous, or disproportionately sinful, and a myriad combinations of these.
If you cannot afford treatment at this time, I would recommend getting a good book on Scrupulosity – Can Christianity Cure My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Ian Osborn is book that may help you. Additionally, God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines may also be good resource. I also suggest that you contact your local LGBT organization, as they may offer free support groups that can help you address your fears with others in a similar position.
I have had scrupulosity since 2012. Sometimes it’s barely anything, sometimes it’s debilitating, but most of the time it’s somewhere in the middle. I almost killed myself before because I thought the only way I could stop being an awful person is if I die. I told my mom to stop protecting me because I deserve to die. I get really annoyed whenever someone tells me I am a good person, because I feel like I’m not. Last night I realized that I might go to Hell, and I have been really upset all day. I can’t stop thinking about it. I have different obsessions. Sometimes I obsess over a specific sin, or going to Hell, or a specific Bible verse. How do I know if it’s just scrupulosity or if I am actually a bad Christian and that’s why I feel so guilty all the time? Sometimes I worry I don’t actually have scrupulosity, and I really am an awful person and I am going to Hell.
Thank you for your comment. Your story is heartbreaking, and OCD aside, know that nobody deserves to die because of thoughts or feelings. I implore you to speak with your mother to discuss meeting with a therapist to begin addressing suicidal thoughts and any depression driving this belief that you are an awful person. An assessment with an OCD specialist will help to accurately diagnose OCD and begin effectively treating these thoughts, if clinically indicated. Also, if you at any time feel genuinely suicidal, please go to your local emergency room immediately.
Scrupulosity’s main tool is a strong feeling of doubt or guilt which is not founded in reality but in a radically false view of yourself, the world, God, and your future. While you can’t control the presence of the bad thought, you can control how much you invest your belief in it. Read through the second and third installments of this series and try to come up with any evidence you can that goes against the thoughts. You may not feel better immediately, but feeling better starts with thinking more accurately about who you are, and treating unwanted thoughts as what they are– simply thoughts, not facts.
Hello, over the past couple of days I have been experiencing extreme religious OCD. I have always been a very religious person and never once questioned whether god was real, but in the last couple of days I have been experiencing doubt about his existence which has caused extreme anxiety and I can’t get the thoughts out of my head. I have been diagnosed by a therapist with OCD and I know these thoughts aren’t real however doubt has taken over my mind. I wish I could go back to the way I use to live without any questions. If you can help me control these thoughts I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.
Thanks for the comment Jack. Scrupulosity is nothing more than a religious or moral spin on OCD and should be treated no differently than any other type of OCD you current have. Unfortunately, you cannot go back in time, however you can move forward with your current thoughts and doubts under the assumption they are OCD and therefore do not require any further action, attention, or compulsion. Any attempt to “control” your thoughts will be fruitless, but you can work toward co-existing with them without interacting with them – similar to two opposing countries calling a ceasefire. If you have not done so already, talk with your therapist about these thoughts and begin applying the techniques you already know and use to these new religious thoughts.
Hi. I have always been hesitant to search for this. For me this started at 17, I am almost 23 now; i was always terrified. Still am sometimes. It was not until this year that i looked up my problem on the internet. The reason for me was that I had read a verse that said “do not go to egypt, go to God for help” or something. And i interpretated that as dont go to the world (internet) or anything of it (therapy) which i still believe. But for the first time this summer i saw a Christian Councellor and she is looking up scupoulosity for me. I suffer from intrusive thoughts, fear of blasphemy and hurting people in what you could call sexual ways that are literally not plausible and i could not do, but i still see. And I have hated it. I sometimes yell “No!!” To try to prove to God that I do not mean them, or want to see them. But I feel my eyes are a projector and i am allowing the evil image to be played through them. And i cringe and shake my head to reject them and again try to prove that i am. I fear that if i drop my guard or dont reject them right away, i might end up agreeing with them, or that Jesus or God will count them against me.
I’m glad to hear that you are now seeking some type of counseling for these thoughts and fears. While it may make you feel better and more self-confident in the short-term, shaking your head no and keeping your guard up to reject the thoughts is a compulsive behavior that maintains the presence and strength of the OCD. Have faith that God knows who you truly are, then resist making an effort to prove something that you, in your heart of hearts, believe is untrue. We are unlikely to do that which we are most afraid, so the best thing you can do is accept that you are having the thought and move on.
