Praying and Confessing Compulsions
The symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can vary a lot in terms of obsessions and compulsions, but it is not uncommon for some OCD sufferers to have compulsions that are related to praying and confessing. This form of OCD has been unofficially termed this 'Religious OCD' by some OCD sufferers, but as it is not a widely discussed type of OCD, many sufferers are unaware that their symptoms may actually be linked to their OCD.
What is Religious OCD?With this type of OCD, sufferers are often afraid that something bad will happen if they do not pray repeatedly. In this sense, it is similar to touching and checking compulsions as it is driven by fear. In many cases, this is a fear of God, particularly that they will be punished for being a sinner if they do not pray on a daily basis (or more often). As this fear becomes more intense, the need to pray more also increases.
Sufferers often pray for something good to happen. If this goes on to happen, it can lead sufferers to feel that this was only the case because he or she prayed. This can easily result in praying becoming a ritual or compulsion. It is not uncommon for sufferers to feel that they need to pray three times per day, or even more than this.
Sufferers of religious OCD often feel as though they are a bad person, and will pray to repeatedly ask for forgiveness for the sins that they feel have been committed. Some will even go as far as confessing these sins, which are often minor or do not actually exist at all.
Religious IntrusionsSome OCD sufferers experience highly distressing intrusive thoughts and images (see our article on 'Dealing With Intrusive Thoughts and Paranoia' for more information on this). They are often of a sexual or blasphemous nature, which creates considerable anxiety and self-loathing.
For example, an OCD sufferer may experience some form of mental intrusion while attending church. While many OCD sufferers will 'deal' with this by engaging in cleaning or checking rituals, sufferers of religious OCD will often engage in continuous praying as they believe that it will stop something bad happening to themselves or their family as a result of their intrusive thoughts or images. Over time, these intrusions can discourage OCD sufferers from attending church at all.
Some sufferers of religious OCD experience intrusive blasphemous thoughts about God whilst praying. This can have several results. Firstly, it can unnerve the person so much that they are unable to continue praying. Because the praying ritual was not completed, the process will invariably be restarted so that the ritual can be done successfully. This can become a vicious stop-start circle in which the ritual is never successfully completed, which causes even more distress and anxiety. Secondly, the fact that they are having negative thoughts and/or images about God increases the need to pray – this time for forgiveness purposes.
It is easy to see how praying and confessing sins can take up a large part of the day and become a significant part of daily life for sufferers of this type of OCD. As with all OCD symptoms, it is a difficult cycle to break out of unless treatment is sought.