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  • Writer's pictureThe OCD Catholic

Let's Get Into It!

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that at least some of you have at least some questions about OCD/scrupulosity. I’m going to try to answer the most typical questions the best that I can in this post, but I am hoping to do a “Q and A/FAQ” type of post in the future. So don’t be shy about asking questions! I am happy to answer them! Leave a comment, email, direct/Facebook message me, fill out the contact form on my home page, anything like that to leave questions you may have for me.

Please note I am not a mental health professional in any capacity. What is written below is based on some personal research to better understand my condition, as well as personal lived experience, as well as quotes and other information from qualified individuals and/or institutions. I do my best to pull from reputable sources, but I'm only human and humans make mistakes.

So, with that said…

What is OCD?

If you don’t already know about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or even if you do, I’d highly recommend checking out the Mayo Clinic’s page defining and describing it. If you don’t have time for all that reading, here is one of the highlights I grabbed from them:

“Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) features a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress.”

For example, we all can think of the stereotypes of people who have to check that the stove is off precisely 15 times before going to bed, or have their sticky notes perfectly parallel to each other, etc. OCD doesn’t look like that all the time, but it helps to give some context.

Is there a difference between OCD and scrupulosity, and if so, what is it?

Now that you have an idea of what I’m talking about when I say OCD, you may be wondering what the difference is (if any) between OCD and scrupulosity. Scrupulosity is a type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that affects how a person perceives their standing in the eyes of God, and how sinful they think they are or are not. A person who is scrupulous still has obsessions and compulsions, but they tend be more religiously or morally focused. Catholic Answers puts it well in this article and says this when defining scrupulosity: “The scrupulous person is anxious that he has committed a sin when in fact he has not or is convinced that his venial sins are mortal when they are not.” For example, someone who is scrupulous might do the following:

  • Avoid Confession

  • Go to Confession too frequently

  • Repeat the same sins over and over again in Confession after having been absolved of those sins previously

  • Avoid Holy Communion

  • Repeat prayers over and over again until they get them “right”

  • A combination of, or all of, the above

Again, the reality is that scrupulosity doesn’t look like this for everyone all the time, but these are some typical responses to the intrusive thoughts that OCD presents to the scrupulous person.

Can OCD/scrupulosity be treated?

Yes, OCD/scrupulosity is absolutely treatable! For some, all they need is a regular confessor and/or spiritual director (kind of like a personal trainer for your spiritual life) to keep them accountable to not give in to the obsessions and subsequent compulsions they may experience. This is most typical in cases where the scrupulosity is the only way OCD manifests itself in a person, or in cases that are more mild.

Others, like me, rely on a therapist, spiritual director, regular confessor, and medication to be treated more effectively. One of the reasons for this is that OCD may be affecting other areas of one’s life aside from their faith, like we saw above with the stove and sticky notes example, or because a case is more severe. Or because a little extra precaution never hurt anyone. But that could be the OCD talking….

All joking aside, there is absolutely something to be done if scrupulosity is your personal cross! We’ve come a long way from the mental health treatments of the late 1800’s, when St. Therese lived, and treatments continue to improve as science improves.

How is OCD/scrupulosity treated?

This is an important question, especially if you have OCD. You can’t “pray away” an illness, unless God grants you a miracle. Definitely pray for healing, because prayer is important, but in most instances, this is just your particular cross to bear. The treatments for OCD can be different than those for scrupulosity, since OCD has different manifestations. But since one of those is scrupulosity, and that is what this blog is dedicated to, I’ll focus on that today. There are two categories of treatment that I have found common- the spiritual, and the clinical.

Spiritual treatments include (but are not limited to):

  • · Receiving spiritual direction from a priest or other qualified individual such as a religious sister or brother or a certified lay spiritual director, and following their advice as closely as you can. Easier said than done.

  • Having a regular confessor. It’s not comfy, but healing isn’t about comfort. If your spiritual director is a priest, he can be your confessor. This is preferable to a different priest. Your confessor should preferably have experience in dealing with scrupulous penitents, but this isn’t always an option and that is OKAY. Any priest at your parish should be able to refer you to a good confessor, if not himself.

  • In addition to having a regular confessor, it is important to follow the instructions he gives you.

Clinical treatments include (but are not limited to):

  • Talk therapy

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  • Exposure and Repetition Therapy

  • Medication

Again, I am not a mental health professional in any capacity, so talk to your doctor about what is best for you if you are struggling!

These are some of the most important bases to cover before diving into anything else, but again, PLEASE feel free to contact me with questions through our social media, email, the contact form at the bottom of my home page, or in the comments if you think I missed something. I would love to hear from you and answer whatever is on your mind!

I am praying for you.

St. Therese, pray for us.

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