One of the many subsets of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is scrupulosity OCD, which can be identified in people who experience repetitive, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that surround a discrepancy in their moral and religious beliefs. Most of the time, these thoughts would coerce a person to engage in a series of compulsive behaviors that are caused by their overwhelming urge to get rid of distress brought about by such obsessive thoughts.
Like other forms of OCD, scientists and psychologists are yet to find an underlying and definitive cause for scrupulosity OCD. Nevertheless, they have found a variety of factors that might contribute to the onset of the condition, including environmental exposure, genetic predisposition and life experiences.
Typically, people who exhibit scrupulosity OCD are said to experience obsessive thoughts that are not followed by compulsive actions, and this is the reason why the symptoms of this condition would vary quite considerably for each case. However, there are common and detectable themes associated with it.
- Fear of behaving in an immoral way.
- Feeling to have committed a sin that violates religious or spiritual laws.
- Belief that something bad would happen due to past behaviors and mental thought patterns and images, which often associates with being judged, death or going to hell according to beliefs.
- Lack of impulse control.
- Inability to perform good enough in terms of religious behaviors, such as going to church or praying, and the failure to meet specific moral standards rules for living, such as living a life of purity or being a good Samaritan.
- Fear of thoughts, though unrealistic, to be actually acted upon or the irrational belief that might have acted upon compulsive thoughts when actually they did not.
- Inconsistent behavior with one’s desired moral character.
- Repetition of specific religious phrases, words or images mentally or aloud in an attempt to counterbalance immoral thoughts and behaviors or distorted perception of religious wrongdoings.
- Excessive praying rituals.
- Making excessive church confessions associated with the same moral judgment or sin.
- Having to avoid certain people, activities or places because of the belief that being in these situations would lead to the thought and behavior that would lead to situations that undermine religious beliefs.
The first step to coping up with scrupulosity OCD is to identify the need to seek professional help, which can be challenging for some individuals, as it would involve questioning of one’s faith that is believed to coerce an individual to entirely abandon his religious beliefs. Similarly, challenging one’s irrational moral obsessions can be quite ambiguous, as what is considered morally right and wrong can vary across individuals and would depend on their personal life experiences and the way they were brought up.
However, sufferers are assured that they are not alone in the process that involves psychological help and support. Among the various methods to treat this disorder, and one that is considered the most successful, is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This involves identifying the individual’s irrational thought patterns to achieve evidence-based and more realistic cognitions through gradual exposure therapy. It also teaches a person some mindfulness and relaxation techniques that can be applied on managing distressing thoughts more effectively.