A Summary and Response to Scrupulosity in Patients with OCD published in Journal of Anxiety Disorders

4 Responses

  1. Margaret says:

    Very interesting article. I wonder about this statement, though…”I think that these unwanted thoughts are still ‘sin’ – but I would suggest that they are outside the control of the individual within this lifetime.” It seems to me that things outside our control are not sin…I would place them more in the category of temptation…temptations come, but by not acting on them we avoid the sin…thoughts come, but by not dwelling on them or acting on them, we avoid the sin. I especially like this statement “An emphasis should be placed on the generosity of God’s grace and the petty God one creates when beating oneself up for unwanted thoughts.” I also like this – “The principle that I am to love to the maximum has been helpful to me in setting aside anxiety and being willing to wade into situations where I know I will fail (sin).” – and it’s foot note! But again I question, is failing sin? or is it failing? I think the key is focusing on love, like you said…The speaker at Eastern University yesterday said “Show up and see what God does.” In other words, be available to be used by God in whatever situation we find ourselves in…be willing vessels to carry His love and grace to people and He will use that willingness to accomplish His will and His good through us.

    I appreciate your comments and have shared some of your struggles. It is so good to be learning of God’s mercy, love and grace. He really is not a petty God! And its pretty hard to be used when we are bruised and bleeding from those self beatings!

    Thank you again for sharing this.

  2. Paul Mackey says:

    Hey Dave,

    I don’t know whether I suffer from OCD or not, but I know that I have struggled a great deal with overwhelming feelings of guilt related to my relationship with God. These feelings have not been fuel for growing my passion for loving God and others, nor have they been instruments that pushed me closer to God in and of themselves. Rather, I have found that it has been by, as you have mentioned, meditating upon the grace and greatness of God that I have found freedom from the grips of these overwhelming waves of guilt.

    Essentially, I have found that these overwhelming feelings of guilt are self-focused, and self-absorbed. The thoughts revolve around my desire to be of value and significance rather than around my desire to love God and others. At times I do find that the burden of guilt I feel is indeed rooted in broken-heartedness over my lack of love for God and others, but this is the exception rather than the norm.

    In his book, “The Prodigal God”, Timothy Keller shares a thought that has been hugely beneficial to me in this area. Essentially, he says that we try so hard to be good enough for God to owe us something, and then when we make a mistake, we try equally hard to deserve His forgiveness. In neither instance are we understanding that grace is freely given to us, and so in neither case are we enjoying the freedom that His forgiveness and love offers. I am far too often guilty of trying to earn His forgiveness.

    I am more aware now of how desperately wicked my heart is than I have ever been before, and yet at the same time, I care much less about it. By that I do not mean that I am unconcerned with sinning, but that I have found the far greater call of the Christian life is to know God and make Him known. Rather than constantly wondering how I appear, and how I look to God and the world around me, I seek to love God and others, accepting that I am broken and sinful, but He is great enough and gracious enough to love me and others through me regardless. So, though I am constantly tempted to focus on my guilt and sin, recognizing the unconditional love of God, I am able to move forward with eyes focused on Him and others, rather than focused on my sin.

    Like I said, I do not know whether I have OCD or not, and am sure others struggle far more with overwhelming feelings of guilt than I do. I don’t know what treatments are most appropriate for treating these struggles, but I know that a deeper understanding of God’s grace, and the realization that my tendency to focus on my guilt is rooted in too much concern with myself, rather than with God and others, has been tremendously beneficial in helping me not get pulled down into helpless depression by my sin. Guilt, real or perceived is forgiven and assuaged by Christ’s death on the cross, and the freedom and power to love is secured in the power of His resurrection.

    As always, thanks for your honesty and willingness to share what you are learning.

    Paul Mackey

    • davemackey says:

      Thanks Paul for your response – great thoughts. I’m not qualified to make diagnoses, I would just say that mental health is a spectrum. This is why many people say, “Ohh, I think maybe I’m a little obsessive-compulsive.” But that is within the normal scale of functioning. One is suffering from a mental disorder (e.g. OCD/scrupulosity) when it interferes with your normal functioning – e.g., if it impairs your ability to work, interact with your wife or friends, etc. The more significant the impairment, the more severe the disorder. Here is a brief OCD self-test to see if you have red flags for OCD: http://psychcentral.com/ocdquiz.htm. I’d note, however, that individuals who struggle with scrupulosity may not demonstrate all the normal OCD flags, and thus could appear as “being healthy” when actually struggling with scrupulosity. I’m not aware of a self-test for scrupulosity publicly available.

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