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  • Writer's pictureThe OCD Catholic

When you're scrupulous and afraid of Confession.



A huge stereotype of scrupulosity is that the person suffering goes to Confession very frequently, often several times a week or even daily. This makes sense, because the obsession is that the soul of the suffering person is not clean. The ensuing compulsion is then to go to Confession to ensure its cleanliness. Many of you who read this blog may be that person. You might get in the Confession line as often as you can for fear of having committed a mortal sin. But this post is not about that. It’s about what it’s like to suffer from scrupulosity and AVOID the Sacrament of Reconciliation.


That doesn’t sound right, does it? How can you be scrupulous and not go to Confession frequently? Well, let me share this phenomenon with you.


There have been few times where I didn’t have issues going to Confession. Most of my life has been spent avoiding the “sin bin”, as one of the former priests of my parish calls it, and not enjoying any aspect of it except for the feeling of relief sometimes associated with absolution. Even from the time of my first Confession, I would get anxious and do everything I could not to go. I still do. I know that it is a beautiful gift of the Mercy of God, but I have anxiety. So it’s not easy for me. That’s okay.


I have never met anyone else who is scrupulous, yet who struggles to go to Confession, and who even avoids it like I do. But I know there has to be someone out there. Right?


The Struggle

When you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that manifests in scruples, often Confession is the compulsion to relieve the anxiety from the obsessions about sin, like we talked about above. But what about when you have an aversion to Confession? What then? What’s the compulsion? The obsession is likely the same- the state of distress over the perceived and false reality that one’s soul is stained by mortal sin. I don’t know what to tell you about what the compulsion may or may not be that a person might use to cope instead of running to the confessional, but I do know this: it is one lonely and dark place to be.


I’ll use myself as an example. I will obsess over a mortal sin, and think that I need to go to Confession. But I don’t want to go. I have all of the typical fears associated with Confession. The priest will yell at me, I won’t be absolved, my confession won’t be valid, I’ll leave out a mortal sin by mistake, you name it, I’ve been afraid of it. So what do I do? I give into my fear. I avoid the “sin bin” at all costs, and refuse myself Communion in the meantime. Why? Because I think I’m in a state of mortal sin and therefore unable to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord in the Eucharist. Enter the loneliness that is one of the burdens of this cross. My flawed thinking in this is that if I can't turn to God, I can turn to no one, and therefore am truly alone.


The cycle continues until eventually enough is enough and it’s time to put on my big girl pants and go to the Sacrament of Penance like the adult I am. So I get in the line. When my illness was at its worst point, I would be in line and be so anxious that I would sweat profusely (gross), feel like my throat was closing up, shake, rock back and forth, and have trouble breathing without really focusing. One day I held in tears as I waited and waited. I clutched my keys with a death grip until finally I was in the hot seat. I was nauseous. Next up. As I waited for my confessor to become available, per my spiritual directors instructions, I was in full-on panic mode. Even as I write this, I can remember it all vividly. I waited, and when it was finally my turn, I got up and said to the next person that they could go, because I wasn’t going to after all. That person asked kindly if I was sure and I said yes. I walked out of the church trying to hold in my tears until I reached my car. I finally got in and let the tears fall.


I was humiliated. I was frustrated. I had come so close, and yet failed so miserably. Now I’d have to tell my director that I’d failed. He’d be disappointed. More importantly, God was disappointed. I knew I couldn’t avoid it forever to still be in good standing with the Church. I was not at all relieved the way I hoped I would be after avoiding my fear. I sat in the car and cried for a few minutes, hoping no one would bother me, before going home and crying on the way back as well.


The worst thing about this was that there was no one out there who seemed to be struggling like I was. All the articles about what to do when you have scruples seemed to address people who fit the stereotype.


The other thing that so frustrated me was the seemingly vicious cycle of scrupulosity that kept on going and going and going. I would be scared of committing a mortal sin. I would think I had committed a mortal sin. I would know I needed to go to Confession. I would go and then leave before entering the confessional. Or I would go to and receive the Sacrament, only to worry that it was invalid, and therefore start this cycle all over again. It was exhausting.


How do you get over fear of Confession? I haven’t. I still avoid going if I can, truth be told. When I do go, I bring my boyfriend with me. He whispers in my ear as we wait, and tells me everything is going to be okay, or makes a joke to distract me. I fidget as much as I feel I need to get the stress out of my body. Then we get ice cream afterwards, because I need to be rewarded for going. The only other things I can tell you that help are to be sure you are going to the same confessor, per the cliché advice, because you will likely have a very similar experience time and time again, in addition to the reassurance that you can be forgiven if the same priest absolves you each time. The second is the classic “face your fear”. It may not be easier every time, but every time you go successfully, it will prove to you that you can do the things you think you are incapable of.


I am praying for you all.

St. Therese, pray for us.

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19 Comments


patbtex
Mar 28

Thank you. It is somehow reassuring to know that others are experiencing this. I am crying tears of relief reading the article and all the comments. By the way, there is such a thing as "avoidance OCD" so what we are experiencing makes sense.

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1953barbaraking
Jan 29, 2023

I would like to join in some way with other scrupulous people .I am nearly 70 and seem to be getting worse and worse .I have never known a scrupulous other in person ,have been scrupulous to varying degrees since childhood .

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tabernacle246
Aug 24, 2023
Replying to

I suffer from this disease. I suffer from OCD. It bothers me so severely that during the Liturgy my mind is not on the readings and this provokes me

Find only one good confessor and stay with only one. Why? Because he knows your background and if you go to another priest you have to start all over again. I offer my OCD for the poor soul in purgatory. You may text me for other particulars. Email: tabernacle246@gmail.com. God bless you


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1953barbaraking
Jan 14, 2023

This is me .To get from the car,across the church, into the confession line and into the confessional is major and sometimes I haven't made it .Thank you so much .It is so lonely

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1953barbaraking
Jan 29, 2023
Replying to

As above

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Litzy Rios
Litzy Rios
Oct 31, 2022

Here’s my update, I can’t say I’m fully healed of OCD but I’m doing a lot better. There’s a quote that has helped me very much. It’s “Humility consists, not in condemning our conscience, but in recognizing Gods Grace and Compassion. - St. Paraskevi

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Mary Cote
Mary Cote
Sep 22, 2022

I’m Scrupulous-ocd, AND afraid of Confession!!😳😬😔🤷🏻‍♀️ And no one understands, not even my husband(also Catholic, but non-scrupulous), or my dearest friend who is a deep Catholic.🤷🏻‍♀️😞 It’s really hard, sometimes to tears.😢

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