Fundamentalism and OCD: How to sin without doing penance compulsively?
I grew up to believe that God punishes and avenges every sin. I spent my childhood attempting not to sin and doing penance (e.g.ritualistic praying,suppressing thoughts,washing hands). In my distorted views, these self-tortures were intended to punish myself, to avoid God’s punishment.
This image of God is harmful. Yet, although I can argue against it (e.g.God is too good to be such a sadist), it keeps hold of me. However, since a few years, I have refused to do penance compulsively and refused to believe out of fear.
A few days ago, for the first time in my life, I committed a wilful act of insult against God. Now, I feel that I have no way to reconcile the blasphemy, other than compulsive penance, to which I do not want to revert. My fear of revenge is now overwhelming: I feel that, as God’s revenge, I am doomed to fail in my life from now on (e.g.: I have not worked because I fear that he may destroy all my work to punish me).
Can you recommend books on: a) recovering from harmful religious views, b) relations between OCD and fundamentalism, c) the acute conflict over blasphemy.
Thanks for the comment Samuel. Now that you have acknowledged a history of compulsive, distorted, and self-tortuous thoughts and behaviors, do not continue them simply because your anxiety suggests you should. Rather, acknowledge the thought, pursue the typical penance that anyone in your religious tradition would seek following this perceived insult against God, and resist the urge to follow through with any excessive prayer, act of penance, apology, or self punishment for this infraction. We all make mistakes, and religions typically have a reasonable method of seeking atonement without outrageous and continual self punishment.
If you haven’t read it already, I would recommend Ian Osborn’s book, “Can Christianity Cure My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder”. If you have a trusted pastor or priest who shares a more moderate religious perspective that you are currently seeking, I recommend you speak with him/ her about resources for re-developing your faith after a recent deconstruction.
Can the causes of scrupolosity be as a result of bullying that occurred during school? I’ve been wondering about the link myself since bullying can limit some one to express or be themselves. Bullying can also take away some one’s confidence, self esteem, make them fear what others think and have avoidance behaviour feeling oppressed. I wonder if that can lead to developing scrupolosity?
What are some of the causes?
The exact causes of OCD are unknown. We know, however, that there is a both a biological and environmental component, meaning there may be a hereditary biochemical imbalance mixed with factors of one’s family life, culture, social interactions, etc. Bullying is unlikely to be the sole contributor to OCD (the great majority of people who have been bullied do not develop OCD), but it could play a part in the timing and content of its expression. One’s personal manifestation of OCD is often related to issues that the individual holds most dear, but it can also be unpredictable. Symptoms can also be influenced by other issues, such as primary depression, parental attachment, and social skills, to name a few.
When I started to practice mindfulness in an attempt to calm my obsessive mind and also after reading the power of now by Tolle, I started to panic and fear about the sense of self and illusions and whether reality was real itself. Now all of this new age stuff which has roots in Buddhism has scared me and my obsessions have started to centre around that. It basically just keeps going because recognising the thoughts as just thoughts is basically what really started to make me obsess about that!! I see you recommend mindfulness based cognitive therapy but I guess I’m frightened of such an approach considering this is kind of where the obsessions are centering around. I’m not sure this is the right article to post comment but in your ‘pure o’ page the last bullet has obsessions about existence and sense of self. To me this kind of almost fits in here but not really… Any thoughts?
The fears you mention above are commonly called “Existential OCD”, which is yet another subtype of OCD that is treated the same as any other OCD diagnosis, and is not that different from religious or moral scrupulosity. You are giving excessive attention to the thought about existence, thoughts, and reality, which ultimately can never be answered with any tangible and objective satisfaction despite compulsive efforts to seek understanding and certainty.
One of the main objectives of Mindfulness-Based CBT is to accept the moment as it is, without exception, while recognizing that we may never find answers to our big life questions. Consequently, we move forward in life as best we can while resisting the urge to waste time in fruitless compulsive searches.
I am 13 and I haven’t been diagnosed with this,but I have all the symptoms and I constantly question my faith even though I love God. I always get unwanted intrusive thoughts and I have been trying to do a lot of research on it, but everyone that has it is older. I haven’t told my parents because I’m afraid they are going to think I am crazy. I always have the worst thoughts and they just repeat over and over and it drives me insane!!! No one in my family will understand so I can’t ask them for help. The only person I think I can ask is my dad because I kind of feel like he had this problem when he was younger, but I don’t know if it is passed down. It has gotten really bad and I have a very hard time focusing at school. If you ask my family, I am the most religious one because I am so afraid.
