Scrupulosity: Obsessed with Religion

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Scrupulosity: Obsessed with Religion

To understand scrupulosity, you have to realize that religion is a central theme of the obsessions rather than the root cause of this OCD related disorder. Scrupulosity is an over-concern for doing things correctly or perfectly in order to follow religious practices, to please God, or to avoid disrespect from others or from one's own self. Eventually, it leads to excessive guilt and anxiety and the practice of religion becomes a joyless exercise.

Symptoms of scrupulosity can include:

  • excessive prayer
  • worry that one might say or do something blasphemous
  • fear of having sinned (forgotten the sin) and not having repented for it
  • fear of having committed "the unpardonable sin," i.e. difficulties with doing confession or rituals "correctly"
  • over-analysis of what "moral behavior" entails
  • intrusive thoughts the person considers blasphemous or sinful in nature that leads to tremendous uncertainty, anxiety, guilt, disgust, or shame.

Here's an example of scrupulosity: Imagine someone who feels like they have to say a particular prayer just right. That person might make the family sit and wait at the dinner table as the scrupulous person continues to repeat the blessing until satisfied.

So how do you know if a person has crossed the line from being pious, extremely religious, to obsessed with religion?

Maryland psychiatrist, Dr. Carol Watkins, explains it this way:

"How flexible is the person and are they getting something out of their practice? They should not be getting stuck in a particular ritual. And is their observance a cause of anxiety?

You don't want to pathologize someone if they're just exploring their spirituality," she says.

Those suffering from OCD are generally aware that their obsessions are irrational and unlikely. With scrupulosity, there is less awareness that the obsessions are of an irrational nature because they are so closely related to their belief system and are intertwined in the individual's religious life. "This fact can negatively impact the prognosis for treatment success," says California psychologist, Jeff Schanowitz. "One's own well-being and God's approval are seen as being at stake, thus creating more resistance in the patient. A cooperative effort between a person's religious leader and therapist sometimes proves to be an effective treatment."

Share Your Mental Health Experiences

Share your experiences with scrupulosity or any mental health subject, or respond to other people's audio posts, by calling our toll-free number (1-888-883-8045).

You can listen to what other people are saying by clicking on the gray title bars inside the widgets located on the "Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences" homepage, the HealthyPlace homepage, and the HealthyPlace Support Network homepage.

If you have any questions, write us at: info AT

"A Look Inside Scrupulosity" On HealthyPlace TV

One day, it dawned on Kenneth his problem wasn't spiritual, it was medical, and that spawned the start of his recovery. His story, from disabling blasphemous thoughts to a significant recovery, on this week's HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show.

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Join us Tuesday, December 8, at 5:30p PT, 7:30 CST, 8:30 EST or catch it on-demand. The show airs live on our website. Kenneth will be taking your questions during the live show.

In the second half of the show, you get to ask Medical Director, Dr. Harry Croft, your personal mental health questions.

Coming in December on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show

  • ADHD and Depression

If you would like to be a guest on the show or share your personal story in writing or via video, please write us at: producer AT

Click here for a list of previous HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Shows.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, December 8). Scrupulosity: Obsessed with Religion, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Last Updated: September 5, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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