Scrupulosity Compulsions - Common Compulsions of Religious OCD - Treating Scrupulosity

Scrupulosity Compulsions - Common Compulsions of Religious OCD - Treating Scrupulosity

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In this episode, we are going to continue our discussion on Religious OCD or Scrupulosity OCD. Specifically, we are going to discuss the different behavior rituals or compulsions commonly associated with Scrupulosity OCD.

Again, scrupulosity is one of the various subsets of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that can be identified in individuals who experience repetitive, intrusive thoughts (otherwise known as obsessions) surrounding a discrepancy in their religious or moral beliefs.

In this episode, I will be covering how prayer is often used as compulsions and how to start to notice if you are using prayer as a compulsion.




All right. Hey there. And welcome to another episode where we are going to talk about religious OCD. And so for those of you that don't know me, my name is Matt Codde. I'm a licensed clinical social worker and the founder of restored minds. And so on this episode, we're going to continue on from our last episode, um, where we are really talking about religious OCT and often that's called scrupulosity or really anxieties, you know, that are related to our religious beliefs. And so in the last episode, we talked about a very important distinction when we're encountering this particular struggle. And I shared that this was a big part of my own personal struggle, right. Um, and one of the biggest distinctions that we can make is the difference between our religious beliefs and our fears about our religious beliefs, right? Because when we believe that this is a problem, that is our letters, our, you know, religious beliefs, and that's the only problem we're dealing with.


And we don't realize we're dealing with a problem related to fear. We're always going to treat the problem. Like it's a religious problem in the same way. If we have a fear of getting AIDS, well, we're always going to treat it like it's a problem related to AIDS. Right. And I know that that might be a hard thing to separate. And, you know, if you're dealing with this, it might be like, well, that's really easy to separate when it comes to the, you know, disease, but with religion, it's like, it's this, you know? And, and so we need to remember that with OCD and anxiety, whatever we're afraid of is always going to feel very real, right. But if you've talked to people that are, you know, in your congregation or in your, you know, specific religious realm and, you know, you're watching or listening to this episode and, you know, you're, you're sitting there and you've gotten to this point where you're starting to learn about things like religious OCD and scrupulosity, you mean, chances are, this could be, you know, something that you might want to consider.


And, and it's the idea that what you're afraid of is not actually the problem. The fact that you're afraid of it is right. And separating this as a fear issue, because if it's a fear issue, then we deal with it much differently than if it was a religious issue. Right. So just making that distinction. But what I want to talk about in this episode are some of the behaviors that are really common, right? That not only that I engage in, but I watch many of my clients engage in as well. And many people that deal with this, I want to talk about just some of the behaviors, because these are some of the things that, you know, I want you to just kind of had like mentally check to see if you're doing these things right, because these are kind of, um, things that I would look for and common behaviors that people would engage in that deal with religious OCD or scrupulosity.


So, um, one of the common things that we're going to see with people who deal with scrupulosity is a lot of them praying now praying a part of many people's lives, right. Mine included. And one of the things is, is that because it's a common behavior and a common practice in a person's religious and faith, right. Religious beliefs and faith, it doesn't mean that it can't become a compulsion. That's keeping you sick. Right. And this is, this is a hard distinction for people, right? Because, you know, when we need to realize that any behavior can really become a compulsion that can keep that loop going that I talked about in the last episode, prayer being one of them. And when you're praying consistently, right. On a loop about the same thing over and over and over and over and over, you know, we need to separate the idea between what is faith and what is a fear-driven behavior, right.


And, and this is, this is where, you know, I often will get in, um, you know, kind of clashes. I don't want to say conflict. It's just kind of like debates with, with clients because, you know, they'll quote passages in the Bible, like, Hey, you know, you need to pray without ceasing, right. And, um, you know, any and all fears, you know, lift them to God, right. And, um, or present them. Right. And in they'll quote these passages and the passages justify them to keep engaging in the behaviors. But again, we need to go back to the idea of what is the problem that we're dealing with. And if we're dealing with an fear and anxiety problem, if we're engaging in behaviors that reinforce that fear, our brain is going to keep sending off that fear signal, which is going to keep us trapped in that loop.


And if you've been struggling with something for an extended period of time, call it weeks or months, you know, and you just are locked on this idea and you keep praying about it and praying about it. There's a difference between having faith and engaging in a, in a behavior that's related to your faith in a compulsive way. And, um, and one thing that I always talk about with my clients, because this is one of the realizations that I had on my own journey, and this may or may not be something that you relate to, but it's something that I just want to share when I was dealing with my own scrupulosity. One of the things that I kind of came to the realization was that I really broke myself out of that loop was the idea that God doesn't operate in fear, right? Like God doesn't operate in uncertainty, you know?


