Religious OCD: The hidden variety of OCD

By Sofia Rojas, 10th Grade

Religious OCD is a type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that causes a person to obsess over spiritual segments. Normally, this disorder involves episodes comprising excessive prayer and the abnormal fear of sin. 

Religious Scrupulosity or Religious OCD was first analyzed in the 15th century. However, the intrusive thoughts discovered were supposed to be a spiritual issue rather than a psychiatric one. It is documented that the preoccupations people used to report were defined as “religious melancholy”. This melancholy was described as the consumption of Anti-Christian thoughts, even after the person tried to compel them away. Nonetheless, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, physicians started studying the Religious OCD phenomenon. 

In the status quo, Religious forms of OCD are extremely common among patients. In the U.S., a 2002 estimation concluded that 33% of individuals with OCD have compulsions involving religion. Nevertheless, in countries where theology is taken more into account, scrupulosity exhibits higher rates.  In Egypt, 60% of all individuals with OCD report a religious theme constantly being involved. Moreover, not all religious attempts should be counted as a type of OCD. Normal behavior inside religion includes constant praying, feeling peace or tranquility, and attending religious ceremonies. Whereas, abnormal behavior includes: constant feelings of guilt and shame, engaging in religious rituals that neglect normal life routines, and constantly avoiding religious ceremonies for fear of committing blasphemy.

Jennifer Traig first discovered her OCD when she was 12. While studying for her Bat Mitzvah she became obsessed with the idea of biblical cleanliness. Jennifer would describe washing her hands in a 30-minute timer to eliminate any pork fume exposure she would’ve encountered. While Jennifer didn’t have a complete Jewish upbringing, she reported feeling in constant alarm and paranoia. She will invent prayers to recite 3 times a day until her rabbi—a Jewish teacher— would teach her the correct prayer.  Regardless, her fear of sinning wasn’t present, and Jennifer was worried she would be punished for not practicing her religion properly. 

Religion is abstract and so is our morality. OCD can affect how a person perceives and involves themselves in normal activities. Religious OCD is worrisome for many patients. However, it is important to note that those intrusive thoughts are not considered sinful in any type of way. 



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