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Scrupulosity

Scrupulosity & OCD

Scrupulosity is a form of religious OCD that often involves having blasphemous or unacceptable thoughts about God.

What is Scrupulosity?


Scrupulosity is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) characterized by religious and/or moral obsessions. Scrupulosity can sometimes be difficult to recognize because even within a single faith community, religious beliefs and practices vary widely. There is no singular belief or behavior that is diagnostic for scrupulosity.

Instead, scrupulosity is best regarded as a pattern of beliefs and behaviors associated with excessive worry about having committed a sin or engaging in immoral acts. Concern may focus either on thoughts or actions already taken or the possibility of committing sins in the future. This results in significant emotional distress, guilt, and despair.

Scrupulous individuals also worry about the sinfulness of having bad thoughts. This experience is very similar to individuals with OCD who experience harm-related obsessions (e.g., the fear of harming a child or loved one). People with scrupulosity often wonder why they’re having bad thoughts and worry that these thoughts have special meaning. They also mistakenly assume that they wouldn’t be having these thoughts if the thoughts weren’t true.

Because the sinfulness of thoughts is discussed in the Bible and other religious texts, many scrupulous individuals take this as “proof” that they should be able to control their thoughts at all times. For individuals who hold this belief, it is especially important that treatment includes steps related to belief clarification. Treatment of scrupulosity may also include consultations with religious professionals. When I treat individuals in South Florida (Palm Beach Gardens, West Palm Beach, Jupiter) with scrupulosity, I typically incorporate these elements in my treatment plan.

Feared consequences associated with scrupulosity often focus on damnation, estrangement from God, making God angry, or living an empty existence. There may also be the fear that one may “corrupt” others or experience uncontrollable feelings of guilt forever.

In order to prevent these outcomes from occurring, individuals with religious scrupulosity engage in a variety of rituals. These compulsions typically involve taking preventative action to keep a sin from occurring or engaging in some type of restoration ritual to repair their relationship with God. People with scrupulosity also commonly engage in a variety of mental rituals.

How is Scrupulosity Diagnosed?


Diagnosis of scrupulosity is complicated because symptoms of scrupulosity exist at the intersection of spirituality and mental health.  This results in symptoms of scrupulosity frequently going undetected. Psychologists may not sufficiently inquire about one’s faith tradition and overlook scrupulous symptoms.  Similarly, religious professionals may have less experience in recognizing signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).  Parents of scrupulous children often take pride in their children’s seemingly strong faith and fail to recognize that their “faith” is predominantly fear-based. Because of these challenges, it is especially important to foster better public awareness about scrupulosity and how it relates to OCD.

Here are some common obsessions and compulsions associated with scrupulosity.  Because many of these behaviors are normal within certain faith traditions, it can be useful to consult with an OCD specialist if you’re concerned about these (or other) symptoms.

Symptoms of Scrupulosity (OCD)


  • Fear of committing blasphemy or having blasphemous thoughts.
  • Excessive fear of hell and/or damnation.
  • Excessive doubt about “being saved.”
  • Excessive fear and doubt about the existence of God.
  • Fear of committing (or having committed) an “unpardonable sin.”
  • Excessive worry that one’s life is on the “wrong path.”
  • Fear of being responsible for creating a rift in your relationship with God.
  • Fear of God not listening to your prayers.
  • Excessive fear and doubt about choosing the “right” church/religion or having the “right” beliefs.
  • Excessive concern about doing the “right thing.”
  • Applying different moral standards to one’s own behavior than to the behavior of others.
  • Excessive concern about clothing choices (i.e., not wanting to dress provocatively).
  • Excessive concern about child-rearing practices.
  • Afraid that one will (or has) sold one’s soul to the Devil.
  • Afraid that one is secretly a Satanist.
  • Intrusive images of sex or violence related to religious figures (God, Jesus, Mary, saints, etc.)
  • Repetitive thoughts about being sexually attracted to God, Jesus, Mary, saints, or other religious figures.
  • Intrusive images of inverted crosses, pentagrams, or other sacrilegious icons.
  • Fear that one may secretly be possessed by demons.
  • Fear that one’s children may be possessed by demons.
  • Fear of future actions (e.g., worry that one will have to murder their children if they are possessed).
  • Fear of being (or becoming) the Antichrist.
  • Fear that one’s kids may be the Antichrist.
  • Worry about whether one is fundamentally good or evil.
  • Afraid of repeating prayers backwards.
  • Fear of secretly wanting to go to hell.
  • Fear of impulsively or intentionally praying to the Devil.
  • Intrusive thoughts related to loving the Devil (e.g., Satan is Lord).
  • Fear of secretly being controlled by the Devil and carrying out his wishes.
  • Intrusive thoughts about rejecting the Holy Spirit.
  • Intrusive thoughts about impulsively committing suicide and going to hell.
Compulsions Related to Scrupulosity (OCD)


