Scruples Disorder


Scruples disorder can best be characterized as a form of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder that is focused strictly on themes that are moral or religious in nature. It is also called scrupulosity.

Scruples disorder, while considered a not uncommon form of OCD, is nonetheless not very well understood, by researchers or clinicians. People diagnosed with this form of OCD tend to obsess over having done something that they might otherwise consider to be sacrilegious, blasphemous, or somehow 'impure', or immoral, and in response they might begin ritualistic and often religious-based acts such as confessions or excessive prayer in an effort to lower the anxiety and stress brought on by the initial sacrilegious action. In the religious context, this is also regarded as an act of atonement to God for their transgression or sin.

Scruples Disorder has been cited as being the fifth most common obsession theme in people who suffer from OCD, and it is believed that an estimated one in four people with OCD experience some form of scrupulosity within the signs and symptoms of their disorder, whether or not it is considered their primary obsession or not.

Religion and Scruples Disorder

Since the overwhelming majority of religious people do not appear to suffer from OCD or scruples disorder, it is not plausible to suggest that religion itself could be a cause of OCD. That said, religious dogma, especially among the Christian denominations, puts a high value on thoughts (as one is able to sin "in thought, word and deed") to the extent that in some cases simply having a sinful thought is considered by the religion to be no different than committing the deed envisioned by the thought.

When it reaches the point of hoping to prevent catastrophes from occurring or believing that one's actions brought them about and no amount of ritualistic behaviors prevented them, Scruples disorder can get in the way of a person's ability to practice religion in a healthy manner.

Scruples Disorder and Treatment

Treatment for Scruples Disorder does not differ much from the standard treatments in place for obsessive-compulsive disorder: exposure and response prevention (ERP), a strategy which is part of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), appears to be the preferred treatment modality, perhaps in part because scant evidence exists to support the use of drug therapy against scruples disorder.

A similar form of scruples disorder is known as Christian OCD.

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