Scrupulosity…..Origin of OCD?

This post is going to be very interesting. And I want to tread really carefully about this topic. Also, this is a pretty long post. I just couldn’t find a good way to break it into parts. So hang in there with me. No worries if you need to stop, process, and come back later.

As I have said before, my OCD mainly began with religious obsessions. Some of the first obsessions I can remember that resulted in compulsions were about sin in general. I would pick a sin and obsess about it for a while and then move on to another sin. Now, scrupulosity is a branch under the umbrella of OCD. It is defined as the state of being scrupulous. Scrupulous means having moral integrity, acting in strict regard for what is considered right or proper, very careful about doing something correctly, careful about doing what is honest and morally right (Merriam-Webster). That doesn’t sound so bad right? Personally, I like the definition of scruple better. Scruple: an ethical consideration or principle that inhibits action, mental reservation (Merriam-Webster).

Inhibits. What a great, descriptive word, Merriam-Webster. Here are some things scrupulosity does to me:

Inhibits my courage.

Inhibits my ability to make decisions.

Inhibits my relationship with God.

Inhibits my joy.

Inhibits my sense of peace.

Inhibits the things I enjoy doing.

Inhibits my freedom.

Honestly, I had lost all sense of who I was and who God is at the hands of scrupulosity. I would just do things to relieve my anxiety of not knowing things for certain.

  • Did I sin? I would replay situations over and over in my mind to check to see if I had done something wrong.
  • Do I want to sin? I would imagine a scenario and check my emotions to see if I wanted to do whatever I was envisioning.
  • Am I listening to God? I would sit anxiously for a set amount of time, trying to figure out if I was listening to God correctly.
  • Am I reading the right Scripture? I would try to find a passage that would give me a “spiritual feeling” as evidence of obeying God.
  • Am I praying for long enough? I would just compulsively pray for a period of time to drown out the doubt of not spending enough time with God.

Is Jesus any of these things? Does He want any of these things?


He sacrificed so we would not have to do all of these things. Why would He have come and died if what the Pharisees were doing was working? Think about it. The religious leaders were the ultimate scrupulous individuals. The first proponents of scrupulosity. If they had a campaign slogan it would have said,

“When in doubt, DO!”

bible-pictures-sadducees-pharisees-1138177-wallpaper (2)

Pray. Serve. Dress nicely. Flaunt your goodness. Make sacrifices. Judge others. Separate yourself. Don’t eat certain foods. Don’t associate with certain people. Condemn.

When we do things, we are trying to earn God’s favor and love. It is almost like saying, “Jesus’ sacrifice was not enough.” It becomes Jesus + all these other things (like reading your Bible, praying, going to church, etc.)

My husband, Zack, is so wise. Sometimes when he talks, I just am in awe of the things he says. I just get so excited about his knowledge. A few nights ago he was talking about scrupulosity and I was furiously typing what he was saying. We are going to try to write a book together if we can about this topic because we are so passionate about it. Zack said that he often feels like he needs to do something to fix whatever does not feel right. He said this,

“What do we do when we feel like we are stuck in a rut? We buy a book. Or listen to the ‘perfect’ song to make us feel better. Or subscribe to a podcast. We often try to DO something. This replaces intimate time we could spend with God. Instead of being honest and vulnerable with God about ourselves and our doubts.”

So here is the rub. This is where things get really sticky. Let’s talk about deception for a moment.

Right now I am re-reading Emily Freeman’s book, Grace for the Good Girl. This book is so profound and it began to change the way I related to God a couple of years ago. Now that I am recovering from OCD, I am reading it in a whole new light. I cannot recommend this gracebook enough. Last night I was at the barn with Koda and I started reading a chapter about the fall. Usually, I just want to skip over that part. I mean it makes me feel guilty all over again.

We all know. Woman listens to serpent. Takes fruit. Gives it to husband. All connection with God is broken. It grieves me to think about.

However, Emily was highlighting Satan’s deceptions. The first thing Satan does is throw doubt at Eve.

“Did God really say……?” Doubt. Man, I am getting angry all over again. How dare he come in there and do that to her? I want to stomp on his stupid head. I wouldn’t even have this OCD if it was not for this crucial moment. So, doubt begins to coil its paralyzing tentacles around her heart.