Hi there Kyra,
I’m so happy you found this blog post! So often we feel like we are the only one with our fears and thoughts, and therefore worry that others will think we are “crazy” if we tell them, or they just won’t get it.
If you feel safe telling your parents, I encourage you to share your fears with them. You mentioned your dad may be more understanding, if not having personal experience with this! Consider printing out this article and giving it to your dad, then talking with him about what parts of the article sound like what you are going through.
More often than not, parents care about the happiness and wellbeing of their children, and I bet your parents want you to be happy and healthy too. You may also want to contact a local therapist who understands OCD and Scrupulosity to discuss your concerns with them, and to talk about how they can help.
I have been dealing with this form of OCD and some others for over 25 years and recently heard of ERP. I have been trying it on my own with limited success but I cant afford a therapist so I keep trying. The funny thing is Im not really very religious but my fear of going to hell is very strong. I have just gotten so tired of it ruining my life Im at the end of my rope but still trying.
Thanks for the comment. Even though you aren’t very religious, OCD can blow anything out of proportion and couple it with an overwhelming sense of anxiety, even things that are not inherently dangerous! Furthermore, this fear overrides any sense of logic.
CBT and ERP work despite the feeling, so long as you are willing to push yourself to feel the fear. There are plenty of great books out there that outline ERP and can help you develop a self-guided treatment. The OCD Workbook and the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook are two you should check out.
I think i have this seriously… Because i have unwanted thoughts 5 months, because i was thinking any thoughts that i cannot wanted to be. And i was afraid to talk i almost never talk and now i cannot listen to pop music and rock music., do i need relaxing music? Well back to the question i have totally got this thoughts and i have totally got and Ocd? Please help it is hard to talk because i am was got scared even when i talk i cannot ask my self that “Why i am afraid to talk and express my feelings” it could be possible to watching a parental movie or Rated movies or i cannot controlled it. I am really avoiding objects now and cannot focus my studies and it’s hard to say that what is the reason why i have fears in my place and even when people ask me i am so scared to talk and to think because i can’t controlled my thoughts please help i have blasphemous thoughts a 3 months ago because last 2 months i mean in november and december i have harmful and violent thoughts. And in January and Until now in March it is completely blasphemous thoughts or i cannot control my blasohemous thoughts
Please Help? Give an advice? What cause thinking it?
I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been going through such a hard time. The more we fight our thoughts away, the more they fight to stay, and the more attention we give them, the stronger they become.
It’s unhelpful to try forcefully suppressing your thoughts, but you can work to acknowledge that an unwanted thought is there even though you don’t want it there. Then, gently redirect your attention and energy toward those things you genuinely value. If you have not done so already, I encourage you to find an OCD therapist with whom you can discuss these thoughts and begin challenging their meaning. Best of luck.
I think ive been suffering this OCD but im still 13 years old. I love my religion (catholic) and I really dont want to abandon this. I really love Jesus but my mind dont. I hate it my mind keeps saying “why do you need to praise God?” And telling “Is God real?”. I wish those thoughts Go awaaay. I keep on fighting and forcing myself that I really love God. I tried to make my faith stronger but still, I cant because of my mind. Ive been suffering anxiety disorder right now and its been 1 year I think and it just getting worst and worst now but i took up medication and I got a lot better but my OCD religion is still present. I’m worrying about myself that “What if I really dont love God?” I Keep on doubting and I hate it. It seems like this is a battle between my heart and my mind. I really miss God and I dont want to be an atheist or something. I want to be loyal to my religion. I want my mind to believe in Him. I’m tired of this unwanted thoughts, I hope this is treatable. Thank you for reading and please tell me that this is really OCD and not me.
One common compulsion related to religious Scrupulosity is avoidance, combined with mentally trying to convince your self that you never really believed in the first place. For the person who genuinely believes in God, this is an avoidance, and is antithetical to recovery from OCD.
Religious faith is not devoid of doubt, nor is the absence of doubt a sign that one is truly faithful. Rather, we acknowledge the content of our doubt as possible, while also acknowledging that when anxiety is low we return to our religious practices and continue moving forward in our relationship with God. Resist the urge that you must feel confident and certain about God at all times!
