Obsessions, Compulsions, and the Christian

* Eating * Panic * Sex * God, help me! * Washing * Anxiety * I don't look right * Confessions * Counting * Touching * Why am I like this? * Ordering * Cleaning * I'm late again! * Pornography * Contamination * Sin * I know I ran over someone with my car! * Fear * Lists * I don't feel right. *

Almost every Christian has struggled with distressing thoughts and behaviors at times. By applying spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, scriptures, and self-control, usually these problems come eventually under control. But despite fervently applying many excellent principles, there are some Christians who have no success in these areas. These are dedicated people who love God and the Church, but cannot understand why the methods which work so well for others seem to work only temporarily or even serve to make the problems worse. If you are one of these people, maybe you've heard others say things like, "Why can't you pull it together?" or "You don't have enough faith in God," or "Just cut it out." You recognize that your thoughts and/or behaviors seem crazy, but you can't stop. No one seems to understand how much misery this is causing you! Your obsessive thoughts and compulsive or repetitive behaviors may even be destroying your ability to live, work, and function in society.

Examples of Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior

Bill had persistent fears about committing a sin. Terrified of God's wrath, he would spend hours in church, confessing to his priest, trying to convince him that some thought or feeling he had was leading him straight to hell. After mass, he would come to the front every time, asking to be lead in the prayer of absolution again and again. Unable to accept God's love and forgiveness, he finally just gave up on church altogether. His religious obsessions then turned to an overwhelming attention to detail, fueled by a fear of disaster. He had images of something terrible happening, and of it being all his fault. Bill lost his ability to drive because of fears that he might have an accident and injure a child. He lost his job because he spent hours checking and rechecking details; as a result he made no progress on his projects and was late all the time. Eventually, he fell into a deep depression, his life having degenerated into a series of fears and rituals, repeated over and over again. Read more about this story...

Shel was a devoted Christian and family man. After the birth of his third child, he began to have pornographic obsessions. He received prayer from every pastor in his church, read his Bible for an hour every morning, and prayed that God was take the obsessions, but none of these helped. He soon found himself purchasing pornographic magazines. He participated in his church's deliverance ministry, but felt better only temporarily. He would sometimes buy several magazines and videos on a binge, then throw them all away. His obessions and compulsions were getting progressively worse and taking more time every day. He was terrified that he would lose his wife, children, and reputation. In desperation, he started seeing a Christian therapist and attending a twelve-step group for sex addicts. Finally, he started handcuffing himself to his bed at night because he was afraid that he would commit adultery with a prostitute while his family was asleep. Read more about this story...

Tracy was never moderate with food. As a teenager she used to pick carefully over her meat, trying to remove every ounce of fat. Her family joked that what she really needed was a microscope to make sure the job was complete. Yet she would have several bowls of ice cream for dessert after the meal. She knew that her behavior was irrational, yet she did not feel she could stop. She learned about nutrition in hopes of improving her condition, yet it was to no avail. Tracy became reclusive about her food, secretly eating high volumes of chocolate in shame. No matter how hard she tried to stop bingeing, all her resolve would vanish within days. She tried vomiting once using Syrup of Ipecac, but this grossed her out so much that she didn't do it again. In desperation she went to Overeaters' Anonymous. Tracy found immediate relief when she heard others' stories that were so similar to hers, yet after several meetings she realized that, like many others in the group, she wasn't getting any better. Read this story...

Jim was an honors student at a state university. He kept having repeated fears that he might be a homosexual. Although he had had several girlfriends, and had no attraction to men, he couldn't rid himself of this horrible fear. He began to visualize himself participating in sex acts with other men. These images were repulsive to him, and it took a tremendous amount of energy to fight them off day after day. He began to avoid other males. Soon he dropped out of school and cut off contact with his parents and friends. He would spend hours every day lying on the sofa, obsessing about gay sex and hating every minute of it. He was sure that God must be as disgusted with him as he was of himself. Learn more about homosexuality fears and OCD...

Marta always had a deep fear that she would harm one of her twin toddler boys. For a long time she would force such thoughts out of her mind, but when her husband received a new knife set for Christmas, she started to panic. Soon, she would continually imagine herself stabbing her children with one of the knives. She loved her boys very much, and prayed that God would take away the thoughts. She didn't tell anyone what was going on inside her mind because she was sure that the Department of Social Services would find out and take the twins away if anyone knew. It got to the point where she couldn't even be in the same room with a butter knife or the obsessive thoughts would become unbearable.

Continue to next page: What Christians Need to Know about OCD

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