The Sin of Scrupulosity - Intense Guilt over Moral or Religious Issues

December 7, 2009 Amanda_HP

Kenneth had an intense case of scrupulosity, apologizing to God for long periods, even crying, for apparent sins. Watch his story of living with scrupulosity.

At some time or another, we all worry that we've done something wrong and there's going to be a price to pay. For most of us, we deal with it and move on. Those suffering with scrupulosity, however, are obsessed about religious or moral issues and experience intense, painful guilt.

Here's an example of scrupulosity I came across on the Anxiety Disorders Association of America website. A therapist relates this story:

I pass by a picture of my kids and think, “Satan: they are my gift to you,” my new client John, a wonderful husband, father of three and successful businessman tells me. “Why would I think that? I would never sell my soul to the Devil.” On another day, he says in shame, “We are cutting shapes out of construction paper at the table and I’m thinking the Devil will make me lose control…In church finally, I’m feeling hope and then I think maybe God wants me to harm someone. I would never sell my soul; that is the last thing God would want.”

A form of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), scrupulosity involves an overzealous concern that behavior or thoughts may in some way be displeasing, or disrespecting to God.

"Repetitive and excessive prayer continue to plague those persons with this type of OCD. Scrupulosity also can involve the need to adhere to a strict code of values or rigidly follow the ethics of a law abiding citizen." -Steven Phillipson, Ph.D., Clinical Director of the Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy.

Hit with Scrupulosity While Searching for God

Kenneth is an 18-year old college student, who just two years ago was searching for some meaning in God. On Christmas Day 2007, he received a book on Christianity and the gospels. By 2009, "I was experiencing a rather intense case of scrupulosity; I would apologize to God for extended periods, sometimes crying, for apparent sins like an unwanted thought that crossed into my head."

As his mental health deteriorated, his parents urged him to see a psychiatrist. How did things turn out? Join us Tuesday night on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show on Dec. 15, at 5:30p CT, 6:30 ET.

Unfortunately, Kenneth's video is no longer available. You can watch videos about scrupulosity right now at Scrupulosity Videos: Understanding Religious Obsessions.

Share Your Experiences with Scrupulosity

Please share your experience - whether as a family member or loved one of someone with a mental illness. What has it been like for you and how are you coping? Leave your comments below.

APA Reference
Amanda_HP (2009, December 7). The Sin of Scrupulosity - Intense Guilt over Moral or Religious Issues, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 27 from

Author: Amanda_HP

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