Religious Scrupulosity: Super Faithful or Mentally Ill?

As Christians, we look up to people who pray and read the Bible a lot. But the sad fact is that some of the people we think of as the most devout are actually suffering from a condition known as religious scrupulosity.

Scrupulosity is a subset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and is marked by the constant presence of intrusive thoughts about sin, hell, or blasphemy, resulting in compulsive religious activity. It can be extremely debilitating, and a lack of awareness about it can keep us from helping the people in our lives who may be suffering from it.

On this episode, we explore what religious scrupulosity is, its symptoms, and how it differs from a healthy commitment to religious practices and spiritual disciplines. We also look at some of our heroes in church history through the lens of scrupulosity. Did some of them suffer from extreme anxiety that they compensated for with religious compulsions?

We also discuss how our approach to theology can trigger or exacerbate feelings of religious scrupulosity, even among people who are relatively healthy. Are there ways we can adjust how we talk about biblical doctrines to better help us become both holy and healthy?

RELATED RESOURCES

READ: Is Anxiety a Sin?
READ: The Mental Health Crisis Is a Church Crisis
READ: Is Biblical Counseling the Answer to America’s Mental Health Crisis?
LISTEN: Is Anxiety ‘Temporary Atheism’?

REFERENCED IN THIS EPISODE

The Gateway Institute: Scrupulosity OCD Symptoms & Treatment
Jonathan Edwards: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (Full Text)

 

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