Last updated on June 26, 2020  by 
Jaimie Eckert

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to sufferers of scrupulosity and heard them talk about the bodily sensations of religious OCD.

  • That feeling of fleeting movement in the chest — was it the Holy Spirit departing forever?
  • That shift in the inner gut — was it a demon entering your body?
  • The long-lasting internal numbness — is it evidence that you’ve grieved the Holy Spirit?

Spiritual interpretations of bodily sensations are actually quite common for people with religious OCD. How and why does this happen? And does the Bible offer any advice to help us interpret subjective physical experiences? In this article, we’ll talk about the bodily sensations of religious OCD.

Is It Common to Have Bodily Sensations with Religious OCD?

Let me get straight to the point and say that it’s really common for people with ALL kinds of OCD to have frightening bodily sensations that they label with frightening interpretations.

It's common for people with all kinds of OCD to have frightening bodily sensations

Let me give you a few examples so you see that you are not alone in this.

  • People who suffer from OCD themes relating to sexuality may experience an unwanted groinal response to their intrusive thoughts. They then obsess about whether the unwanted thought actually made them aroused or not.
  • People who suffer from health anxiety (formerly known as hypochondria and having many overlapping features with OCD) experience relatively normal and short-lived bodily sensations such as twitching, throbbing, pulsing, moving, shifting, or aching in various body parts. They become hyper-fixated on these sensations and obsess about what fatal disease they may have.
  • People who suffer from religious OCD get normal bodily sensations that they interpret spiritually, obsessing about the Holy Spirit leaving them or the devil entering them.

Not everybody with scrupulosity has anxiety about bodily sensations, but a fair number do.

Across the board, obsessive-compulsive manifestations of all kinds have a tendency to over-interpret physical reactions — whether it is the terrifying groinal response of sexual OCD, the minor headache that is believed to be a brain tumor for health anxiety, or the anxious hot flash that is perceived as the hand of divine judgment in religious OCD.

It’s common. But is it correct?

How Should the Christian Interpret the Bodily Sensations of Religious OCD?

Research about OCD shows that this disorder can give not only false thoughts but also false feelings and urges. Just like the obsessive-compulsive brain can create a lot of distracting noise and static, the body can, too.

People with OCD tend to perceive these physical sensations as having important meaning, and will then create a very subjective interpretation that cannot be justified either by medical or Biblical explanations.

What does the Bible say to the scrupulous Christian who believes he or she can “feel” the departure of the Holy Spirit, the disapproval of God, the divine hand of judgment, or the entrance of a demon?

Interestingly, although the Bible does not use the words “obsessive-compulsive” or speak directly to the disorder, there are many helpful principles that can lead us beyond this issue.

The Subjective Nature of Bodily Sensations

One of the main issues with Christians knowing how to interpret physical reactions is the subjectivity of these attempts.

There is no book that can help you translate whether you’re getting the spine-tingling feelings of glory or the spine-tingling feelings of terror. Many sensations that are commonly interpreted as something “spiritual” — tingling, waves of heat or cold, a rushing feeling, trembling, ecstasy, lightness, heaviness, dizziness, sweating, or internal movements — can be understood as either negative or positive.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me give you a Biblical example.

Let’s just do a simple word search on “trembling.”

If you had a fit of trembling right now and felt compelled to interpret the phenomenon in a spiritual way, would you give “trembling” a positive or negative meaning?

There happens to have been a lot of trembling in Bible days. And sometimes it was a good thing. Sometimes it was a bad thing. Sometimes it was just a normal sign of physical aging. Take a look at the chart below.

Bodily sensations of religious OCD

The Bible recognizes that some of the same bodily sensations can indicate totally different spiritual situations.

But with scrupulosity, we become the sole interpreter of our experiences. It takes on an almost mystical quality, where we are constantly internally-focused, looking for physical phenomena to confirm our obsessions.

But who can say whether your tingles come from the Holy Spirit, the devil, or a pinched nerve from kneeling too long?

It’s all so subjective.