  • Repeating or restarting prayers.
  • Praying excessively.
  • Compulsively seeking out information online about the sinfulness of certain activities.
  • Excessively attending confession.
  • Compulsive reassurance-seeking from family members or members of one’s faith community.
    • Did I do the right thing?
    • Do you think it’s okay if I…?
  • Compulsive self-reassurance
    • Repeatedly saying: “I’m a good Christian person” after experiencing an unwanted thought.
    • Repeatedly saying: “God loves me” after having an unwanted thought.
    • Compulsive writing (e.g., Jesus loves me).
    • Mentally reviewing or analyzing events to determine if a sin was committed.
  • Taking religious practices to extremes.
    • “Observing the Sabbath” in a way that’s not typical for others in one’s faith tradition.
    • Fasting in a way that’s not typical for other members of one’s religious community.
    • Engaging in self-punishing atonement practices that are not characteristic of one’s faith.
  • Making deals with God.
  • Planning and preparing for future religious problems (e.g., researching exorcisms).
  • Replacing unwanted thoughts or images with safer or holier images.
    • Thinking of images of the cross, doves, Jesus’s face, Mary’s face.
    • Mentally inverting unwanted images.
  • Inspecting one’s body for “signs” from God or the Devil.
    • Examining birthmarks or looking for moles that indicate whether one is good or evil.
  • Restarting or cleansing rituals.
    • Getting out of bed again.
    • Taking showers.
    • “Renewing” oneself through mini-Baptisms.
  • Asking for forgiveness excessively.
  • Excessive study of religious texts (i.e., Bible, Torah, or Koran).
Avoidance Behaviors Related to Scrupulosity (OCD)


  • Avoiding religious services (if one is afraid of God’s judgment for having bad thoughts while attending a service).
  • Avoiding communion (if afraid of dropping a communion wafer).
  • Avoiding triggers related to other spiritual or secular belief systems.
    • Avoiding books, movies, or magazines that mention evolution.
    • Avoiding yoga or other practices that developed out of a different faith tradition.
  • Avoiding numbers that are unlucky or have religious significance (e.g., 13, 666).
  • Avoiding reading the Bible, Torah, or Koran.
  • Postponing decisions until they “feel right” or until God gives a clear sign about what to do.
  • Avoiding prayer (if afraid of having a bad thought while praying).
  • Deferring decisions to other people.
  • Avoiding eye contact with members of the opposite sex (if afraid of committing adultery).
  • Avoiding conversations with atheists (or people of other religions) for fear that their beliefs may pollute or corrupt your own belief system.

Remember, effective treatment for scrupulosity is based on exposure and ritual prevention, a type of behavioral therapy that was designed to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, ERP will typically be augmented with steps related to belief clarification.

Questions? Comments? Do you experience scrupulous symptoms that were not mentioned above? Sound off below.




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60 Comments

  1. This sounds all too familiar. I began suffering from scrupulosity as a child. My main compulsion was to repeat prayers over and over. They had to be said a certain way until I felt “right.” I was also obsessed about any sin that might be “between” me and God, because I learned that God wouldn’t hear our prayers if there was sin between us. And I confessed sins to my mother, even those that I thought possibly I might have done or thought about doing.

    Ugh! It was a painful time, and going to a fundamentalist Christian school didn’t help. In college, I began to pull away from religion and for many years, wanted nothing to do with it. I was avoiding what brought me so much pain.

    I have gotten a lot better. I have learned ways to pray that don’t set off the mindless chants. Meditation is more important to me than words. I have begun to be much more comfortable with uncertainty when it comes to my beliefs in God and our spiritual natures.

    Thank you for writing about this. When I was in the throes of scrupulosity, I never imagined it was anything other than the signs of a sinful person. I’m sure you are reaching many people with your work!

    • Thanks for sharing, Tina. Your description is moving and really highlights how devastating scrupulosity can be. I’m so glad you’ve found your way through it. If you don’t mind, I’m going to add some of your descriptions to the original post. Here’s to fighting OCD in whatever form it takes!

      • That’s OK with me. Thank you for the help you provide us OCDers!

    • I had the same problem. Not the repetitive prayers necessarily but the whole”God won’t hear my prayers if there’s sin in my life” thing got me. And I confessed things to my mom about what I thought and all that Jazz. It’s horrible. You’re not alone :)

  2. Great article Steve. I’ve hadscrupulosity for many years. It started with sexually related thoughts during mass in church such as the ones mentioned in your article, but the worst has beenover the last 2 years about Gods existence which were even more painful then the others. Plus it happened during my debates with atheists . I had so many panic attacks that I had to dip my body in the tub every day for 6 hours.

    The pain is a bit better ( only have stomach and side stress pains), and I’m on medication, and thanks to some good friends on both a catholic and Christian forum I now understand that faith is not based on feelings but an act of the will and Jesus’s promises.I still struggle with the thoughts every day but it hasn’t stopped me from praying and going to church.

    I know what erp is but its tough to practice and the almost free clinic I have been going to doesn’t know much about it.

    God bless you for writing about this disorder

    • Thanks for reading, Bob. Fear that God doesn’t exist is a very common scrup fear. I’m glad that you’ve been able to get some relief in that regard.

      I would like to post more about scrup treatment at some point, but ERP for scrup is so individualized that it’s tough to talk about in general terms on a blog. I’ll probably try to do so in the context of a specific obsession or case example.

      Best wishes in your recovery!

