Religious OCD or Scrupulosity

May 3, 2018 at 2:41 PM 2 comments

‘The so-called science of mental health has made plenty of faux pas over the decades; too many to catalog here. This is not to say that all forms of counseling services are not good or don’t result in positive outcomes. However, it has become way too easy to classify what are seen as symptoms (almost always negative defects), as being bad, but often correctable. When religion is included in the prognosis, the problem often becomes far more muddied.

I realize of course that there are plenty of cults who prey on naive folks and all cults use forms of manipulation to gain control over individuals. But those within the mental health arena have now added “religious OCD” to the equation and we’re not necessarily talking about people who are involved in cults. We’re talking about people – especially young people – who are active in mainline denominations and exhibit symptoms of worry and/or anxiety regarding their relationship with God.

In the case of religious OCD, or scrupulosity, instead of a pebble in the shoe a person is troubled with religious worries, but she finds them just as persistent and disturbing.


The tragedy of connecting OCD with religion itself (even indirectly), creates an additional problem for those characterized as having the problem in the first place. The article provides several examples that, to my way of thinking, do not necessarily speak only to those who might have some sort of OCD personality trait. The examples can actually be found in average religious people who fail to understand the meaning of having a relationship with God. The article outlines the specifics of the problem.

For example, someone with scrupulosity might worry that she didn’t say a prayer correctly — maybe some of the words were out of order, or she didn’t say it with the proper reverence. She might fear some religious consequence from this, so she says the prayer again — and possibly a third and fourth time — as a correction. She might worry that she doesn’t do enough good deeds, or worry that she only does good deeds for selfish reasons. She might worry about having blasphemous thoughts and offending God.

If we read through the Scriptures, what is described above is what is often seen in the average person in the Bible. People experienced many doubts about God in the past and still do today. They make decisions based sometimes on their fears related to God and often those fears exist due to a lack of biblical knowledge.As we grow in our relationship with God in Christ, these doubts should become less and less; a direct result of growing in the knowledge of who God is, how He works, and what He wants and expects from our lives.Again, we gain that information primarily through the reading, study, and memorization of God’s Word.

Looking back on my life, I know for a fact that during the times I failed to read His Word regularly, there was literally nothing to digest and grow from or through. I was essentially left on my own to determine a path based solely on how I felt about something or what I thought God was trying to do in specific situations. Hence, it is extremely easy to be filled with anxiety because of the absence of a real anchor. We cannot turn to anything concrete for any direction in our lives. We pray, we ask God to help us through a situation, but we have nothing to draw on from His Word because we are not reading it.

There are also other things in life that can cause stress and anxiety and those things can easily spill over into our “religious” life. If we are eating poorly, not getting enough sleep, not exercising, and essentially doing things that cause some form of harm to our bodies, we are not helping ourselves at all. Poor diet, lack of sleep, terrible nutrition, etc., all can and do cause our minds to weaken. This weakening of our minds can easily create anxiety and fear. I firmly believe ill-health is not just debilitating to our bodies, but our minds as well. When we cannot think straight, our minds gravitate toward negativity.

But, if you can confirm that you are eating healthy (avoiding processed foods whenever possible), taking small doses of vitamins, avoiding the garbage like high fructose corny syrup in drinks and sweets and you are still worried about your relationship with God, then I would ask if you are reading and studying His Word every day?

I received Jesus as my Savior at 13. It is something I will never forget. Because of my youth I did not have any real understanding beyond the fact that I was in need of a Savior, I could not save myself and knew I needed someone outside myself who could do that. Out of all the religions out there, only Christianity provides that message. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and He came to save.

But beyond salvation – once received – what happens next? I remember initially being on fire for God. I would talk to my classmates about their need for salvation and some got upset with me. As I grew older, things began to cool and I started to have serious questions about God, my relationship with Him and more. Problematically, I was not reading the Bible consistently at all. I was more interested in reading books written by other Christians who talked about their life and would mention the Bible from time to time. It was like trying to grow without eating good, solid food, but only the crumbs that someone else left behind. I wasn’t growing.

So you can imagine the amount of questions and doubts I had about my relationship with God, my salvation, His forgiveness of my sin, His plans for my life, etc. I guess I thought God would simply reveal His will to me to my brain directly without having to read His Word. I failed to understand that as Christians seek to obey God in the small things, He enlarges our borders and gives us bigger things to be obedient in. It’s truly a process like anything else in life.

But too many Christians can come to a point where they believe they have not jumped through the proper hoop or said the correct prayer, or second guess themselves or God in another area. This, they believe, has grieved God and it seems He begins to show His displeasure, which is often experienced in the Christian as doubt and anxiety. Here’s an example with 12-year-old Matt mentioned above from the same article.

