“I do not have OCD…OCD…OCD.” -Emilie Autumn
Most people are familiar with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as a mental illness but very few know what causes it and how to best treat it.
The church in particular struggles with this topic because its just not an issue that is really explored or talked about on sundays very often.
Still, many people including Christians suffer from this debilitating mental illness.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1% of the entire US adult population struggles with OCD and over half of these are classified as severe.
I hope by the end of this article you will have a better understanding of what OCD is and some practical ways you can help to heal from it.
What is OCD?
According to Psychcentral, OCD is an anxiety disorder where a person has recurring and disturbing thoughts (called obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors that people feel driven to perform (called compulsions).
Usually a person with OCD suffers from multiple repetitive behaviors, not just a single one.
A common compulsion is related to a person’s hygiene where they excessively clean their hands out of fear of germs.
If you suffer from OCD maybe you can relate to this. If not, you’ve probably seen it before.
So what exactly is causing OCD?
There are several theories out there attempting to explain OCD. I’ll highlight the three most common.
1. People with OCD have an abnormal amount of fear towards uncertainty.
2. People with OCD tend to be perfectionists which drives their compulsive behaviors.
3. People with OCD will misinterpret their thoughts and react by feeling overly responsible for their self or another person’s potential to be harmed.
Ian Osborn is a Christian Psychiatrist who believes that the third theory is the one that provides the best explanation for OCD and has evidence to back it up.
Ian explains how there is a specific evolved region of the brain that regulates and processes thoughts about personal responsibility. Every fearful idea, image, or thought goes through this region and is either processed further or dismissed.
A person with OCD will have a tendency to continue processing thoughts that would otherwise be dismissed by a person without OCD.
What you can do to help with your OCD?
1. Transfer Responsibility to God.
A study in Vancouver looked at 30 people who suffered from OCD and exposed them to their most frightening obsessive thoughts.
In one group, they told them that they were not personally responsible or liable for any consequences that would result if their obsessive thought became a reality.
In the other group, they told them that they were responsible for anything that happened.
The first group showed immediate results and significantly reduced their discomfort towards their obsessive thoughts. The relevance of this for a Christian is that by transferring responsibility to God you can also have the same effect.
2. Understand How Faith and OCD Relate.
According to Ian, faith and OCD are interconnected. A person with faith and OCD are in a sense, strengthened through their suffering of OCD. Remember, a faith that is unchallenged is really not a faith at all.
At the same time, a Christian’s faith is vitally important to alleviating the discomfort and obsessive thoughts that occur for someone struggling with OCD.
This understanding can put things in perspective for someone suffering with OCD.
3. Confrontation and Instruction.
One therapy proposed by a Psychiatrist named Isaac Marks is aimed at working on two main things for an OCD sufferer:
1. Continually confronting a person’s obsessive anxious and fearful thoughts.
2. Instructing them on how to avoid these compulsive behaviors.
Obviously, this step requires a clinician who can do this but psychcentral reports a 80% success rate in this type of therapy.
In summary, its important to understand that OCD isn’t some punishment or plague that God has given you. That type of thinking is not only untrue but harmful to yourself. Instead, look at your OCD as an opportunity to grow and refine your faith as you implement some of the strategies I’ve mention above. Furthermore, get the help you need because their are ways to handle it.
If you suffer from OCD, where are some of your compulsive behaviors? What treatments have helped you?