  3. Dr. Seay, I wrote about scrupulocity on my blog tonight. I linked to your post in it. If you’d like to read it, it’s at http://bringingalongocd.blogspot.com/2012/02/showing-my-scrupulosity.html

  4. Yea Steven from what I read even John bunyan went throught, but it’s always nice to hear it it common from someone. The hardest part is reaching for that reassurance fix.
    God bless you all, you are all in my prayers

  5. Wow! Thank you for covering this so comprehensively! I have been in treatment for many years and have improved a lot, but I still have a long way to go. For some reason, it is comforting to me to know that others experience the exact types of thoughts that I suffer from. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy, but your list was the first that I have seen that acknowledged the exact types of thoughts that I have experienced and I don’t feel so all alone anymore!

  6. IS FEELING A BURNING SENSATION ON THE SKIN A SYMPTOM? I HAVE ALMOST ALL OF THESE SYMPTOMS, ESPECIALLY FEELING LIKE GOD IS TALKING TO ME IN SIGNS (ACTUAL ROAD SIGNS, SONGS, CONVERSATIONS WITH OTHERS, PANIC ATTACKS ABOUT FEELING CERTAIN THAT I AM GOING TO HELL EVEN THOUGH I HAVE SAID THE SINNER’S PRAYER HUNDREDS OF TIMES.

    • Hi Brandon,

      OCD can be associated with all sorts of symptoms, but that’s not a commonly reported symptom. Check with your doctor.

  7. I am so glad I found this…it’s good to know I’m not alone. I didn’t realize it, but I have dealt with anxiety ever since I was a child. It started getting worse when I was 12. After one episode, everything was pretty normal until I turned 18 1/2. That’s when I was suddenly hit with uncontrollable anxiety. I think the trigger was that I was getting sick. Of course, the illness didn’t last long, but my constant anxiety feeling would not go away no matter what. Depression soon followed so I was dealing with anxiety, depression and intrusive thoughts.
    After a few months, they were so bad, that I felt paralyzed and I would cry. My parents were never keen on putting me on anti-depressants, but I was placed on them and things got better. It was also an anti-anxiety anti-depressant, so it helped a lot. Although I have never quite felt the same since the day it all hit me. That was three years ago and I still don’t feel quite the same.

    All of my intrusive thoughts have ranged to common Pure-O symptoms to what you describe as Scrupulosity. Mostly violent thoughts that included killing myself or someone else. On the symptom list you wrote, I have dealt with the fear of “what if I really want to go to hell?/maybe I wouldn’t care if I went to hell…” and “What if God doesn’t exist? What if evolution is right?”

    These have all been frightening. Sometimes I worry that the anxiety is actually desire or something. Sometimes I fear that happiness won’t be enough for me.

    It’s difficult. Sorry for the long message. But I’m glad I’m not alone. Thank you for writing this.

    • Thanks for reading, Cat. Many people with OCD have symptoms that cut across multiple domains, just as you’ve described. I don’t think I’ve blogged about “Harm Obsessions” yet, but they can be incredibly frightening. Many people experience the ones you mentioned (fear of committing suicide, fear of hurting others). These symptoms often involve Intention Checking, a mental compulsion that I wrote about here:

      http://www.steveseay.com/mental-checking-ocd/

      Hang in there. You’re certainly not alone.

      All the Best!

  8. I hate this scrupulosity. I am a devout Christian, who believes Jesus is the son of God and that he died for my sins. But I was in a very strict fundamentalist Church of Christ years ago, and fears of losing salvation, the unpardonable sin, and issues on vows and oaths, would cultivate all kinds of intrusive thoughts that would make me afraid of God. It was like my mind would take something from scripture, and a totally unwanted intrusive thought would cause me to panic. My story is similar to John Bunyan’s, “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.” The anxiety has been paralyzing, because God knows our thoughts, but yet we don’t want the thoughts.

    Bad, Sacreligious thoughts, that come from anxiety are far different than the thoughts that come from a genuine person who hates God. The thoughts get worse the more moral of a person I become. Saul of Tarsus was adamant about wiping Christianity off the face of the planet and even murdering Christians, saying hateful things about Christ, and yet God still loved him on the Damascus Road. When Saul of Tarsus had bad thoughts, his heart also was delighting in these thoughts as well. We who are disturbed in our hearts with these thoughts, must realize that we are being taking hostage by thoughts that go against our heart. We wouldn’t be seeking God’s forgiveness, reading the Holy Scriptures, or wanting to be around other Christians, if our heart truly consented to these thoughts.

    Nevertheless, these thoughts can at times be of such torment, they make one think God is ready to destroy them. We must realize, that the very fear that originates, shows we believe in God. An Atheist has “No Fear.” of God. The fact we have fear, shows something has been done to our hearts by our Creator.

    Learning to relearn “Who God is?” can be very hard. Spiritual abuse can turn our loving Heavenly Father, into a demanding harsh Judge. When our salvation is based on our performance, or not sinning, or fighting bad thoughts in our head. We can feel that we are hopeless causes that God couldn’t stand to look at us sinful wretches. Christ died for us, when we were a “Saul of Tarsus.” Think about that, Paul “the former Saul” knew more about Grace than we ever will.

    Paul wrote Romans and when he wrote Romans 5:10. (For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.)

    I think he must have reflected on himself and said, Christ died for me, and God loved me, even when I was full of hatred toward Him and Christ, and was on a ravage pursuit to destroy His Church. Paul realized what an enemy of God he was, and to think God would have used this violent, former blasphemer, and hater of the gospel, to be the one who would pen the very scriptures we have today to express to us the astounding goodness and mercy of God.