Matt also had compulsions, or things that he did to try to alleviate his anxiety. He had a particular prayer that he would say, he would carry a bible around with him during the day, and he slept with a bible under his pillow and one on each side of his head at night. He asked his grandparents repeatedly for reassurance when he was feeling worried.

Notice Matt carried around his Bible and he even slept with it under his pillow – one on each side of his head. Though he regularly seemed to go to his grandparents for reassurance, it seemed he continued to experience doubts and worry. What was the problem? Well, his counselors believe all of this was an expression of his OCD. People who suffer from OCD will do whatever they can to neutralize their fears even if what they’re doing appears irrational (like sleeping with a Bible on each side of your head). The counselor employed what is called exposure with response prevention (or ERP). Psychology has a name for everything…

By the way, I’m not trying to minimize the difficulties of actual OCD with people who experience that. Depending upon the nature of the disorder, it can truly impact a person’s life in a negative way. I’m simply saying that in certain cases where religion is involved, it might be better to look for a solution from God and His Word first before employing tactics listed below.

For young Matt specifically, since he had a fear of the devil, his counselors did something more pervasive with ERP.

In the case of Matt, a lot of his exposures involved his anxiety about the devil. ‘We would do things like listen to music that had the word ‘devil’ in it because as soon as he would hear the word devil in a song he’d turn it off,’ says Dr. Bubrick. They also listened to music with the word ‘hell’ in it, ate devil dogs, and made Matt a jersey to wear with the number 666. These were big steps forward for a boy who had been effectively immobilized by his anxiety, but the steps were taken gradually and with great care. ‘We were breaking the association between God and fear,’ explains Dr. Bubrick.

So essentially, Matt’s counselors believed that to remove his fear of the devil, he should take up those things that are aligned with the devil – his name, his number, hell itself, etc. He also listened to music that created images of the devil in the lyrics. But notice how the very last sentence – We were breaking the association between God and fear – actually addresses the subject of God, not the devil. Were they trying to break Matt’s fear of God or the devil? If the devil, why equate the devil with God? This is a subtle way of programming Matt to see no real difference and maybe these two personalities are simply impersonal forces in the world we think of as good vs. evil, yin and yang, etc.

In short, if Matt had an overactive fear of the devil, shouldn’t someone have shown him from God’s Word that the devil – Satan – is actually and truly a fully defeated foe? This would help to defang the devil. All of Satan’s continued power is controlled and anything he accomplishes is only as God allows it. God is fully sovereign whether we think He is or not. Each Christian must come to terms with the truth as presented by God Himself. Is God’s Word truthful? Is it enough? Can God’s Word answer our questions about God, our relationship with Him, the devil, God’s plan for the ages and more? If it cannot, there is no point in reading it. If it can, there is absolutely no point in ignoring it, but of course, that is what the devil would like us to do.

Matt was forced to face his fears in a purely humanistic way until they were no longer fears. Did that actually create a beneficial situation for Matt? I have serious doubts because the Bible more than implies that we should have a healthy respect for Satan’s ability. More importantly though, we should come to grasp the truth that if God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). In fact, the entirety of Romans 8 offers tremendous truth for the Christian, something that we should study, absorb, memorize for our own benefit.

There is no shortcut to knowing God, how He works, how He loves us, and from what He protects us. We won’t know that unless we open the pages of His Word. If Matt had been properly taught by a mature Christian truth direct from God’s Word (his grandparents maybe?), he likely would learned to have gotten over his unhealthy fears where Satan is concerned. All this without lowering himself to literally dabbling in aspects of the occult. But this is the way the unsaved, humanistic world deals with issues that connect to religion. It’s all a mishmash of heathenism passing itself off as mental health science, in this and too many cases.

Seek God through His Word. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. The truth found within God’s Word is enough to allay fears. But first, His Word needs to be opened.

Entry filed under: Agenda 21, Atheism and religion, christianity, Cultural Marxism, Demonic, devil worship, Emotional virtue, eternity, new age movement, Political Correctness, Politically Correct, Politics, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, Satanism. Tags: , , , , .

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  • 1. Should Christians Fear God? | Study - Grow - Know  |  May 5, 2018 at 1:39 PM

    […] we spoke of something in the mental health arena – Religious OCD. The underlying problem associated with it, as far as the experts are concerned, is an unhealthy […]


  • […] Religious OCD or Scrupulosity by Fred DeRuvo at Study – Grow – Know juxtaposes the troubling methods of psychology against Biblical counseling.  Please, if you still can’t see the dangers of psychology, read Fred’s piece and seriously consider the points he raises. […]


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