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Scrupulosity OCD Symptoms & Treatment

Scrupulosity, or Religious OCD, is a form of OCD that causes a person to experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts about sacred religious figures, that they are sinful, or have violated the tenets of their religion. Scrupulosity is like any type of obsessive-compulsive disorder in that it causes a person to become trapped in a vicious cycle of obsessions, anxiety, compulsive behaviors, and reinforcement through the relief provided by compulsions.

Individual’s suffering from Symmetry OCD experience strong urges to rearrange items and can spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to position objects in a perfect and acceptable manner, or can write and rewrite lists and other forms of handwritten paperwork over and over again. Although these behaviors may be frustrating and aggravating to friends and loved ones, it is important to remember that although bizarre, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder always has a certain rationale, if it’s illogical.

Treatment for Symmetry OCD

People suffering from Religious OCD / Scrupulosity are encouraged to seek treatment from a mental health treatment provider that specializes in the treatment of OCD.  OCD specialists are equipped and prepared to treat a wide array of OCD subtypes, including Scrupulosity. Like all types of OCD, Scrupulosity can be treated with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), specifically with treatment approaches called Exposure with Response Prevention (ERP), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

Mindful-Based CBT teaches patients that everyone experiences intrusive thoughts. Individuals will also learn that intrusive thoughts have no power over them and that by responding to their thoughts through compulsive behaviors, their thoughts are given more strength and credibility and their fears and obsessions are strengthened and reinforced. Mindfulness-Based CBT is a very effective OCD treatment, especially when combined with ERP.

ERP exposes patients to situations related to their intrusive thoughts that cause them anxiety. The goal of this treatment is for the patient to prevent himself or herself from completing their compulsive behaviors when triggered by intrusive thoughts. The situations that are confronted will intensify over time, until the patient can face and overcome their most feared scenario. Once they are able to stop themselves from responding to their intrusive thoughts with compulsive behaviors, they can experience tremendous relief from the symptoms of OCD.

If patients are suffering from severe levels of anxiety due to their OCD, they may benefit from participating in treatment at an Intensive Outpatient (IOP) OCD treatment program, as is offered by The Gateway Institute. The Gateway Institute offers Intensive Outpatient treatment options as well as regular outpatient psychotherapy sessions, and a free, 30 minute face-to-face consultation with one of our experienced and caring clinicians at all three of our beautiful locations in Orange County, Scottsdale, Arizona, and the San Francisco Bay AreaOCD symptoms typically worsen over time and can take over a person’s life, so it is very important to seek OCD treatment as soon as possible with a skilled and dedicated OCD specialist who can provide expertise and support during this journey.

Symptoms of Scrupulosity

Common Obsessions of Scrupulosity OCD

People with Religious OCD hold themselves to strict religious, moral, and ethical standards.

Some obsessive intrusive thoughts a person with scrupulosity might include:

  • Repetitive thoughts about being sinful, dishonest, or lacking integrity
  • Ruminating about past mistakes, errors, or possible sinful behavior
  • Excessive fear of the possibility of committing blasphemy
  • Excessive focus of religious and moral perfection
  • Unwanted sexual thoughts about a religious figure (God, saints, Jesus, or a priest)
  • Repetitive thoughts of thoughts of eternal damnation
  • Excessive fear that loved ones are going to hell

Common Compulsions of Scrupulosity OCD

Individuals with Religious OCD will develop compulsions in order to “neutralize” the guilt and anxiety caused by their obsessive thoughts.

Some common compulsions include:

  • Confession to their religious leader (priest, rabbi, etc.)
  • Avoiding certain objects that they associate with immorality
  • Excessive praying or reading of religious texts
  • Seeking reassurance from others that one has not sinned or have been immoral
  • Making deals with God to avoid going to hell
  • Avoidance of religious services, traditions, or objects due to fears of being unworthy or sinful

People with Religious OCD hold themselves to strict religious standards which can result in more harmful behaviors like self-punishment; therefore, people suffering from Religious OCD are urged to seek treatment.

Other Common OCD Sub-Types

It is not uncommon for an individual suffering from one OCD sub-type to also suffer from other sub-types. Treating co-occurring sub-types simultaneously is important in finding balance and healing from OCD.

Harm OCD

Homosexual (HOCD)

Pure O (Pure Obsessional OCD)

Relationship OCD

Sexual OCD