    I am daily relearning who God is! Its a daily process, and renewing our mind from spiritual abuse, and learning the warm compassions of our Father and will allow us to grow in the likeness of his Son. It is Christ that does the work in us, not we ourselves. Scrupulosity will be defeated, when we truly rest in the true, unwavering love of God in Christ Jesus. Pray for a deeper revelation of His Love for you.

    By the way, Think about this! God loved Saul even when he had deliberate Bad thoughts against Christ, that still didn’t stop Him from loving Him. So if God could love Saul of Tarsus with murderous thoughts toward his sheep. Keep in mind that same love is still extended to you, through the blood of Jesus Christ. Lets keep these truths in our minds when OCD, Intrusive thoughts come in, bad thoughts are covered by Christ Blood. Our thoughts though sinful, can never overcome divine love and grace. If that were the case, We wouldn’t have most of our New Testament!

    • Thanks for sharing this, Dan. You’ve presented a good example of how OCD can distort one’s beliefs and cause one to shift from faith-based spirituality to knowing-based spirituality. For many people, overcoming OCD involves relearning and/or reorienting your belief system in a way that isn’t dictated by OCD.

      All the Best!

  9. Thank you so much for what you have published here. This is was convinced me I had OCD – scrupulosity. I took your article to the Doctor and discussed it with him. As a result he changed my medication and has referred me for CBT.

    I have spent 12 years being told I was anxious and depressed, but that never fitted for me as I knew my thoughts were always religious and I thought I was being punished for sins, or ignored by God or having it confirmed that God doesn’t exist because I’m not feeling any better.

    I have started blogging about my experience as a way of giving my thoughts a release or some kind of exposure to the big bad world. I have linked to your site as one of the main saving moments I realised what I was suffering.

    I hope anyone who has scrupulous thoughts can find access to your articles because it changed my whole world. I re-read it to help me remember it’s OCD. I’m slowly on the road to recovery I hope.

    • I’m so happy to hear that the article was helpful. Scrupulosity can be extremely confusing–at first, it can feel nearly impossible to know where religious beliefs end and OCD begins… However, stick with your treatment, work hard, and your efforts will pay off. BTW, your blog looks great! Thanks for helping spread the word about scrupulosity.

      Wishing you the best in your recovery!

  10. Thanks for the article. My husband suffers from this, since he was a child. I’m really trying to get him help but not quite sure who to turn to. He’s spoken to hundreds of pastors through the years, and our pastor has talked to him on numerous occasions. How would you recommend finding someone local who can help? I suppose it is time we sought help from a psychiatrist? This is crippling to him, I’m watching him waste away with worry, obsessions, and compulsions.

    • Check out the ocfoundation.org database for therapists who have experience working with scrupulosity. Psychiatrists can also be helpful–as with other forms of OCD, the SSRIs are thought to be a first-line treatment. Medication combined with therapy may be your best course of action. Good luck!

  11. What is the treatment? I have a daughter that is so Happy about your web site that she knows now she is not alone & understands what she has.
    However, surely there is an effective treatment. What is it?
    Thank You!

  12. Even before I knew what it was, scrupulosity manifested itself in my actions as a school girl. I compulsively wrote the sentence ‘if the Lord wills’ after everything I wrote, whether it was a journal entry or a question on a test at school. I was raised in a conservative church of Christ, and its teachings reinforced the tendencies I probably had anyway. After trying for some years to do everything right, I took another 20 years or so ‘off’, not thinking about God at all. Though this allowed me to live more peacefully at a certain level, deep down I knew that not walking with God was going to send me to Hell. I should at least try. But now that I am in ‘trying’ mode again, I am scared of God again. Everything I read in the Bible is through the filters of fear and judgment. My image of God is one of a strict, exacting being who monitors my every thought and action–and always finds me coming up short. The very mindset that I must try to do everything ‘by the book’ makes me want to avoid this God. I try to draw near, but though I know He loves me, the fear of His discipline (I think of it as discipline now instead of judgment) is ever with me. It is like walking on eggshells. I go to church with a very strict and unyielding lot of church of Christers who preach truth; but I have no love for truth. The very idea of its exacting standard torments me night and day. I am so filled with anger and hatred toward God and others that it feels like demons must possess me. I don’t know how much longer I can go on.

    • Hi Laura,

      Many individuals with scrupulosity find that their personal beliefs about God differ from the beliefs that their scrupulosity tries to impose on them. As you reintegrate back into your church, it might be helpful to do some belief clarification with a therapist who has expertise in scrupulosity.

      Wishing you the best with this!

      • Thank you for your response to my comments, Dr. Seay.

        Laura

        • Laura, I know your spiritual abuse far too well!

  13. Thank you Steven,

    This has been very helpful for me, I been suffering from the specific Scrupulous thoughts of, “Do I really believe in God” and, “Why do I believe what I believe?”. I have been diving feet first into Christian Apologetics and texts/books that help me to both strengthen my faith and and my philosophical and historical arguments for my faith and belief in God. This helps me immensely and even allows me to further strengthen my foundations in Christ however, these scrupulous thoughts still pain me often. Its really frustrating to feel so alone in these thoughts and just reading this discussion and article have been so helpful.

    Thank you!