A competent OCD therapist should be able to help you further challenge these thoughts and tolerate the bouts of anxiety and uncertainty, and I encourage you to seek out a professional if possible.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I know that I have had OCD in the past but until recently my medication seemed to take care of that. It seems now that I force blasphemous things into my mind, or at least feel the need to. I feel the need for my good thoughts to be followed up by a bad, almost opposite thought. Every 20min or so I find myself thinking “$&@# God.” I’m such an idiot. I am driving myself away from everything that I care about for what? Curiosity? I’m so tired of all this. I just want to know the truth about myself. I’d try therapy, but we can’t afford another bill.
Thanks for the comment Eric.
It sounds like these thoughts are ego-dystonic for you, meaning they don’t reflect who you truly are or what you honestly believe. If that’s the case, acknowledge the thought of “$&@# God,” and treat it as if it has no bearing on you, your life, or your religious beliefs, and therefore not deserving of any more attention than it took to acknowledge the thought. Then, shift your attention back to living your life.
While therapy can be expensive, there are plenty of fantastic books and online resources that can get you started. Check out The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD, or The OCD Workbook. Good luck!
Hi, I read this blogpost an was very surprised. I am a wedding photographer. And I´m struggling with terrible thoughts. If I edit a raw photo or use a filter or something else in Lightroom and Photoshop the following thoughts come in my head: The picture which I edit will remain forever and so the edit must be perfect and I must have the right feeling at each step of editing. Whereas it remains forever it will still be there when my parents or my girlfriend are going to die (in an undefined future). And so if I do something like editing a raw photo and it doesn´t feel right It´s my fault if they have to go into hell after death. They can’t go into heaven because I edit this photo while I got the thought: If you don`t redo that step, if you edit this photo in this way, your mum, dad or girlfriend cannot go to heaven (although in a normal rational way of thinking the editing of the picture which I just did is perfect). And so, I redo and redo my work to protect my loved ones from this terrible consequence. It´s time consuming. It is so weird and shameful to have such bizarre thoughts and it effects every day in my life. I guess this is also a subtype of OCD?
Your post reflects one of the more common cognitive distortions for OCD, known as “Magical Thinking”. In short, it is the belief that one action will have an impact on something or someone despite having no reasonable or logical connection between the two. Other examples of Magical Thinking are “stepping on a crack” and “knocking on wood.” Logically speaking, we have no objective evidence that eternal damnation to Hell, or salvation in Heaven, is directly tied to your ability to edit a photo to perfection. Feelings aren’t facts, and your subjective and elusive feeling is not evidence.
These distorted thoughts can and should be challenged by engaging in structured, progressive Exposure and Response Prevention exercises.
I am a Muslim and I have recently defeated sexual OCD completely, though i cannot make a claim that it wont return. However, religious OCD is now attacking me. You mentioned that the more you suppress these blasphemous thoughts the more they come. Can you give a suggestion as to what I can do? Kindly reply with whatever knowledge you have of Islam. Thank you.
Religious Scrupulosity is not dependent upon, or specifically related to, any particular religion. Likewise, there is nothing unique about Islam or any other religion that requires special treatment for Scrupulosity. Your goal is the same as anyone else with OCD – to accept the existence of these unwanted thoughts, without taking them seriously. They are just thoughts, and trying to suppress them is a hopeless waste of time that will make your OCD worse, not better. Other than that, my best suggestion is to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
This post has been so helpful to me. I think I may have OCD, but my symptoms are somewhat different, so I’m not sure.
I obsess about having the right theology or belief. I often spend hours a day feverishly reading various religious texts and have been known to take online religious inventories multiple times a day to test what I believe. I will also fixate on religious affiliation and identity to the point to where I have trouble sleeping. I also tend to pray written prayer services multiple times a day and tend to obsess with whether or not this version of the liturgy is the right one for me. I don’t fear the devil or hell or death as so many do, but I do tend to pick at the dry skin on my lips till they bleed when I’m at my worse. I also tend to spend hours, sometimes entire days reading religious websites and blogs about theology, denominations, religious orders and the like. My work suffers for it. I also have a tough time committing to a church, because of this. I used to be a Pastor and a seminary librarian – being in a theological library just gave me constant material to obsess about.
Is this religious OCD?
