Friday, November 9, 2012

Christians With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Fr. Dale Matson

“The components of OCD may be divided into two main categories: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessive thoughts produce a compulsive response in the form of frequently performed actions or rituals. People with OCD perform rituals, such as repeatedly washing their hands, as a way of suppressing or responding to these obsessive thoughts. Unfortunately, the obsessive thought -- in this case, that one's hands are dirty -- is nearly impossible to get rid of, despite being not being grounded in reality. Some rituals involve physical action while others only occur in the mind, such as counting stairs or the number of words a person says.”

There are various explanations for the origins of OCD including, genetic, cognitive, behavioral and biological. Treatments are generally a mixture based on the underlying assumptions of the causes. What can the Christian perspective offer to those who suffer from the debilitating condition of OCD? Let’s take the worst case scenario as a possibility. Some may worry that they may have inadvertently and unknowingly harmed someone. What if you had made a mistake? There was no malice intended. God is quick to forgive our mistakes. Why not treat this possibility as an opportunity for a blanket confession to God. “Dear Lord, please forgive me for the things I have done and the things I left undone. Forgive me of my known mistakes and those I don’t know about. God will quickly forgive you for the sake of His son Jesus Christ who has paid the price for all of the sins/mistakes that you have or ever will commit.

This confession is a healthy replacement behavior that substitutes for the ineffective repetitive rituals (compulsions). The belief that we must be perfect makes Christ’s death on the cross for our sake, ineffectual in our lives. Satan wants us to believe that we must be perfect because he knows that we can’t. Christ was perfect so you don’t have to be perfect too. As Christians, we are clothed in His riotousness.   Confession is an admission that we are not perfect and interrupts the closed loop vicious cycle of obsessive thoughts followed by compulsive rituals. These rituals are unconsciously intended to pay the price (penance) or undo the guilt and anxiety of the obsessive thoughts. Confession leads to forgiveness and forgiveness absolves us of guilt.  Do not overrule God by NOT allowing yourself to be forgiven because you believe you are unworthy. Christ makes us worthy. This is where trust is so important. I once offered to pray for a hospitalized individual for healing. She declined the offer because she felt that she didn’t deserve healing.

Sometimes I cringe when I remember a past misdeed yet it may be a sin or mistake that I have already asked to be forgiven for. I even know in my heart that I have received forgiveness. Who do you think is reminding me? It is not God because He has forgiven and forgotten my sin (Hebrews 8:12). Satan is called “the accuser” and the Holy Spirit is called “the Comforter”. Satan would love to keep us in bondage. Christ said, “The truth will make you free.” “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly” The answer is obvious. Take charge of these thoughts and in the name of Jesus, command them to depart. Also think about this every time you receive Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:20).

For those struggling with OCD, know that Christ wants us to live a life free from anxiety and guilt. His death, resurrection and Lordship in our lives provides the avenue of deliverance from this problem from which we cannot extricate ourselves on our own. May you find yourself in Christ.


Optimistic Existentialist said...

What an interesting topic!! Great blog by the way.

Dale Matson said...

Optimistic Existentialist,
Thanks for visiting and your comment.

Elena said...

Very interesting blog. You might also be interested in another article I just read on this topic called "Identifying & Treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" at which discusses how to identify Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and also provides valuable information on treatment options.

Dale Matson said...

Here is a communication I received this morning that is part informational and part advertisement. I am including it as an FYI only and am not endorsing the product.
8:20 AM (1 hour ago)

Hi Dale,

First off, I came across your site and wanted to say thanks for providing a great OCD resource to the community.

I thought you might find this infographic interesting, as it shows detailed information about the social signs of OCD to look for, and has proved to be a great hit with our readers:

Naturally, I’d be delighted if you share this embeddable graphic on , and/or share it with your followers on social. Either way, keep up the great work Dale!

All the best,

Nicole Lascurain | Assistant Marketing Manager
p: 415-281-3100 | e:

660 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 | @Healthline