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Praying and Confessing Compulsions

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 25 May 2015 | comments*Discuss
Ocd Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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 Intrusions

Some 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.

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my brother as I now know suffers from religious o c d. Reading threw these articles has given me an insight to what he is going threw. why is he constantly going back over things and searching for an answer To a conversation that We can't even remember! It has put a huge amount ofstrain on us as a family. We don't know what to say when we're all talking in case he picks it wrong, we don't want he to feel bad! We just ant our family back.
sam - 25-May-15 @ 11:50 AM
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