    • Scrupulosity can be very difficult to manage. Glad the article and discussion have been helpful! Wishing you all the best with this…

  14. dr,great blog,i hv no idea how could u find out the symptoms which sufferer cant notify it easily,great work,i am ocd sufferer,i hv doubt abt god existence,some time i think god exist some times not,when i see human mental illness,science ,pet dogs,i used to think god does not exist,but when i think human soul,heart and brain,that make me believe god exist,i am fighting in between that,another one view of mine none of holy scripture is have enough words,enough miracle to make me believe,i think so,i hvnot read all of it, what should i do doctor,what s doctor opinion abt god existence.and whats ur advice for me doctor…

  15. My husband suffers from this since highschool. About all the symptoms named he has. He has it very bad. He’s medication has been doubled this year by a Physicatrist. Thanks for posting this. This helps me as his wife understand him better and give him the space he needs in order to get better instead of just adding more to it.
    Good thourough article.

  16. Dr. Seay,
    I have not yet been diagnosed with OCD or scrupulosity. But here is what my life has been like. At 6 years old I cried all of the time. I told my mother that my thoughts got all mixed up in my head. I would say I love the devil and hate God. This scared me so bad. But my mom was able to convince me that I didn’t really feel that way. I was always afraid of religious pictures. I had depression off and on all through high school, but my mom could talk me through it. When I was 17 I had a bad flu and mom moved be down stairs where I slept in the living room. She had the picture of Jesus knocking on the door with no doorknob and i was terrified of that picture. I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior when I was 16 years old. Things go better after that then when I was in my early 20′s we were attending a Baptist church and i started going forward every altar call believing that I wasn’t saved. This went on until I changed churches. I have been on antidepressants for 25 years and am still uncomfortable in church. I have better times and then really bad times. Sometimes when I pray, bad words will just come out in the prayer, needless to say this scares me to death. After so long of suffering this, I start to feel angry at God because He won’t deliver me from this and then that scares me to death. Does this sound like I could have scrupulosity? I am seeing a new doctor next week and would like to talk to him about this. Thank you for listening.

  17. Dr. Seay,
    I have not yet been diagnosed with OCD or scrupulosity. But here is what my life has been like. At 6 years old I cried all of the time. I told my mother that my thoughts got all mixed up in my head. I would say I love the devil and hate God. This scared me so bad. But my mom was able to convince me that I didn’t really feel that way. I was always afraid of religious pictures. I had depression off and on all through high school, but my mom could talk me through it. When I was 17 I had a bad flu and mom moved be down stairs where I slept in the living room. She had the picture of Jesus knocking on the door with no doorknob and i was terrified of that picture. I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior when I was 16 years old. Things go better after that then when I was in my early 20′s we were attending a Baptist church and i started going forward every altar call believing that I wasn’t saved. This went on until I changed churches. I have been on antidepressants for 25 years and am still uncomfortable in church. I have better times and then really bad times. Sometimes when I pray, bad words will just come out in the prayer, needless to say this scares me to death. After so long of suffering this, I start to feel angry at God because He won’t deliver me from this and then that scares me to death. Does this sound like I could have scrupulosity? I am seeing a new doctor next week and would like to talk to him about this. Thank you for listening.

  18. Thank you for the careful list of symptoms of scrupulosity. It helped me to strengthen my resistance to them. My best help has come from seroxat type treatment.

  19. I HAVE SCRUPULOSITY AND HAD FEARS OF BAD THINGS HAPPENING BECAUSE I WOULD GET MAD A T GOD AND PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE DEVIL AND THEN I WOULD CALM DOWN AFTER REALIZING WHAT I DID AND BEG FOR FORGIVENESS

  20. Hello,
    My son is 22 and is afraid of doing anything wrong in the fear that only perfect people go to heaven, the vast majority go to purgatory, and others to the fire of hell. I myself get very disturbed when the kids are told to read books like the visions of hell, about stigmata’s, etc. No amount of confession, discussion, proof, or critical thinking helps. Additionally since he has not heard God, Jesus, visions of Mary, the saints, or any other “miracles of the Catholic Church”, he feels he is not holy enough like Padre Pio, etc. like anything does wrong and he is thrown to the fires of hell. There is discussion of the dark knight of the soul in my house and I do not participate in this. The vast majority of discussion is on negativity focused on avoiding purgatory and hell, whereas I continuously say that God is endless love and if the sin is venial, confess, repent, and do the will of God. How can I possibly help my son in this environment, it is tearing up my house. And also, Catholicism is not one of the perfect criteria to go to heaven. Even having thoughts of looking at a female makes him not perfect and doomed based on what the saints say. Talking to my sister who was recommended yoga exercises by therapists due to a spinal cord injury is talking to the devil and should be avoid, this is driving me crazy, too extreme, and I believe is having a significant impact on my son.
    Thanks in advance

  21. omg, all those symptoms of scrupulosity match me. I have an excessive fear of going to hell and there are certain bible verses that enter my mind which makes me feel like I am not worthy of heaven. I am 21 and I am the only one in my family who became born-again on Jan 2013 and they don’t even know about it. I have a huge fear that my family members are going to hell and I am scared of sharing my faith with my family members because of my lack of confidence. I think the biggest mistake I’ve ever made was reading all of the near death experiences of people going to hell and I cannot get my mind off the torment that my family members and I can possibly suffer. I have anger towards god in my heart and sometimes I even regret getting saved. Scrupulosity is the worst mental torment ever.

