Religious OCD

Religious OCD is the one in which intrusive and obsessive thoughts are related to religious, sinful or metaphysical matters. It is a type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in which fear and guilt are the more frequent emotions. Normally it occurs among persons that have received religious upbringings with a strong load of punishment-related elements, concepts and ideas. Usually, under this kind of raising, fear of possible punishment is planted inside of individuals that do not behave or act in predetermined, expected and concrete ways, up to a point where people are forced to repress parts of their personality or psyche.

This is especially reflected upon the sphere of sexuality, in which sexual instincts, which are inherent to our biology and nature, collide and go into conflict with moral norms and laws. It is quite frequent for religious-OCD-afflicted people to feel guilty for having thoughts of sexual nature, especially if these are “stained” with moral transgression components, such as fantasies with specific people (like for instance someone that is not their couple, a family member or a close one) or of a socially-tabooed nature. Guilt appears because the person consciously or unconsciously understands that the mere fact of thinking is something they could be punished for by “God”. They may have the impression that they do not have inherently intimate or personal thoughts; they may believe that God observes and monitors each and every one of their thoughts, and if these thoughts are inadequate or immoral, according to that which has been taught to them, they may be punished and go to hell, etc.

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Another kind of obsessive thoughts is also frequent: fear of Satan, of demonic possessions, of an evil eye or of other ideas related to sorcery, witchcraft, obscurantism and the dark arts. This kind of ideas is fed from fears planted inside the individual, usually since their infancy, through the raising to which they were subjected by their parents and teachers, or by books and their environment in general. It is obvious that parents and educators are not aware of the negative psychological consequences carried over by a religious upbringing in which concepts like sin, punishment and lack of unconditional acceptance are habitual elements. Religious Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an evidence of this, although these are not the only causes.

It is also frequent for this type of ideas to appear during adolescence, when a sort of “philosophical awakening” occurs, along with deep doubts and concerns such as the origins of life and the universe, the meaning of life, and doubts about the afterlife.

In many cases, people obsess over the idea that they will not be able to atone for their sins, or that they are not worthy of God’s love and forgiveness. At times, metaphysical ideas may come up, and at exceptional occasions, altered states of consciousness. On the other hand, at times this all is accompanied by what I call “obscene thoughts OCD”, that may include for instance obsessing over irrational thoughts, like fear of physical aggression towards a family member, of the possibility of becoming a murderer, a rapist or a pedophile, etc.

Obviously this type of irrational ideas are a consequence of religious or antisocial-behavior Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and are not related to the subject being that kind of person. Of course, he or she is none of those things, but obsesses over the fear of possibly becoming it, and hence they need to find a way of making sure such a thing is not true, nor will it ever happen. And frequently that anguish and restlessness accesses their consciousness, thus generating more and more anxiety…

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