It flies in the face of everything the Bible teaches about how God communicates with us — through His Word, through Providence, through godly counsel. It makes SELF the final arbiter of truth.

With the bodily sensations of religious OCD, we become the sole interpreters of what those sensations mean.

The Manufactured Nature of Bodily Sensations

I’m not from a very charismatic faith background.

I didn’t grow up dancing, swaying, jumping, or being slain in the spirit at church.

With quite a bit of international travel under my belt, I have come to appreciate many different modes of worship. I feel comfortable saying a loud, hearty “amen” in African churches just as much as I appreciate the dignified silence in German churches.

But ecstatic worship experiences is not something I grew up with.

When I got my BA in Biblical Studies, I chose a small, conservative Bible college. One of my professors talked to us about epistemology — that is, the philosophical route we take to arrive at truth.

“Historically, relying on physical or personal experience to arrive at objective Bible truth has never been a reliable epistemology,” he told us.

Then he made an unforgettable demonstration.

“I’m going to preach for 5 minutes,” he said, “and by the time I’m done, you will get tingles down your spine.” Although he was generally a very calm, rational speaker, he modulated his tone of voice and preaching style to a dramatic pitch. He became intensely expressive. He preached the most charismatic 5-minute sermon I’ve ever heard.

When he finished, everyone in the classroom was astonished.

We’d all felt it.

The shivers.

The tingles.

The falsely manufactured bodily sensations that he had created through his preaching style.

That’s when I realized that bodily feelings may not be helpful signals for my spiritual life. It’s entirely possible for other people, environmental factors, and even myself to manufacture sensations and then create faulty messages from them.

Think about it. The worship team plays soft music during the prayer, and it feels so much more meaningful. You see television advertisements for food, and you suddenly start to feel hunger pangs. The more you think about your itchy ankle, the more it seems to itch.

Physical sensations can be manufactured — either by ourselves or by other influences.

Bodily sensations of religious OCD can be manufactured

So why would we put so much weight on the bodily sensations of religious OCD as some kind of ultimate message from God? It doesn’t make sense.

The Predictable Nature of Bodily Sensations of Religious OCD

Bodily sensations can be subjective and manufactured, but when it comes to religious OCD, they are also quite predictable.

In another post, I talked about intrusive thoughts about the devil, and spoke particularly about the cycle of emotions that accompany these intense obsessions. I drew a diagram which I will copy here, indicating the rising emotions of the OCD spike.

Often, at the peak of the obsessive-compulsive episode, people may “give in” or cognitively “agree” to whatever intrusive thought they have been violently resisting. They then may plunge into a state of mental silence, during which they experience numbness, emotionlessness, or even depersonalization (feeling like they are not themselves).

Religious OCD Cycle: Reconciliation Stage

In this sense, certain emotions and bodily sensations are predictable in the OCD cycle.

Despite having my own scrupulosity well under control, I do sometimes have spikes during times of high stress. But I am now very competent at understanding and predicting what will come next.

I know that a flurry of compulsive ministry activities will be followed by rising levels of panic, anxiety, and heart palpitations. Then comes anger and intrusive thoughts against God. Then comes the mental explosion and a drop of mental silence and disassociation.

It’s predictable.

Thankfully, it’s ever so much rarer than it used to be, and when I find myself on the roller coaster, I can literally tell myself what’s coming next.

So when I do get a racing heart or numb feelings, I no longer try to interpret it spiritually. I know it’s not God. It’s my OCD.

God Doesn’t Speak to Us Through Our Bodies

The Bible doesn’t teach that God speaks to us or communicates ANY important spiritual truth through bodily sensations. Rather,

Can you find any Bible verse where God communicated an important truth to someone through their liver, knee, or eyebrow? Did God ever help someone know their eternal destiny from shifting intestines or a twitching eyelid?

I haven’t found evidence for that.

But for the person with religious OCD, it feels so real. I get it. I’ve been there myself. I’m just trying to help you cognitively recognize that it isn’t an appropriate way to receive truth.