  22. (continuation)

    Also, I am afraid of reading the bible, especially the old testament because I feel like god was so cruel which is blasphemy. I also have thoughts of God being so pompous and arrogant whenever I come across verses in the bible about God talking about his glory and holiness. I am literally afraid of opening up the bible because I don’t want to come across bible verses about hell. Revelations is the scariest chapter ever and I always avoid it. I have read about people feeling peace and joy when they read the bible. I only feel fear and anger whenever I start reading the bible. I sometimes wish I wasn’t born.

    • Pri, Don’t give up. Also, don’t be afraid to read the Bible especially the New Testament. Colossians Chapter 1 is good, and so is Ephesians 2:1-10. Also, odb.org is a good website. Jesus loves you. God and Jesus are both very merciful.

  23. Hi Steven
    Thanks for posting this information. I’ve recently detected

  24. I have had religious OCD for a while now too. It actually confuses me a lot. I sometimes don’t know what is real and what’s not. Lately, i keep worrying about making a vow of celibacy, but Im married! I’ll start to think if I do a certain thing it will mean that so sometimes I will deliberately think or pray that it doesn’t mean anything or Im not doing it as long as i do or dom’t do some other thing. Even though it is a result of my OCD if i deliberately say that to make myself feel better or be able to do what I want and i don’t follow through, will God hold me to that? I keep coming across scriptures about keeping vows and following Christ and I’m worried

  25. I don’t want to make a vow just to clarify

  26. Hey Steve ,
    Your posts are gold , what you are doing is wonderful
    God bless you for this , iv already made immense
    Progress following act therapy and not ritualizing but
    One thing I haven’t been able to understand is what
    Beleif do you hold when you commit yourself that
    Okay a mistake is made , or you didnt deal the
    Situation in the right way or any such thought ,
    How do you walk away from OCD with your head
    Held high, what belief should you hold , thanks a ton
    In advance

  27. Your site and advice is extremely helpful. I have suffered with scrupulosity for the past 10 months and it is very challenging. Thank you for your wise and comforting insight.

  28. All said and done what is the therapy regimen for someone who is undergoing crippling hindrance and drag in becoming functional in his life even in such trivial matters as typing , composing email , entering web page address , classwork research, learning programming and keeping things organized by sorting them out, piling up clothes neatly. The person is already on medication for almost 13 years.

  29. I am stressed about what is right or wrong according to god and is unable to take decisions as per my wish. I have been diagnosed with ocd & right now I m on mediaction & therapy. Many a times I have seen god in my dreams & I feel he is indicating me something. I am not able to deny such dreams believing that they are real. Whenever I want to focus on any work these thoughts fully trap me & I am unable to do any kind of work. Pls guide & also tell me what should be my concept of god ?

  30. I was happy to find your web page. I have suffered severely over the past 7 years. One day I began to have doubt if Christianity maybe wasn’t real. This led me to conclude that I must not believe in Jesus (nor had my faith in him anymore). The emotional pain I felt from thinking I didn’t believe in God or what if he wasn’t real has been overwhelming. My belief system of no faith in Jesus means I am damned. I sought help a few weeks back and was told I had OCD. I had spent much time these past years trying to read all sorts of apologetics thinking it would resolve my doubt. I prayed, sought church council, and did all sort of things in hopes I could break past my doubt. The doublt of my faith and now uncertaintiy of “do I really believe” has bothered me almost endlessly. I realize I do have OCD, but with matters of less imporantance than eternal life and faith I do fine (in the sense of functioning and not obsessing to any harmful level). Since my faith was the center of who I was and my relationship with God was paramount, this issue has obviously been excruciating.

    I hope you can provide some suggestions. I was prescribed Zoloft…but decided not to take it. I’m not sure how good these meds are for OCD of scrupolulosity (which I suppose I could have). I tried one day and felt pretty sick. Also, do you agree that my circling over and over about my doubt is scrupulosity OCD. I often wonder why I just can’t take the step I once took before when I first was saved in 1991. Why did doubt kick in after 15 years of no doubt. So I ask myself what is holding me back when I am fully wanting to give my heart, mind and soul over to God. When I read the bible before I believed everything…now I read it and part of me wonders did it really happen. I think since I believe greater certainty will solve my dilema…it must be OCD scrupulosity in particular? What do you think, any suggestions or thoughts would be most apprecaited??

    • Chris

      For the past two months I have been tortured with the same thing. I have been a born again believer since I was 11. I’am now 34. One day out of the clear blue this thought popped into my head about the existence of God. This thought terrified me and I immediately began to pray. However, this thought never left my mind, and I have fought with it day and night. It has caused me to fall in a very deep depression, and like you, I pray, read the Bible, and continue to go Church, only to find the thought even stronger. My church family tells me it is spiritual warfare, but I’ve also been told that it is a neurological disorder in our brains causing us to doubt unnecessarily. What I’m not sure about is wether God would condemn us for doubt that really I feel is out of my control. I haven’t been prescribed medicine yet, but i’am definately going to do everything I can to make this go away. I think what we should do is pray hard, and have everyone around us pray hard too. I will be praying for you to find an end to your doubt. Even though God seems far away, he is probably closer to us than we think.