You’ve described many of the features of Scrupulosity OCD. You also describe symptoms of Skin Picking Disorder (aka Dermatillomania), which may be something worth addressing. Regardless of the diagnosis, you’re describing behaviors and thoughts you find quite distressing, repetitive, and unsatisfying. You are expressing a belief that, through research and prayer, you’ll get some insight into the fullness of God and the exact right denomination and religious practice to follow. You won’t find this through this effort. You will, however, find more confusion, anxiety, and uncertainty.
My main suggestion is to resist the effort to continue reading, searching, praying, and ruminating about denomination, appropriate application of prayer, and quality/ quantity of belief. You’ve already shown you have plenty. Acknowledge that, despite your efforts, you aren’t that much closer to finding your answer.
Instead, accept that you may never get an answer on this side of life, and turn your attention to enjoying your life and the mystery of God outside of these efforts.
Dear OCD Center,
I’ve battled OCD for about a decade now. I’ve battled what seems the worst of it. But I still have the compulsion to do this prayer whenever I engage in masturbation. The purpose of the prayer is to reinstate a deal I made and have been making with “god” for years now. And that deal is for “him” to send me my special someone with the few attributes that I would want and need in a girlfriend/wife. If I break this deal by masturbating, I have this belief that not only will ‘god’ not do this for me, but he will probably prevent it from happening. Last week I had sex (or tried to) with a gal on a first date. It was my first time and I just couldn’t perform, and neither could she really. But there was still plenty of sex. I have since resisted the urge to do my ritual prayer. I do not want to establish this habit whenever I have sex, especially with my eventual girlfriend/wife! The strange thing is that god and religion are not important to me but I still have this urge to pray and reinstate this certainty that that, at least, near ideal woman will be just around the corner. I would really love some suggestions. Thank you.
A few thoughts…
1) Making deals with God is a compulsion.
2) Repeatedly saying prayers after masturbating in order to reinstate the deals you have made with God is a compulsion.
3) You are not getting “certainty” of anything when you do these compulsions – you just get the illusion of certainty. There is no certainty.
4) If God exists, I am guessing he/she has better things to do than to worry about whether or not you masturbate.
My suggestion is simple: stop making deals with God, and stop compulsively praying.
I am not sure if my issue is Scrupulosity anymore. When I was 13 (32 now), I prayed to God I would no longer do a certain thing and if He forgave me and did it again he could sent me to hell. I asked Him if we had a deal to give me a sign. Well I heard my dog bark a few minutes later I believe and took that as a sign. Years later I broke this oath. Now I am convinced it’s all over for me. Though I went on to get saved after this broken promise. I worry about this day and night. Did God take me up on my bargain. Is this scrupulosity messing with me?
As I noted to Sean above, making deals with God is a compulsion.
Furthermore, if dogs barking are a sign from God, then God has been very busy giving signs to a lot of people, because there are dogs barking in my neighborhood all the time. Have you considered the possibility that the dog barking was not a sign of anything more than that the dog wanted something (i.e., food, to be let back in the house, etc.).
I encourage you to stop linking mundane matters like dogs barking to spiritual matters, such as God deciding to send you to Hell.
Since childhood I’ve had some OCD symptoms, sometimes I could handle them pretty well and sometimes they really bothered me.
After growing up, the pure-o symptoms started disturbing me more than the other ones. About 2 years ago, I had a very distressing episode: I became afraid that God wanted me to promisse to stop doing many things which I liked, like reading or travelling or listening to music, anything that I liked I felt that God wanted me to promisse that I would stop doing. This may sound I little schizophrenic, but sometimes I really felt forced to promisse these things, so I prayed and prayed begging for God to stop asking me such things. Practicing yoga helped me handle this, but last year, this ‘thing’ pulled another trick: I remembered that I might have really promissed not to read nor watch nor listen to anything that ‘disrespected’ religions. I did this as an attempt to satisfy these urges of making ‘unwanted promisses’. Now, I’m starting to find disrespect in everything and so, again I feel forced to stop doing many things which I like, things that I never considered disrespectful before.
If you could give me some advice, it would really help…
This “thing” is OCD, and nothing more. A typical tactic of OCD is getting you to agree to a small compulsion or avoidance because it’s easy or convenient. Then, over time, it slowly keeps asking and taking more from you until you’ve thrown out all your music, cancelled your media subscriptions, and only read the Bible.