Um, and, and in biblical, you know, in biblical, um, you know, scripture, right. And, you know, again, this is operating in the Christian context, just so you know, but I mean, it's, um, God doesn't present with uncertainty. Right. You know, he doesn't, he doesn't have confusion around, um, you know, uh, around his, his will. Right. I mean, there is no confusion and that, and that's the thing. When you talk about anxiety, it's always about doubt and uncertainty and confusion. Right. And also, you know, when you, you talk about fear and love, when you talk about having a relationship with God, um, that fear doesn't drive relationship right. Loved us. Right. And when we are driven out of fear in everything we're doing, and we're doing, compulsion's out of fear, we need to realize that that's not a loving relationship. Right. And, you know, and in my personal belief, right.


You know, God is looking for loving relationships and connections with people, right. Not, not fear-driven behaviors where you're scared all the time. And so realizing if your driving forces fear, right. That, that actually, you know, at least from, from my own beliefs is not the relationship that God's looking for with people. Right. And again, I'm not, I'm not, um, you know, telling you that I'm an ordained minister or anything like that. But what I am saying is, is that, like, I, I've worked with a lot of people who wrestle with these fears and going back to why you're doing something as important, right. The intention behind what you're doing, right. If you're trying to pray to manipulate God, to do this thing so that you don't feel afraid, well, that's very different than acting out of faith. Right. It's like, you know, you're, it's almost like a vending machine.


Like, well, I'm going to pray and then God's going to handle this. And that will be good. Right. And I'll feel better. And, and, you know, in biblical context that that's just not, you know, at least from what I understand, that's just not the relationship that God's looking for people. Right. Or like the kind of relationship God's looking for, um, individuals. Right. And because this is in the context of scrupulosity, it's just kind of important to talk about these concepts. So prayer, you know, is, is obviously a huge compulsion that people will engage in, which often means that I have to, you know, have people cease, praying about certain topics because they'll pray about them repetitively, and that will actually keep them stuck in that loop. Right. Other, um, you know, behaviors include things like, you know, avoidance, right? Some people avoid going to church because they have blasphemous thoughts that pop in their head at church.


So they'll avoid going to church. Well, again, the problem is not the content of the thoughts that you're having. The problem is that you're afraid of the thoughts. So avoiding, going to churches, going to feel that cycle. Right. And then also things like reassurance are huge. Compulsion's that people engage in and they'll go and ask the same questions to their family members, or, you know, their ministers or pastors. And they'll just ask the same question on loop again and again and again, and again, and again and again, that is not a faith driven behavior. That is a fear-driven behavior, and really asking yourself why you do something is very important to your recovery in this, because if you are doing something out of fear, that's, that's not out of faith, right. And fear and faith, they, they, you know, those are, those are two different things and, and separating that for yourself as important.


Um, and so when we, when we talk about scrupulosity and religious OCD, um, and, and just anxiety around our religious beliefs, um, understanding your intent is important and then understanding the behaviors you're engaging in. So just to quickly list a, a couple more, because I know I got a little segue there, um, when it came to the idea of prayer, but that's obviously one of the biggest ones that people engage in and it could be silent, or it could be ritualistic, you know, and a lot of people get caught up on having to pray perfectly, right? Like they have to say the exact words, right. And if they mess up, they have to start over and things like that. But obviously reading, you know, religious texts, especially, um, you know, ha having rules that you have to follow, right. That kind of you make up in your mind, like you can't mess up or even having to read it at certain times.


Um, and, and, and this is the thing is that one of the struggles with scrupulosity and no city is people can hide in these behaviors as being a faithful person. Right. They can always, and usually people will say that to me. Right. So when, when we start working together, well, they'll tell me, well, my faith is really important to me. And it's like, well, I can't deny that. Right. It's like, obviously, okay. You know? Yes. But what will happen is, is they'll use that as reasons to keep doing their compulsion, which keep them stuck. And that's one of the biggest challenges that I come across with dealing with people with this particular fear is they are unwilling to separate the two for themselves, so they can hide in certain things and actually keep themselves stuck. And that's why the only person that can get someone better is themselves.


Um, and then when it comes to religious city and scrupulosity, it's so important to ask yourself, you know, why are you doing something and, and realize that any real behavior can become a compulsion. So things like avoidance, things like reassurance, things like praying, reading scripture, um, and in, you know, a multitude of other things, right. Only listening to certain music, right? Not listening to music, not watching certain movies. Um, these are, these are all different things that can become compulsions. So if this is something you're dealing with, it's important that you understand the, the right cognitive techniques to do right. You know, when these thoughts are popping up to understand what the problem is, you're really dealing with the separate, the two, and ultimately to really start ceasing the behaviors that are keeping this loop going. Now we have more resources available for you if it's something that you're dealing with over at restored minds.


And so I really encourage you to check those out. Um, we also appreciate, you know, if you found this episode helpful to like, and subscribe and, um, you know, show your support by commenting and sharing as well, um, because it's just helpful to get it out to people. So, um, with that said, you know, hopefully this, this episode provided some clarity on different behaviors, um, that, you know, people engage in when it comes to scrupulosity and religious OCD. And, um, you know, we're going to continue this series, um, where we're going to talk about existential fears as well, which again are, you know, still fall in that same category. So thank you so much for hanging out with us today. Hope you found it helpful, and we will see you guys next week as we continue this series,


Take care.

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