Eve tries to enter into an argument with him. Trying to convince him of God’s goodness. But secretly she is unsure. (Which by the way is perfectly fine-more on this later).

“You won’t die! God knows that your eyes will be opened and as soon as you eat it, you will be like God.”

At this point, ideally we would all hope that we would have walked away and taken that doubt straight to God. We would have not DONE anything but left it in His hands. However, we all know we would not have gone to the only One who can help us with this doubt. We know we would have DONE something.

“The woman was convinced.”

Here’s the problem though. Eve already was like God. She was already made in His likeness. She already had everything she needed. Satan went in and by simply planting a seed of doubt, convinced her that she was not made in God’s image.

That’s ridiculous.

I believe this story gets misinterpreted A LOT. It was not a sin for her to have doubt. A doubt is just a feeling. Just like anger. And Jesus said “In your anger, do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26) The feeling is not sinful. It is what you do with feelings that can result in bad choices.

Let’s look at what doubt does to me. I choose the wrong thing. I choose to do a compulsion that seems like the right thing to do. Instead of taking whatever I am feeling to God.

I doubt. I do something. I read my Bible. I go to church. I don’t cuss. Do. Do. DO.

And then I am resentful toward God about it. I don’t have a true communion with Him and it makes me mad, because I’m so very tired. I have tried everything. And nothing seems to be working. I deeply desire that intimate relationship with Him, but I cannot seem to grasp it. And then I look around at all these other people, and I think about how close to God they seem. Then I become more angry and sad.

So here’s the conclusion I have come to with my husband’s help: When in doubt, do not do anything. Literally nothing. Just be with it and allow God to take care of you. It doesn’t feel right. But feelings do not indicate truth. This is how God began to strip away all the lies I believed from my OCD. I just stopped doing. I practiced trusting God to hold me. Just because I wasn’t doing all those religious things did not mean I was going to fall off the path into eternal damnation. That is what my OCD had told me.

Now, the church. *Nervously begins to type*

Did you know that the first cases of recorded OCD were all scrupulosity cases? Martin Luther was one of the first documented cases of OCD (1483). Every time I look up information on earliest cases of OCD, it mentions those who were obsessed about spouting off obscenities during sermons. Or confessing of sins multiple times. Or blasphemous thoughts that would re-occur over and over again. Ian Osborn, a psychiatrist, has written extensively on this subject. Others have recorded these observations as well (Stanford School of Medicine, Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics). I encourage you to look into it for yourself. Just google, “earliest cases of OCD”. I find it interesting that most obsessions now have branched off from scrupulosity and have a “moral root”.

It would seem that OCD has originated from within the church. Perhaps this is because of the responsibility that we have placed on ourselves to always do the “right” thing. Almost like we are responsible for our salvation and the salvation of others. This also causes a harsh, judgmental attitude toward ourselves and others. When we are so hard on ourselves to be perfect, it does not leave a lot of room for other’s imperfections as well. When we do this, we are acting just like the religious leaders did. We are still trying to earn love. And make others earn it.

But it has already been given.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17

Just like Eve, we are trying to work for something that we already have. We are trying to create something that already exists. And the result is devastating.

So let’s throw off all those things you think God wants you to DO. And just BE with Him.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Ashley Ryder says:

    There are so many great points in here! Things that I am learning in my OCD recovery and things I haven’t really thought about, or not in this context. I think I’ll be thinking on these things for a while to let them sink in. Thank you for writing this Kaitlin and I hope you guys get to write that book someday!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for always reading and commenting Ashley! I appreciate your support!!!


  2. AJ says:

    Such an interesting post, Kaitlin! I heard a pastor say once that Jesus + nothing = everything. Adding anything to Jesus actually subtracts from our relationship with Him. Such a great reminder to everyone, but especially to those of us who struggle with scrupulosity!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love that thought AJ! I have been thinking about it all weekend! I will definitely be re-using that!


  3. Etain says:

    What beautiful insights into how our obsessions inhibit us, instead of save us. Everytime I visit you make me look at things in a new light!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I appreciate you always stopping by!!! I’m grateful for our new friendship!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Etain says:

        I am too!

        Liked by 1 person

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