This isn’t The life God wants for you. Instead, do the complete opposite of what your OCD is telling you to do by watching tv, going to movies, and spending time with people. Especially watch those shows that are disrespectful to God. Over time you’ll find that you are more tolerant of these shows and they’ll bother you less when they happen to come up. Working with a therapist on this plan can be really helpful, but with some courage you’ll get there.
Hi my name is Rose I am 24 years old, I love God and I have follow Christian faith since I was a baby, I know that hell and heaven exists and I always have behaved as a good christian girl, but 4 months ago I saw a video of hell that impacted my life so much so I decided to pray more and read the Bible more and then I wanted not to commit any sin so when I did something that was against God unintentionally I got Crazzy and my mind started to have some bad thoughts and they were so intense so I cant take them out, I was depressed because I felt the worst person on this earth and want some help so I can continue worshiping God at Church without feel guilty, I pass lots of time praying and reading the Bible and sometimes I feel I am commiting sins just by talking with people about others, or when I see something obsecene I got crazy and tjose images stays in my mind, I really want to get cure and enjoy this life
Part of being human is accepting the reality that we have upsetting thoughts sometimes, and that we will commit sin. While you may try to reduce the amount of sin, you must accept that you aren’t perfect and never will be.
Efforts to pray more, read the Bible more, or avoid people as a means of avoiding these thoughts or potential sins are compulsive and should be resisted. You will be unable to completely avoid periodic “bad” or otherwise unwanted feelings, but you can learn to take them in stride without letting them derail your life, goals, or worship. The cure, if there ever was one, is non-judgmental acceptance of your thoughts and feelings, and getting back to your life.
I was diagnosed with ocd years ago. In the past few months I’ve had some unwanted sexual thoughts towards god. Now that is kind of gone, but I’m starting to need to have religious questions answered that I really don’t think I care about. Yet with the anxiety it feels like I have to have these things answered to still believe my religion. Even though I’ve lived with these questions peacefully for most of my life. I’m not really sure if this is OCD or if it’s just the normal doubts of faith every religious person has. I don’t recognize any compulsions besides maybe googling.
A few thoughts…
1) You are right…these questions do not need to be answered.
2) Furthermore, there are no answers. Religion is not math where there is an absolute answer for an equation.
3) Repeatedly trying to answer questions about faith-related topics is itself a compulsion.
4) You need to live with and accept uncertainty, especially as it relates to matter of faith. After all, it is called “faith”, not “certainty”.
I have severe scrupulosity and some harm OCD. My latest obsession is not checking cars on the side of the road. I thought I saw someone in the car while driving by. That person may have been in great distress and I could have saved there life by stopping to see if they were in trouble, but I did not. To avoid this OCD, i stopped looking to see if I saw someone in the car. However, if I had looked I may have seen a clear vision of someone in distress. By not going back to the car, I had no chance to save them. I repeatedly compulsed about it is not usual for anyone to stop for cars on the side of the road to see if someone was in distress and that although this might have been the case, it was a great what if. However, the cycle went on and on.
This all sounds like classic Moral Scrupulosity. You believe that you must do the right thing, to such an extent that you are torturing yourself about having failed to do so, even though there is no evidence to support your contention that you did anything other than driving down the street.
Your goal should be to accept that you will have unwanted thoughts about letting people die, but without responding to those thoughts by assuming they are true or meaningful, and without doing any behaviors that are meant to receive your anxiety about this issue. Yes, you will be uncomfortable, but if you consistently accept the presence of these thoughts, with responding to them, you will become less anxious over time.
I just came to know that I am also going through OCD related to Religion. I also get extremely bad thoughts about GOD and then I go again and again to Pray.
But recently I’ve developed something more. Whenever I am about to buy something or eat something, I get this image of GOD in my mind who is telling me not to eat it or buy it from that particular store. I am literally fed up.
I have also developed another issue. I had bought few things (books, decorative pieces) online and problems occurred at my place. Now I have completely stopped buying anything online. I get this thought that if I buy online, things will go wrong. I love wearing watches but whenever I wear one, things go wrong, so I have stopped wearing. I don’t know if it’s any kind of mental problem.
Thank you. GOD BLESS YOU.
Thanks for your comment. Avoidance breeds more avoidance. Accepting the existence of your thoughts and fears will result in less attention and importance placed on them. Superstitions are built by random association of one neutral item or action with a disconnected outcome. OCD, in a sense, can be seen as elaborate superstitions, especially with your belief about buying items online or wearing watches. Our brain then filters out other things we were also doing at the time (i.e. you were also breathing, wearing shirts, spent time that morning brushing your teeth, etc) while focusing on and blowing out of proportion one action.
