Photo credit: Praying-CraigSunter-Flickr.Jpg
Feelings of doubt, guilt, and anxiety torment people of various religions worldwide by attacking that which is most important to them – their faith. Scrupulosity is a form of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) in which the sufferer’s primary anxiety is the fear of being guilty of religious, moral, or ethical failure.
Treatment includes cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure response prevention (ERP). In CBT cognitive strategies help to alter faulty interpretations. For example: “I feel guilty; therefore, I must have sinned” to “My guilt is misplaced; therefore, because my thoughts are intrusive and therefore unwanted, I can let these pass without feeling that I have sinned”.
When engaging in ERP, you face your fears and resist compulsions.
So if your compulsion is to pray for forgiveness or seek out reassurance for doing a perceived wrong doing, you would resist these. This is because compulsions negatively reinforce the problem.
How does this happen?
Giving into rituals associated with the obsessions relieves anxiety momentarily, and so the behaviour is repeated; however, by learning to resist these in graduated steps you initially experience an increase in anxiety; but bearing with the anxiety helps you build distress tolerance overall.
What is another benefit when doing CBT and ERP?
You learn to see that you can live with uncertainty, which is better than living with never-ending doubts and“what ifs?” about your religious, moral or ethical conduct.
“OCD dedicates itself in tormenting those susceptible to the disorder. Identify its absurdity, resist compulsions, and it will loosen its grip…” Carol Edwards
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