As a person who suffers from OCD, I have had many encounters with people who haven’t a clue what my disorder entails. I would have to say that most people lack knowledge of what OCD is. They don’t understand what causes it, they don’t realize how painful and debilitating it can be, but more importantly, they have zero education as to how it’s managed.
When people don’t understand what OCD is, they typically aren’t going to bother to learn about it. They are all too happy to assume that they know what it is and how it affects a person. I suppose that would be fine if they didn’t share their ignorance with others. The sharing of this ignorance invalidates the disorder. People assume that OCD is merely a minor nuisance or a quirky personality trait. It’s common to hear people claim to be “so OCD!” They aren’t saying this to express a level of extreme distress. They are saying it to be comical. A person who has OCD won’t express it that way at all. They might say, “I suffer from OCD” or “my OCD is so bad right now that I can barely function.”
The obsessional themes of OCD are highly varied, but for the sake of what I want to discuss, I will focus on one type called OCD/Scrupulosity or Religious OCD.
When Christians are afflicted with this form of OCD, things can go downhill very quickly if they receive the wrong counsel.
Before I go even one step further as to why this is the case, I recommend that no one should try to counsel someone with this form of OCD unless they have a substantial understanding of the disorder as to cause and appropriate treatment strategies.
In general, our Christian friends, though they mean to help, aren’t going to be able to. The same applies to most Pastoral counsel.
In OCD/Scrupulosity, the obsessional theme and all accompanying intrusive thoughts will be about the person’s security in their relationship to God. Now that might prompt someone to think, “Oh, I can settle that for them just by pointing them to Scripture!” But that’s not at all how you manage OCD. What people fail to understand is that when you do that, you are only feeding the disorder. Treatment for OCD isn’t about pointing out errant thinking or providing reassurances. It’s not about teaching a person to have more faith in God or correcting sinful attitudes. It’s not about renewing the mind through thought replacing. It’s not just that these tactics are wrong. It’s that these tactics are counterproductive and serve to make the disorder so much worse. So in helping, using these manners, you would be hurting the person with OCD/Scrupulosity.
OCD is OCD, no matter what the theme and the treatment approach will be the same.
The cause of OCD is not faulty thinking that needs to be corrected. The person with OCD will have already considered most or all of the reassurances or correct information that you offer. They already know that the level of anxiety that they are experiencing in response to the theme is inordinate. Just merely pointing any of this out to them isn’t going to fix the problem.
Will they ask for reassurance? Yep! That’s a compulsion. And if you provide that reassurance, you will be feeding the cycle of the disorder.
I can’t possibly go into what causes OCD, how it operates, and treatment regimens in this short blog. There’s far too much to cover because OCD is a highly nuanced disorder that demands the expertise of someone specifically trained to treat it.
Therefore, on behalf of those who suffer, don’t try to fix our thinking. Instead, an offer to pray for us in the same way you would pray for anyone who is afflicted will validate our experience. Words that encourage us to pursue help from our doctor and a psychologist would be much more helpful. And, finally, counsel which looks to the scriptures on perseverance and purpose in suffering also apply to OCD. OCD isn’t the exception to the lessons of suffering in the life of a Christian. It’s only a that it’s an affliction that’s sadly very misunderstood.
I suffer from this form. Prozac helps me a lot, but Do you have any Christian counselors you can recommend who specialize in Scrupe counseling? Thank you
Yes! Love your advice to just pray for the person, as you would pray for any suffering person.
I have suffered from this type of OCD for over 20 years and it is dibilitating at times. Can you offer names of any therapist that deal with this that I could contact?
Hi Kim, we’re you able to find a therapist?