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How to Get Rid of Religious OCD

How to Get Rid of Religious OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts and anxiety (obsessions) about something, and the behaviors (compulsions) that people with this condition use to alleviate this anxiety.

This disorder is highly disruptive and has the potential to almost dictate a person’s life. OCD is a broad disorder that encompasses many subgroups. So, while some people may experience OCD with germs or cleanliness, others may experience OCD with religion. If you’re one of these people, we’re sharing some helpful tips on how to get rid of religious OCD.

What Is Religious OCD?

Also known as spiritual OCD or scrupulosity, people with religious OCD are fixated on obsessions in religion and/or religious belief or around beliefs linked to morality. People who experience religious intrusive thoughts and compulsions may suffer from obsessive religious doubts and fears, unwanted blasphemous thoughts and images, as well as compulsive religious rituals, seeking reassurance and avoidance.

People with religious OCD also strongly believe in fear and punishment from the divine or a deity. Even people who aren’t particularly religious can suffer from scrupulosity out of concern about being morally compromised or offending others. It’s believed that people with scrupulosity believe their thoughts are equivalent to their actions, so they worry not just about what they’ve thought but also what they’ve “done.”

Some spiritual OCD symptoms or examples include:

  • Compulsively praying, which can involve restarting the prayer if you get distracted or if you feel as if you weren’t concentrating enough on the prayer or its meaning
  • Asking others if you “did the right thing” or behaved correctly throughout the day
  • Excessively reading or studying religious writings, books, or texts
  • Constantly questioning your motives
  • Excessively apologizing to God or a higher power for your behavior

These symptoms may vary, so don’t diagnose yourself. If you feel as if you might have OCD of any kind, reach out to a mental health specialist or a doctor for a professional diagnosis.

How to Overcome Religious OCD

Although therapy is an indispensable form of treatment for OCD, there are also various things a person can do on their own to manage scrupulosity. Below is a combination of seven tips on how to get rid of religious OCD that can help you find a balance amid your diagnosis.

#1 Find Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP)

During ERP therapy, a person is exposed to their fear and then prevented from carrying out their compulsion. For instance, the person may be asked to imagine that God is angry with them, then the therapist will help calm the person as they experience anxiety. ERP can help people with religious OCD slowly learn how to tolerate intrusive thoughts and not give in to compulsions.

#2 Pay Attention to Reassurance

Reassurance-seeking is a common compulsion among people with scrupulosity. For instance, the person may ask, “Did I just sin?” and need a definitive answer. They may want to engage in compulsive praying or demand that others avoid things that trigger them, as well, such as saying or doing certain things.

However, receiving reassurance is never enough for a person with OCD, and the request will continue to come up again and again, in an endless cycle that never gets to the root of the problem. A great way to avoid this is to catch yourself whenever you’re about to seek reassurance from someone.

Also, ask yourself what it is you need reassurance about. What are some things you’re always concerned about? Write these down and make it a goal to pay attention to these triggers so you can slowly become accustomed to less frequently seeking reassurance from others.

#3 Manage Your Reading Time

As we mentioned before, people with religious OCD tend to compulsively read religious texts, books, and writings. Doing this can feed obsessive religious thoughts and compulsions.

However, many religions – such as Christianity and Catholicism – have their own texts (the Bible), so limiting your reading or avoiding reading religious texts may not be an option for people of these religions. A great way to get your reading in and avoid becoming obsessive over it is by creating a schedule for yourself.

If you’re a morning person, dedicate no more than 30 minutes to an hour in the morning to reading your Bible or any other religious text. This way, you’ll keep up with your religious responsibilities while managing your OCD symptoms.

#4 Avoid Repetitive Prayer

For people who experience religious OCD thoughts, repetitive prayer is a compulsion they may exhibit to reduce the anxiety associated with their obsessive religious thoughts. Compulsive prayer may involve restarting the prayer if you get distracted or if you feel as if you weren’t concentrating enough on the prayer or its meaning.

#5 Avoid Black-and-White Thinking

Religious OCD is usually organized in black-or-white thinking. For someone with this condition, they may see their actions, behaviors, and thoughts as either good or evil. People with this condition may wonder, “Did I do this for good or evil?”

As this pattern of thinking progresses, the individual could get to the point where they’re second-guessing everything they’re doing. A lot of times, this kind of thinking eventually leads to avoidance to the point where the person is too afraid to do anything out of fear that they’re doing it for evil.

A great way to fight black-or-white thinking in religious OCD is to write down your thoughts. Create two columns: the left will be your obsessive thoughts and the right will be the truth.

Encourage yourself to challenge these thoughts. By recording them, you’ll be able to go back and look at past thinking and see whether your thinking has improved or worsened in this field.

#6 Include Your Religious Leaders

Oftentimes, religious leaders, like your pastor or ministry leaders, are prepared to answer questions you might struggle with because of your OCD. The anxiety and fear associated with scrupulosity are often worsened by a lack of knowledge or answers.

#7 Find Treatment

At the end of the day, we believe that overcoming religious OCD and learning how to manage symptoms is most effective when done under the guidance of a professional. OCD can significantly disrupt a person’s life if they do not learn how to manage their symptoms, to the point where they will isolate themselves from others and avoid everything that could potentially trigger anxiety. If you have any kind of OCD or mental illness, seek out professional mental health treatment.

OCD Treatment at Banyan

Several of our Banyan rehab locations offer mental health programs for conditions like OCD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more. We incorporate therapy modalities like biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients understand their conditions and develop healthy coping techniques to manage their symptoms.

In addition to substance abuse services, a number of our drug and alcohol treatment centers also offer dual diagnosis treatment to help clients who have co-occurring addictions and mental disorders. Many people with mental illness self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, only to develop another challenging disorder.

With the help of trained experts, our mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities have helped thousands of people learn how to live lives that aren’t controlled by their disorders and we can help you too. Call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763 to learn how to get started.

Related Reading: Relationship Between OCD and Addiction
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.