      • Robin,

        I have the same problem. I have always had a mind that drives itself crazy if I cant figure something out and/or Have proof. ( Mind of an Engineer )LOL. I have avoided church service for years now because sometimes I wonder or Cannot Comprehend The Existence of GOD. Its the worst feeling in the world to know the truth but cannot convince yourself of it. I will Pray that your Questions are answered and Your doubt relieved.

  31. Dr. Seay,

    I have been struggling with OCD for the past year now. At first I was totally lost. I thought it was a spiritual attack and had gone to see many pastors trying to be delivered. My primary pastor told me he thought there my be a physical aspect to this and recommended I see my doctor. My doctor was not very helpful and the struggle went on. Finally one day while doing some research online I came across symptoms of OCD. I was so relived to see there were others going thru the same thing as me. Since then I have done a little research and my struggle has been on and off. I have noticed a cycle though, I will have something trigger a thought, I will stew over that thought then a day or so later the intrusive thoughts will follow. After the intrusive thoughts I start to experience a lot of symptoms of anxiety i.e. dizziness, lightheaded, headache, floaty feeling. After this it goes away again until the next trigger. The last part is the worst. Its during those times that the fear and the thoughts going on in my head are the worst. Its during these times I’m convinced that this is more than OCD, afterwards I think its just Ocd. I love God with all my heart and accepted Christ as my savior at age 14. I know God can heal all things even if it were more than OCD. Is what I am experiencing normal? any feedback would be helpful

  32. I’m not sure if what I do is ocd or something else. I constantly think about blinking. That my right eye means 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. 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.

  33. I have recently been diagnosed with this type of OCD as well as other Pure-O types. I was raised in a church that Taught the wrath of god instead of the love of god. I have been taught how to look like im a christian but have never really been taught what is is to be a christian. This sort of upbringing + Religious OCD is one of the hardest things I have had to tackle; before I read the symptoms I just thought my constant fear and Thought Process was Normal. It is nice to know a little more about it now , Knowledge is what we need to help ourselves. Thank You, Its nice to know im not alone in the world with this condition because sometimes it seems that way.

  34. hello,
    i have been struggling with ocd and doubt for many years.
    i am terribly hopeless and depressed.
    nothing offers any comfort. the bible says without faith you
    cant please God and Jesus said you must not doubt in your heart.
    i looked up the greek words used for heart in the bible and it
    means the same as mind. this means that there is NO distinction
    between doubts in the mind and doubts in the heart!
    this absolutely crushed me. this means if a person has doubts in
    her mind then this is the same as doubting in the heart. this means
    i do not have a hidden faith! some preachers say you can have faith
    in the heart and doubt in the mind at the same time. but i cannot find this in the bible!
    i feel so terrible. why does the bible not offer any comfort or solutions for doubts? the bible only condemns doubts. this only makes my doubts worse. no christians seem to understand this torment. they dont have answers. i seeked for help at so many places nobody can help me. it’s so terrible. for me being a christian makes me suffer even more.

    • Eric,
      I have had OCD since childhood. Throughout the years it has manifested itself different ways. Only since September of 2013, has it affected me spiritually. I was saved in 1991, and have always been a believer in Christ. That is why it has been devastating for me to have thoughts doubting him. You are right, it is impossible to please God without faith, and Jesus does instruct us to not doubt, but I also believe that those of us with OCD cannot help or control what is happening to our minds. We obviously do not want these thoughts, or they would not terrify us so badly. OCD is a chemical imbalance in the brain. There are parts of our brains that do not function the same as people without OCD. We are blessed to have a God that is loving, patient, merciful, and longsuffering. Trust me, he understands what we are going through. Jesus felt OCD and all other sicknesses and sins at the cross. He has already defeated this illness. If you have been born again, you are sealed with God’s Holy Spirit. Nothing can take that away. God knows that we are suffering, and I do not believe that he would condemn us to hell for having a mental illness. If we simply didn’t believe anymore, we wouldn’t care, and we would not be bothered by our thoughts. My advice to you, and anyone else suffering with this illness is, please read your Bible everyday. Faith comes by hearing and reading the word of God. If you don’t have a church, find one, and go every chance you get. Spend personal time with God through prayer. Do your best to be obedient to his word. Doing these things shows God that you have enough faith to do your best to live according to his ways. God will honor that. Also, I have been on medication for 2 months now, and it has helped me tremendously. Although I still have the thoughts, I’am no longer depressed and anxious. The medicine has made it easier for me to deal with the illness. I have been praying for myself and others that are living with this type of OCD. God will deliver us from this, and remember, if you have accepted Christ in your heart, you are saved.

  35. ImprisonedBrain,

    I understand what you’re going through and how you’re feeling, but please stop avoiding church. When this hit me last September, I was terrified to go to church because of thoughts I would have and the anxiety from the thoughts, but then I realized by not attending church, I was allowing Satan to be victorious. That is exactly what he wants to accomplish; keeping God’s children from serving. If you don’t have a church, find one and go. Hearing God’s word is the only way to increase your faith and become victorious over this illness. By avoiding church, you are allowing Satan to win the battle. If you are afraid because you have doubts, go anyway. Pray for God to open your heart and mind to his truth. God does not turn away anyone who wants to come to him. If you have not accepted Christ into your heart, do not wait. Pray to him and tell him that you believe that he died on the cross to forgive your sins, and ask him to be your Saviour. If you have already done that, then you are saved and sealed to the end. It is possible that we may live with this type of OCD for the rest of our lives, but it doesn’t mean that we have to let it control us. Let’s show God that we have enough faith by staying in church, reading his word everyday, meditating on scripture, and establishing a relationship with him through prayer. Do your best to live an obedient life according to God’s word. The Lord is faithful, and if we show him that same faith, he will help us with this battle. Please, you are not helping yourself by avoiding church. I will be praying for you, and God bless!

