Although medical professionals often define obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) with lengthy lists of symptoms and possible underlying causes, for pragmatic purposes, it can be boiled down to this:
OCD is pathological doubt.
It causes people to doubt themselves, their surroundings, their friends, their loved ones, their beliefs, and more. OCD can insinuate itself into anything a person holds dear and sow seeds of doubt.
Religion in OCD takes on two forms: an addition to or exacerbation of doubts and a solid rock upon which all doubt can be dashed.
Which it takes depends heavily on the way OCD is affecting the person and how that person chooses to deal with it. It's easy to feel despair and depression is a common symptom of those with OCD. These feelings can lead to a further descent into obsession as more and more things become objects of potential concentration. Religious belief, like anything else in your life, can become a focus for obsession and self-doubt.
But religion can also be an anchor to use towards getting through and overcoming obsessive-compulsive disorder. In a healthy way, the compulsive behavior inherent in many religions (usually referred to as "rights" or "rituals") can give new focus for the compulsive needs of the OCD sufferer. On the other hand, they can quickly become a problem as obsession creeps in and begins to sow doubt regarding the authenticity or genuineness of the worship.
The key to having religion in your life as a way to help overcome OCD is to use it the way worship is meant to be used, no matter the religion. Worship is about believing in something and conveying that belief through prayer, meditation, or ritual. Nearly all religions also share a common element that is also very beneficial to the OCD sufferer: counseling.
A priest, minister, or other religious leader may not have the specific psychological training to professionally work with OCD patients, but that person will have an extensive amount of experience and training when it comes to acting as a counseling or hear your thoughts, problems, and issues. In fact, most medical professionals would agree that on the whole, religious leaders in the community are almost universally thought of as the best one-on-one counselors available.
So while religion and the rituals and prayers that go with it can be helpful to the OCD patient, when coupled with the anchor of belief and non-judgemental, personal counseling of a priest, rabbi, or other religious leader, can be some of the most beneficial early help an OCD sufferer can find.
For the OCD sufferer who holds faith through a religion, that can be the greatest boon to finding peace and getting beyond the obsessions.
Photo by John Nyboer