What is religious OCD?

Have you noticed people who are extremely particular about their way of prayer, they follow a certain set of steps in prayer and if a single line in prayer or step goes out of order they fear that God might be angry or the day might not go as per plan or something ill might happen sometimes its mere spirituality but sometimes it goes to another level and people start getting distracted and  are guilt stricken if they do not follow a particular  that path sometimes it involves irrational moral or religious obsessions and corresponding rituals.  

Many people are committed to their religious, moral, or ethics standards and try to be as “good” as they can. In some cases, individuals get hard on themselves, constantly demanding more religious or moral perfection in their daily lives, but they don’t actually have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). In case of religious OCD  also known as scrupulosity have persistent, unwanted thoughts and beliefs (obsessions) about not being moral or devout enough, even though there is no evidence to support their fears.  They are convinced that they have sinned in the past or will sin in the future, will disappoint God, or be punished if they fail to be “good enough.” to reduce the anxiety they  follow rituals which may include repetitive praying, repeating religious phrases, asking for forgiveness or even calling a religious leader for reassurance. Religious OCD is not confined to any religion or faith it is a behavioral obsession and can be seen in any religious practices.


  • Thoughts or fears of being unworthy of salvation.
  • Fears that prayers have been said incorrectly or parts have been left out.
  • Thoughts that sins have been committed or that God is displeased about certain actions, and atonement should be made.
  • Belief that one isn’t religious enough and must practice his or her religion more, or more perfectly, or it “doesn’t count”.

In some cases, individuals with religious scrupulosity experience intrusive, blasphemous thoughts:

  • Repeated sacrilegious thoughts or thoughts/fears of making blasphemous comments during religious services
  • Intrusive thoughts (including sexual thoughts) about religious figures or God
  • Fears of being or becoming possessed by evil spirits or the devil

Rituals associated with religious Scrupulosity may involve exaggerated actions such as:

  • Praying or performing religious rituals for an extended period of time, for example, many hours a day (in some cases, rituals are lengthy because they have to be done “perfectly” or “enough”)
  • Continually asking for God’s forgiveness and repeatedly confessing perceived sins, either to God through prayers or to a member of the clergy
  • Constantly mulling over one’s actions, wondering if the behavior was sinful or if words had double meanings of a sacrilegious nature
  • Trying to cancel out “bad” thoughts with “good” thoughts or more religious thoughts; trying to “make up for” bad thoughts by thinking the same number of good thoughts
  • Saying prayers a certain multiple number of times, or (in some religions) making the sign of the cross a specific number of times before, during or after praying

Other people with OCD have fears of breaking moral rules, sometimes known as moral Scrupulosity. These may include fears such as:

  • Lying to others
  • Cheating
  • Allowing someone to provide help with a project or an answer on homework
  • Failing to say “please” and “thank you” all the time

Examples of rituals related to moral Scrupulosity include:

  • Apologizing or confessing that something was (or is thought to have been) wrong, such as breaking rules, including classroom rules, office policy
  • Constantly seeking reassurance that a task has been completed right or perfectly; seeking affirmation that a mistake was not made
  • Asking others for reassurance that he or she has not done something socially offensive
  • Avoiding answering questions for fear of telling a lie.


Most important of all is that you become educated about scrupulosity /religious OCD. It is critical to understand that this form of OCD has nothing to do with a person’s true religion or faith.  Religious obsessions are, in fact, biochemical aberrations caused by OCD, and therefore do not reflect a person’s real thoughts. the most dangerous part is when we discuss this with an unqualified person they try to add in the sufferers problems by saying he might  be practicing sinful acts and should improve his religious practices, worsening the belief that he or she has truly done something wrong. The best way to get rid of these scrupulosity is to visit a therapist, simple way to conclude this article is  “If you want to pray because it brings you peace and you feel connected, that’s wonderful. But if you are praying because you fear if you don’t then you’ll be punished, then maybe that’s more OCD,” last but not the least the sufferer should be in a loving and accepting family environment.