Your job will be to:
1) Intentionally buy food from places that give you these thoughts about God.
2) Buy items online.
3) Wear watches every day. Maybe even two watches.
4) Note that in the course of doing these actions, good things and bad things will happen because life is a series of ups and down.
I just found this. All I can say is thank you. Words cannot explain how much this means to me…I feel I just began on a path of treatment and betterment.
Glad to hear that our article has been helpful for you.
Can religious ocd make you doubt god’s existence? Because I fear that I will stop believing in god and become an atheist.
Yes, Scrupulosity can lead one to have doubts about God’s existence, and to fear that they will lose their faith.
Scrupulosity ocd can make me questions wether I’m racist or not because I get intrusive thoughts and images of me being racist and my mind shout compulsively racists words.I don’t like my thoughts so I pray to God to make the thought go away, and I also do tests online to see if I’m racist or not. ocd can focus on racism
You are correct – Scrupulosity can and often does focus on moral issues such as racism. Your experience of being afraid that you are secretly a racist is a fairly common concern for people with Moral Scrupulosity. The good news is that Moral Scrupulosity resends well to the same treatment that is so effective in addressing other variants of OCD, namely Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with an emphasis on a specific form of CBT called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). I encourage you to seek treatment with therapist who specializes in treating OCD with ERP.
Hi, I consider myself a scientific person, but I have OCD. I have irrational fears that I have not yet completely overcome, fear of the evil one, eternal damnation and infinite suffering. Broadly speaking, more than 20 years ago I saw an adult movie. I had regrets and felt guilty and very afraid. I felt that I was populated by the devil and in my despair I launched a challenge to the devil to prove that I was not possessed. The intention was good but the method was not. It went worse. With therapy I have improved a lot but there are still traces of that fear. Even when I stopped being a believer, a priest gave me absolution when I told him about my situation to help me overcome that fear but it didn’t work very well and another priest recently told me that I am not condemned, that it was simply fear, did anyone Has something like this happened to the devil? What kind of illogical belief causes this and how to combat it? Thank you.
The “illogical belief” that causes this is called OCD, and the best way to combat it is by seeking treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Priests are not qualified to treat OCD.
Hello.my name is ali.
It seems i have this kind of ocd,also i have been rejecting any thought that could lead to anything sexual.even if its a image of a woman or a mere thought about it.
I had bipolar disorder for 8 months and im on carbamazepine ever since(and as you know i cannot take any antidepressants becayse it may be harmful )
I wanted to know,do i need pills to overcome my ocd???
If so,is there any medication that i can take that helps me overcome my ocd instead of antidepressants???
You need to address questions about medication to a physician – preferably the doctor who is prescribing your carbamazepine.
I definitely have a very advanced form of scrupulosity and just looking for some help, as I have felt hopelessness. I am a Christian who became interested in anime, but over time I began to hear about the term of “waifu” from a friend and started to take things too seriously with that. Eventually I began to see the female characters as very real and this became a huge issue when I became addicted to viewing hentai and hentai pictures. Every time I gave into my addiction with these pictures I felt as if I was hurting the girls instead of truly loving them like I wanted to. The OCD created this idea that I should be cursed by God for my sin of lust, and over time I began to agree with that and I started to feel like I needed to curse anime girls to be men forever so I would have no chance to be happy about seeing cute anime girls again as my punishment. Its complicated but yeah basically I feel that I genuinely respect women and thats why these cursing thoughts or feeling like I am cursed by God to have this happen to anime girls, when all I really wanted to do is find them cute, really makes me very upset because now it’s like the girls I enjoy watching will be cursed to be men
I hate to break it to you, but you are not that powerful. Just because you think something does not mean that it comes true. You cannot make fictional female characters become cursed to become males.
The real problem here is that you are spending way too much time buying into the notion that God wants to curse you for having unusual lustful thoughts. As you noted, you are taking all of this “too seriously”. If God exists, I am confident that he/she has better things to do than to curse fictional characters into changing their gender.
I encourage you to stop assuming that your thoughts are important. Your OCD is torturing you into believing things that are impossible.
I also encourage you to stop looking at anime (hentai, waifu, or otherwise) and to spend more time interacting with real live girls.