You know it doesn’t make sense.

You can just feel it in your bones. ? (Sorry — bad pun!)


The bodily sensations of religious OCD are hard to ignore. It seems like there is meaning in them. But the truth is, physical feelings are spiritually neutral. Sometimes, the same tingle can appear in two completely opposite contexts.

But more importantly, the Bible never asks us to interpret physical sensations. It’s just not on the table for discussion. These tremors, tingles, movements, and aches might have a meaning, but they don’t have a spiritual meaning.

As someone with religious OCD, you can learn to pay less attention to these bodily feelings and assign less importance to them. You can reach a point where a feeling (or lack thereof) no longer sucks you into an endless rumination cycle.

But the first step to take in making progress is to recognize that God is not communicating anything through your bodily sensations.

God is not communicating anything through your bodily sensations.

Once you recognize this fact, you’ll be free to view them as “false sensations” that can be treated just like any other OCD obsession.

So where are you in your experience? Do you have a lot of scary physical sensations that feel like something of spiritual importance? Or do you recognize them as false sensations and are at the point of trying to deal with them appropriately?

Drop me a line below and tell me a bit about your experience with scrupulosity’s bodily sensations.

Best wishes on the journey,

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  1. I recently think that I blasphemers the Holy Spirit a few years ago. I was baptized in the Spirit which is most assuredly a supernatural experience that you can feel the power of the Spirit and love of Christ in your whole mind and body. Anyone who has received this separate gift would attest to the same thing. It is what David had. When a believer is filled with the Holy Spirit they often can feel the Spirit as it is like a power in them and they feel a peace that surpasses understanding and joy and love that again is supernatural. My mind was illuminated and enlightened whenever I would read scripture which was another spiritual manifestation. Read the Psalms and you’ll see how David talks about how he can “feel” the weight of unconfessed sin and displeasure from God when he is grieving the Spirit and how his bones ache, anxious thoughts, heavy weight, thirsty or parched, etc. I think God created our bodies to have feelings to direct us in what issues are going on in our heart that needs changed through confession of sin and repentence. I know I wasn’t mature enough to realize this and was grieving the Spirit because of unconfessed sin and continued to spiral down in depression because my difficult circumstances weren’t changing when I was the one that needed to change. Instead of confessing and repenting, I drifted further and further away from God and then started having doubts I was even saved which was a lie and then gave up in my heart and mind because I thought God had rejected me because I didn’t want to suffer anymore but all I was needing to do was confess and repent. I think that blasphemy is essentially hardening your heart slowly because you are not confessing sin and repenting at the promptings of the Spirit through revealed truth in His Word, others advise, conscience, etc and never do because you either assume you don’t need to because you believe your saved and can’t lose salvation (presumption) or give up because you think it’s too late because you forget all that is required is confession and repentance. There is no forgiveness of sins unless one confesses and repents so if this stops due to neglect then it seems like one can lose the Holy Spirit. I could feel the Holy Spirit in me for 3 years straight and experienced spiritual gifts, power, prayer, healing, illumination, enlightenment, peace, joy, love, faith and now it is gone. I am not talking about an emotional feeling but a supernatural manifestation of the Spirit of God. My mind cannot imagine why all of this would leave at the same time after years of grieving the Spirit through unconfessed and unrepentant sin and then doubting and telling God I couldn’t suffer anymore if I didn’t blaspheme the Spirit. I don’t know why my faith would essentially vanish. I used to be filled with new holy and godly effections and a hunger and thirst for righteousness and to love and obey Jesus and now it is gone. I was a new creation inside with the mind of Christ and now my mind is filled with constant sinful and blasphemous thoughts and doubt, unbelief, despair, and no fruits of the Spirit. I have always had OCD but when I was filled with the Spirit I never had religious OCD. I am totally stuck and don’t know what to believe. It would be one thing if I never experienced the new birth and then started having religious OCD and just always believed but this is so different after experiencing being filled with the Spirit as it is. transformational as your inner life completely changes. And now it feels completely undone after feeling like the Holy Spirit left me and shorty after feeling an evil spirit enter. I wouldn’t think this way if the manifestation and gifts of the Spirit didn’t leave but they did so I don’t know how else to interpret. Believers are told not to grieve and quench the Spirit which happens from certain serious sin. And then not to blasphemy the Spirit which would happen at the end after a prolonged period of grieving and then quenching the Spirit.