  36. Hi all,
    I’ve been suffering from panic disorder and OCD for many years. I seem to have many symptoms of “religious” OCD that can prove lethal as that gives me severe panic attacks that last for many hours at a stretch.
    It’s like I feel so guilty of being able to fight this on my own but my mind keeps telling me only God or any spiritually gifted being can save me from this, to avoid treatment and wait for a divine miracle. I might be dead before that happens!!! Any advice?

  37. Hi Keesh,

    Please go and get treatment. There is nothing wrong with getting medication for anxiety or an antidepressant. God created the minds of our doctors and gave them the knowledge to know what medicines help us. You should not have to suffer, and trust me, God doesn’t want you to suffer either. I suffered 4 months of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. I was afraid to take medications, but at the urging of my church family, I finally went for help. I was put on Zoloft and Ativan for depression and anxiety, and after 2 months, I finally began to feel better. Remember, OCD is a mental illness. That is something you are not at fault for, and God will not hold you accountable for something out of your control. Our God is loving, merciful, and longsuffering, and he wants you to get better. Please take my advice. Get into church, pray everyday, read your Bible, and if you are not saved, take care of that now! Ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, and tell him you believe that he died on the cross to take away your sins. Also, go and get help. You will be okay, and you will get through this. God’s grace is sufficient!! I will be praying for you. Hope this was helpful. God bless!!

  38. I recently found out after visiting a psychiatrist and looking up my symptoms online, that I am OCD. Thing is I have always had this, all of my life even when I was a child alwys obsessed over something whether it was some TV show even getting severely emotional if I couldn’t get home in time to watch certain programs I was into, via Power Rangers, Pokemon, Digimon, etc. When I was 14, I seem to come down, (though I don’t know if you can call it something you come down with.) scrupulosity. This was perhaps one of the most scary times of my life, I thought I wanted to hurt God and be n the devils side. I thought if I didn’t eat my food a certain way or wash my hands a certain way or walk a certain way, that demons would attack my family, God, or strangers I didn’t know. After a few months I began to a year,I seemed to get over it to a degree, but not entirely. In 2008, my obsession went to the thoughts that I was talking to Satan in my mind. I didn’t want to, but I would make deals with him in my mind, I would not even know why, I just would, If I thought I had made some deal with him in my mind I would get in a panic. This has lasted up till now. As of the last couple of months, I now am in a state of making deals with God in my head, this was in the same principle of things such as asking the devil to make bad things happen to me only this time replace the factor with God. I keep asking God that if he can make me remember petty things that he can make something bad happen to me that I deserve, sometimes I have even put time limit on it say 3 weeks or so. The last time I did this was over a month ago, when I said it in my head I constantly said “No deal, No deal,” over and over again. Within the next 3 weeks, I was terrified of what wold happen, that crunching 3 week time clock. Two weeks ago, the deadline that I put had past and nothing happened. I was relieved, but I keep doing it. Last night I did it again in order to remember a thouhgt I was having 5 minutes before. Is this all in my head and symptom of OCD? I really hope so, Am I remembering things on my own? I am really miserable.

  39. Hi Tanner,

    It sounds like to me you are dealing with OCD. Your symptoms are much different from mine, but I’m sure the horrible anxiety that comes with it is much the same. God does not want you to be going through this. Our relationship with him should be an enjoyable, loving relationship, not something we fear or feel like we have to make deals or perform rituals to please him. That is not even biblical. I would go and talk to a doctor about what your experiencing. I’m on a regular dose of an antidepressant, and let me tell you, it has helped me tremendously. Just know that God loves you, and does not want you to have OCD. You can overcome this, and know also that if you have asked Jesus to be your Lord and Saviour, then you are heaven bound. If you have not yet surrendered your heart to God, then do so now. Ask Jesus to come into your heart and cleanse you of your sins. I will be praying for you, Tanner. God bless!

  40. I have been dealing with this almost my entire childhood.
    It started with intrusive cursing thoughts directed at God, and I was so ashamed that I didn’t want to admit it to anybody.
    Finally, I opened up to my parents and therapist. Sometimes it’s hard because I know my family tries to understand, but it’s nearly impossible when you’ve never experienced it.
    Right now, I am in my late teens, and every single day is a struggle. I feel like God is going to get angry with me for doing simple things that other people wouldn’t have to think twice about. It causes me to feel extremely confined by my ocd, because my daily routines become an obstacle course, since I feel like God will get mad at me for doing silly, everyday things.
    Currently, I am challenging my ocd by ignoring the thoughts that God will get mad at me, because deep down I know it’s not true. I’m sick of being held back, and even though its tough, I am doing everything in my power to ignore what pops into my head. It’s comforting to know Im not the only person going through this, and I know God won’t get mad at me.

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