Scrupulosity: OCD Misunderstood

By Susan J. Campbell

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is nothing new, but a misunderstood form of OCD may very well be. Some of the millions of people suffering from OCD actually have scrupulosity, a form of OCD that exhibits an excessive concern with sin that goes well beyond the norm for the average individual’s religious beliefs. According to David Wall, Ph.D, director of psychological services at Remuda Ranch, individuals who suffer from scrupulosity have intrusive obsessions about sin and/or blasphemy that are symptoms of their OCD.

This condition presents evidence that differentiates fervent religious practices from scrupulosity: The individual’s own religious group views them as overly scrupulous; the individual’s religious practice is based in fear, anxiety, and constant doubt; the person’s religious practices are filled with self-imposed rigid rules that must be practiced perfectly; and the individual often exhibits evidence of other types of OCD.

According to Wall, OCD scrupulosity limits the person’s ability to live a balanced and enjoyable life as it takes healthy beliefs and activities to an unhealthy extreme. This creates a life filled with constant doubt, torment, and endless rituals that never result in emotional and spiritual well-being.

“Scrupulosity is particularly painful for individuals who suffer from it, because it strikes at core religious beliefs,” said Dr. Wall. “These individuals are filled with shame, they isolate themselves, and may even contemplate suicide.”

Those suffering from OCD face significant frustration, dependency, and even depression. For those struggling with scrupulosity, the challenges can be even worse as this condition is not well known and rarely understood, and it can invite ridicule and loneliness. However, if awareness is raised about the disorder, more people will seek help.

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