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Religious OCD: A Heavy Cross to Carry

Religious OCD: A Tough Cross to Carry

What do you think when you hear of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Do you think of someone who’s extremely clean or organized? In addition to obsessing over cleanliness, organization, or health, OCD and religion can also be connected. Instead of being obsessive about germs and cleaning, some people with OCD may experience spiritual or religious intrusive thoughts. As a result, many people struggle with religious OCD, sometimes without realizing it.

Defining OCD: Obsession vs Compulsion

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder characterized by excessive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to or cause repetitive behaviors (compulsions). People with OCD may experience intrusive or unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to compulsive behaviors. Symptoms of OCD tend to focus on particular themes, such as fear of germs or the need to rearrange things in a certain manner.

Additionally, when it comes to understanding OCD and how it works, you have to know the difference between obsessions and compulsions.


OCD obsessions are repeated, persistent, or intrusive (unwanted) thoughts, urges, or images that cause distress or anxiety. Some common examples of obsessions in OCD include aggressive or horrific thoughts of losing control and harming yourself or others or unwanted aggressive, sexual, or religious thoughts. Other signs of obsessive thoughts include fear of being contaminated, doubts that you’ve locked the door, and intense stress when things aren’t orderly or organized.

People with OCD may attempt to ignore these thoughts or attempt to get rid of them by performing compulsive behavior. Oftentimes, the person believes they have to perform this behavior to “cure” or get rid of these thoughts. These obsessions usually occur when you’re trying to concentrate or do something.


Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you may feel driven to perform when you experience an obsessive or intrusive thought. These repetitive behaviors are mental to reduce the anxiety that your obsessions cause or prevent something bad from happening. However, engaging in these compulsive behaviors is usually not pleasurable and only offers temporary relief.

Common rituals or compulsions that people with OCD perform include hand washing, cleaning, counting, checking, organizing, and demanding reassurance. Repeatedly checking whether doors are locked, hand washing until your skin is raw, or silently repeating a prayer, a word, or a phrase, are also common compulsions in people with OCD.

What Is Religious OCD?

Religious obsessive-compulsive disorder is a type of OCD in which a person obsesses over spiritual fears. Religious OCD usually involves obsessions like fear of going to Hell and may engage in compulsive behaviors like repeating a prayer to cope with their fear. Religious OCD is also known as scrupulosity.

This condition is more common than you think. A study on OCD and Christianity and other religions estimated that 10% to 30% of people with OCD have obsessive thoughts about religion, and in 5% of this group, their main theme is religious.1 This means that they may focus on specific religions like Christianity, for instance.

Common Religious OCD Symptoms

A person with religious OCD may have persistent and negative or anxious thoughts about their spiritual life or religious behavior. These obsessions are often severe enough to interfere with their day-to-day routines.

Some common religious OCD symptoms include:


  • Fear of not having enough faith
  • Fear of going to Hell or not going to Heaven
  • Fear of being unclean according to the “rules” of one’s religion
  • Fear of sinning or committing immoral behavioral
  • Fear that their intrusive thoughts about God are a sin


  • Going to religious services more often than you’re expected to in one’s religion
  • Seeking continual reassurance from religious leaders
  • Performing extreme acts of self-denial or self-sacrifice
  • Engaging in obsessive prayer, repetition of mantras, or cleansing rituals

Unlike typical religious activities, religious OCD compulsions are often motivated by fear rather than faith. In many cases, people with this condition recognize that these compulsions won’t prevent their fears from becoming real, yet they may think that engaging in these compulsions will be enough to alleviate their anxiety.

Whether your theme is religious, cleaning, or orderliness, managing OCD symptoms can be difficult without guidance or therapy. At Banyan Treatment Centers, we offer inpatient mental health treatment in Florida that incorporates modalities like biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy to treat patients. If you have OCD, we can teach you how to manage your symptoms and help you regain control of your life.

Finding Treatment That Can Help

As a mental health and addiction help center with Banyan rehab locations all around the country, we’ve had experience in diagnosing and treating mental disorders like OCD. With facilities that offer faith-based recovery programs, we can understand why religious OCD would be a tough cross to carry.

Fortunately, we can help. If you or a loved one is suffering from OCD, addiction, or both an addiction and mental disorder, call us today at 888-280-4763 to learn how our OCD treatment at Banyan Mental Health canhelp.

If you’re curious about our treatment options for drug addiction and alcoholism, our team members will be more than happy to explain the levels of substance abuse treatment offered at our nationwide addiction facilities.

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Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.