Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental disorder associated with having unwanted or intrusive thoughts and behaviors that are usually not the self-image of an individual. It also has sub-types, one of which is scrupulosity that can either be religious or moral OCD. This also comes in many forms with belief and religious duties being two of the most common. Scrupulosity associated with beliefs is commonly referred to as blasphemous thoughts.
These thoughts can include having the fear of one becoming a hypocrite, the fear of unbelieving, continuous doubts on one’s beliefs and the rational feeling of confusion when it comes to an individual’s faith, among others. Blasphemous thoughts OCD can manifest in having rituals about one’s practice of faith or belief, reciting a testimony of one’s faith over and over, repeated sacrilegious thoughts, fear of making blasphemous comments, repetitive thoughts of being sexually attracted to religious figures, compulsive reassurance like repeatedly saying, “I am a good Christian person”, depending on one’s faith, to ignore an unwanted thought and intrusive images of violence and sex related to God, Jesus, Mary and other religious figures like saints.
Blasphemous Thoughts OCD in History
Two notable people who are said to have experienced blasphemous thoughts were St. Ignatius de Loyola and Martin Luther. It was documented that St. Ignatius had the fear of disrespecting Jesus Christ that he refused on stepping on straws that form a cross. Conversely, Martin Luther had urges to curse God and had the obsession for images with the Devil behind.
Diagnosis of this disorder, being a form of Scrupulosity OCD, can be challenging since it can be hard to distinguish if these thoughts are bordering mental or spiritual health. This is because a psychologist will not be able to thoroughly inquire about one’s faith or religion while a religious leader might not understand OCD. Also, some intrusive thoughts and doubting one’s religious beliefs can also happen to normal people.
Just like all cases of OCD, Scrupulosity OCD can be treated using Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is believed to be useful and effective because it has three approaches: Mindfulness, Cognitive Restructuring and ERP or Exposure and Ritual Prevention.
Mindfulness - teaching the person the skill to acknowledge and accept that he or she has the disorder.
Cognitive Restructuring - refers to teaching the client to challenge intrusive thoughts and behavior and avoiding doing them.
Exposure and Ritual Exposure - works by exposing or allowing the person to have these intrusive thoughts and not ignoring them so as to increase the anxiety level of the client and after some time, the individual will be used to having those thoughts and not be affected by them anymore.
Religious leaders of the community, where the client belongs to, can also help the individual to understand his or her condition through counseling. The religious leader or clergy can tell the client to separate religious beliefs from intrusive thoughts and that it is not the client’s fault that there is a disorder. The client will also be asked to write down these intrusive or blasphemous thoughts and read it out loud to a religious leader who understands OCD as well. If the pastor or clergy does not have an idea about OCD, this might not work out well.
OCD, including Blasphemous Thoughts OCD and other sub-types can be distressing and painful for people suffering from these disorders. However, there are treatment available and with proper diagnosis, right treatment and support from family and friends, these conditions are manageable.