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; so I must have sinned”. Notice how the focus is on feelings, not facts.
When engaging in ERP, you face your fears and resist compulsions.
So if your compulsion is to pray for forgiveness for doing a perceived wrong doing; or seeking reassurance, you would resist these. This is because compulsions negatively reinforce the problem; yet, by not yielding to compulsions this breaks the obsessive-compulsive cycle.
How does this happen?
Because giving into rituals associated with the obsessions relieves anxiety only momentarily; however, by learning to resist these in graduated steps you initially experience an increase in anxiety. Bearing with the distress helps to build resistance. This is worth it in the long run and with practice anxiety decreases 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.