Mindset | Blog

Five Ways to Let Go of Religious Scrupulosity


Drew had been raised in a religious environment. He had been taught to love God, but when he was a teenager, he began to have doubts about his faith. When he did, he felt guilty. He truly loved God and wanted to have a close relationship with Him. However, the more he wished to be good and serve others perfectly, the more doubts he seemed to have about God’s existence.

He was terrified to experience intrusive thoughts and doubts while participating in religious activities. He believed the thoughts were his fault for not completing his “spiritual to-do list.” There just didn’t seem to be enough time to do what he believed had to be done so “God would be happy with him.”  The more he tried, the more distant he felt from God.

Drew was able to engage in treatment for scrupulosity OCD and recognize that his “spiritual perfectionism” was getting in the way of having a clear mind to truly enjoy his faith.

As he engaged in treatment he was able to learn psychological flexibility skills and start living with purpose and vitality. He learned to engage in what mattered most to him even when unpleasant thoughts and feelings were present. He was able to let go of the urge to be perfect and you can too!

The following are five key activities to help you let go of religious scrupulosity OCD.

  1. Engage in Treatment For Your Scrupulosity OCD. If you don’t have a provider, go to the iocdf.org website to find a provider who understands how to treat OCD, and also provides evidence-based treatment such as ERP (exposure and response prevention) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), an exposure therapeutic modality.
  2. Surround Yourself with Loved Ones. Your family and friends care about you and are interested in your wellbeing. Be sure to connect with them every day. Isolation is not helpful especially when you are experiencing scrupulosity storms. Invite them to go to the iocdf.org website and learn how they can support you.
  3. Be Kind to Yourself. Experiencing scrupulosity OCD is an intense hardship. You need and deserve to treat yourself with kindness. Just as you care for others, you can care for yourself, especially when you get stuck. You might feel and believe you need to do more and do better to “control” the unpleasant and unwanted thoughts. There will be times when you might want to give up and abandon your faith. You are dealing with a clinical condition. None of this is your fault and this is not a faith problem. You are imperfectly good and that’s enough for your loved ones and God!
  4. Anchor on Your Faith. This might sound counterintuitive; especially if you are experiencing doubts about your faith. Remember, OCD targets what matters most to you. Anchor on what your beliefs were before scrupulosity came into your life. Engage in behaviors related to your faith in a flexible manner. Focus on what you can control –what you say, and do with your hands and feet.  For example, you might focus on serving others with love and compassion. After all, it is our behaviors that God cares most about. Notice the joy and love you experience when you are in the service of your fellow beings, despite your scrupulous mind’s unhelpful thoughts.
  5. Stay Patient and Hopeful in Adversity. Please remember that adversity is part of our human existence. It is up to us how we’ll respond to the challenges of life. When you focus on the negative experiences, have you noticed if you feel more confident and hopeful about your situation? Consider acknowledging the present adversity as a way to build resilience and draw nearer to God? You are not alone in your suffering. Every human being experiences pain and adversity. Find a glimmer of light when life feels too dark around you. Stay hopeful. 

You can discover that you can be imperfectly good and experience inner strength and confidence despite unpleasant thoughts and feelings.

Let go of your spiritual perfectionism (scrupulosity) and start living the life God wishes you to live!

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A guide to help you find relief and happiness in spite of religious or moral OCD (scrupulosity OCD). Learn more about Annabella Hagen's book.
Imperfectly Good - Book by Annabella Hagen

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