Christian OCD is a type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a brain-based psychiatric disorder that causes unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors. These thoughts can be particularly upsetting to Christians, as they often focus on themes of violence (50 percent) or sex (32 percent), as well as the better known concerns about contamination (55 percent), illness or the body (35 percent), and the need for symmetry (37 percent).
The purpose of the repetitive behaviors, or compulsions, is to reduce the distress caused by the constant bombardment of the unwanted thoughts. Although most people are able to dismiss random, intrusive thoughts, the person with Christian OCD is not. Therefore the afflicted person may repeatedly wash to counteract the obsession that he or she is physically dirty, or the afflicted Christian may repeatedly pray to rid the mind of the idea that he or she has sinned. Although a key tenant of Christian belief is that all are tainted by original sin, the person with Christian OCD may feel that Christ's sacrifice is unable to atone for it or that they have committed the "unpardonable sin." Such concerns often lead to compulsive confessions (to a pastor, priest, or confidante), repeated requests for reassurance of salvation, or even long periods of troubled rumination.
Christian OCD True Stories
Read about other Christians with OCD. Although the names have been changed, their stories are true. These stories are followed by facts every Christian needs to know about OCD.
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God."
Test Yourself for Christian OCD
If you think you or a loved one may have Christian OCD, see our checklist of common symptoms and other self-tests.
Overcoming Fears & Depression with Christian OCD
Christian author, Stan Popovich, offers his insightful commentary for Christians with OCD — Managing your OCD, Fearful and Obsessive Thoughts and When Fears and Depression Have the Best of You.
"Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
Gay or OCD?
Many Christians with OCD are so afraid of being gay, that this fear becomes part of the OCD cycle. The persistent fear of being gay — despite having been a heterosexual for many years — is a variation of OCD that is often not recognized by professionals. Read more about homosexuality fears and even read an article by a homosexual professor with OCD, who explains why unwanted thoughts about being gay do not make you gay. Read more...
Helping the Person With Christian OCD
Although there's no cure for OCD, the good news is that it is very treatable. The treatment of choice for OCD is a combination of behavioral therapy and medication. Behavioral therapy teaches the person how to deal with and successfully diminish obsessions. Medicines used for the treatment of OCD, such as Prozac, are called "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors" or SSRI's; they work by slowing the absorption of serotonin (a neurotransmitter produced naturally by the body), thus prolonging its effect on the brain.
Medications for OCD do not change the persons personality and are not addictive.
What Clergy Need to Know about Christian OCD
If you are a pastor, priest, or Christian counselor, you may have encountered individuals with Christian OCD. Unfortunately, pastoral counseling will not cure OCD. Apart from Divine intervention, no amount of discipleship, insight, prayer, or seemingly appropriate scriptures will help. The best thing you can do for such individuals is to refer them to an expert on OCD for treatment.
Rabbis: there is an excellent article called Faith or Fear?: What Rabbis Need to Know about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Steven J. Brodsky, Ph.D., that addresses many of the same issues that Jewish OCD sufferers may struggle with.