When Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Meets Religion

When I was 12, I was approached by someone. He introduced himself to me, and since then He always stuck around. He taught me about the way I should feel towards my morals, objects around me, people I already knew and people I’d meet. Most importantly, He taught me about myself. The never-ending flaws that needed correcting. He took it easy at first, always gave me second chances to do ordinary things, sometimes even more chances until I got it just right. He made it so my body would feel incomplete without doing things just the way He liked them, and when I finally did it right, He gave me relief. Sometimes I would become frustrated with him because it would exhaust me to keep doing things the way He liked them. I would feel bound to him as if my mind could not rest until his requests were met. He was controlling and never kept his promises. Sometimes He would promise me if I did everything right the right number of times in the right way He would let me stop for good, but He never did. As time went on, He started to become less lenient with me demanding more, wanting to be in every aspect of my life and doing everything He could to achieve this.

When I got older, my family went through a difficult time. He said He wanted to comfort me. He wanted to make it easier for me so when I knelt down to pray for my family, He wanted to make sure I did it the right way, His way. Sometimes He would make me doubt things, like who I was praying to. I needed to repeat God’s name, and I was reassured by him that now I was indeed praying to God and not the Devil. He was there all the time, whatever the situation. Anything around me could trigger disturbing thoughts in my mind, thoughts that cursed God, thoughts that I was convinced would have consequences that would harm my family. I started to question the sincerity of this man. I wondered why it was so necessary to do things his way and why I always felt so distressed afterwards. If He was helping me, why did the thoughts get worse when I was done obeying his commands? Why did it never end?  I soon realized this man’s promises were lies.

I was being blackmailed. Still, when I tried to fight back, He leaned closer and whispered, “If you curse me, you curse God.”

When I first started having symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), it was unimaginable to think I could live the rest of my life this way. Completing a set of exhausting rituals with temporary relief followed by more anxiety.

I became trapped in a vicious cycle: Praying not to die for thoughts too unthinkable to mention, thoughts I did not feel in control of but took absolute responsibility for. Praying I would not experience condemnation, hell.

OCD can make you feel like you are never going to be a good enough person because no matter how hard you try, you never feel as if you do anything right or well enough to be truly happy, to find relief. Most disturbingly it can take something pure, enjoyable or important to you and turn it into something ugly and distressing.

The most popular mainstream ideas about what OCD is often include obsessive cleanliness, tidiness, organization and checking. Indeed, these are symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder that have a great impact on people’s lives, but there are other manifestations that don’t fit this category, making your obsessive and compulsive patterns less understood, leaving you to feel truly alone.

I’d rarely heard about the role OCD could play in religion, but when I finally did, I found out that it had name. Scrupulosity.

If you are experiencing this, you are not alone. Don’t struggle in silence because you might feel ashamed of your thoughts. They are part of this condition, and there is help available.  For more information about scrupulosity visit this website.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Thinkstock photo by Brian A Jackson

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