Make an Appointment: [email protected] | (289) 382-9103

  • Scrupulosity: A Special Kind of Hell 

    Are you obsessed by thoughts like these? 

    • My thoughts are so horrible no one would believe it, no one would ever talk to me again if they knew the truth…I am so ashamed.
    • I worry that I am committing the unpardonable sin.
    • Is it really OCD or am I just rejecting God/Jesus/salvation? 
    • I think/say terrible, disgusting, sickening things about [God, saints, prophets, clergy, angels, etc.]…
    • I can’t stop thinking about racist/sexist/violent/sick/criminal/blasphemous things.
    • The guilt I feel over my sins/mistakes is unbearable!
    • I am terrified of going to hell forever.
    • I can’t stop going back to check on my offenses and mistakes.
    • Every time I confess/perform my ablutions/pray, I make an error and have to start over.
    • I feel like the Devil is controlling me.
    • My mind is poisoned. I can’t feel anything anymore. 
    • I am afraid God has abandoned me.

    You are not alone, and you are not beyond help. Many of my clients have suffered as you do, with obsessive thoughts like these. They were driven to perform rituals, behave compulsively, ruminate, and worry endlessly, only to find their mental state deteriorating and their lives becoming unmanageable. This is religious/moral OCD,  also known as scrupulosity.

    It’s crucial to realize that scrupulosity is not a theological or religious problem; it’s a mental health disorder. It’s excessive, crippling doubt that no amount of rituals, compulsions, or mental struggle can ever satisfy or resolve. If you are here, reading this, you have probably spent months or years trying to calm your doubts with various rituals, compulsions, and mental gymnastics. Maybe you experience minor, temporary relief from these compulsive behaviours. But whatever relief these efforts provide is only ever temporary, because in reality, compulsions throw fuel on the fire of OCD.

    Some religious communities or individuals will frame this disorder as a failure of faith, as a spiritual defect, even as demonic possession, and will propose any number of religious/theological remedies for the person suffering, none of which will truly help—and most of which will actually only make things worse. But there is effective treatment.

    What genuinely helps people recover from scrupulosity is a combination of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and ERP (exposure and response prevention). This is evidence-based treatment and considered the gold standard of treatment for all forms of OCD, meaning it’s the standard against which the success of any other method is measured. This is the primary approach I take to treating religious/moral OCD. I also use approaches from mindfulness practices and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). 

    At this time, there is no known cure for OCD, but with effective treatment, significant recovery is possible. You can get your life back. You are not beyond help, and you don’t have to live in constant, debilitating fear and anxiety.

    You may be concerned that you have to choose between effective treatment and your faith/values/goals, but that is not true. Effective treatment for scrupulosity will not only relieve your distress, but can help you practice your faith, if that’s what you want, in a way that is healthy, functional, and supportive.

    In addition, because of my deep familiarity with and understanding of religious, spiritual, and moral concerns, I can navigate your struggle with sensitivity and respect. You don’t have to give up your spiritual life or change your values if you don’t want to, and I can support you in recovering, or developing, a sustainable spirituality—even with scrupulosity. I offer evidence-based treatment in a space that is free of shame and judgment about your struggle. 

    Recovering from scrupulosity is possible. You don’t have to suffer; you can get your life back and I can help. Please contact me today for a free, confidential 20-minute consultation about how we can work together. Don’t wait any longer to start living a meaningful life.

    Copyright 2022 Deborah Birkett

    “You are standing on the shaky sands of doubt. Stand on the firm ground of not knowing.” – Fraser Boa