  2. As a teen I went to church with a friend. I went up at the alter call after a fiery sermon. They asked me if I knew who would save me. I said God, and they said, no it is Jesus. I was so insecure and embarrassed, that my head felt like it would explode and I couldn’t even hear what they were saying. They asked me if I could pray or pray after them. I prayed after them but don’t remember much. I was just so embarrassed.
    Years later, I had joined a church and I remember the preacher asking, are you sure you asked Jesus. I had an instant panic attack. I went home and searched my Bible on being saved and tried to pray this prayer I had on a track over and over to get it right and say and mean it
    I just seemed to stay in a state of intense panic. The next night at church, I wasn’t hardly listening. I was still in a panic. I don’t know why, but I remember praying that similar prayer again. Just saying I knew I was a sinner and I accept You as my Lord and Savior, please forgive me and save me. Before I had hardly started the prayer, something happened. Not a feeling or emotion or sensation. I remember finishing the prayer, and at the same time, thinking to myself,I think I just got saved. All I had to do was ask!
    But I didn’t tell anyone that night, so I thought all was lost. I ended up in a stress center in a big ocd way! But no one really understood my fears. I can see now that it was ocd after years of suffering,, but clearly no one there 30 yrs ago had heard of it.
    So…. Yrs later, I was alone at home and I just didn’t want to worry anymore. I told God I believed he died for me and I accepted him as my lord and savior.
    My OCD still tells me that neither time was from my heart, just my legalistic mind,

    I thank you for this site. It is so comforting to know others that have intrusive thoughts and that I am not crazy because everyone I have talked to says it is a faith is sure mostly.
    Thanks again.

  3. Hi. I'm losing my mind, because a few years ago I had a groinal response in a church during Mass, and I remember that I was horrified, but I don't remember what have I done. – did i freeze or did I start fidgeting? My mind has created awful scenarios, and I'm scared that I had done something awful during this Mass and I'm scared I had insulted God and I will go to hell… I'm sorry, I'm just to scared… I can't imagine doing something like that.

  4. Thank you for this article. It did shed some light on what I might be experiencing even though you didn’t really mention exactly what happens to me. I have asked the Lord to save me and forgive me of my sins more times than I can count. I know he’s my only way to heaven. Sometimes during church I feel a strong urge to go to the altar to pray for salvation once again. Those thoughts of feeling like I’m lost makes me sweat, my heart pound and I then think we’ll this is God convicting me to be saved. Is this normal with religious OCD? Have you heard others say they wonder if it’s God convicting them? What can I do to stop these feelings ?

    1. Hi Stacey,
      Thanks for your comment! I do think that what you’re describing (sweating, heart pounding, etc) sounds like a very typical stress response. I get something similar when I go with my German husband to his home country and he drives very fast with me on the autobahn. 🙂 Sweating, heart pounding, fingernails permanently stuck in the upholstery–you get the picture! But I wouldn’t say that this is the Holy Spirit convicting me of anything. It just means there is something that is stressing me, and my nervous system is reacting in the way God created it to.

      Most likely, your stress response comes from having nervous thoughts about possibly being lost. When God convicts us (particularly when He is convicting the little lambs in the scrupulosity community who already have extremely tender and sensitive consciences) He convicts very gently. Try to think of times in your life when you KNEW for 100% that it was God speaking or intervening in some way. Most people with religious OCD, when the clouds begin to clear, will be able to tell a real difference between the gentle voice of God and the harsh/condemning/anxiety-inducing voice of OCD.

      Hope this helps a little…

  5. Hello, I was taking Communion. At the exact moment I swallowed the bread I had a evil satanic thought . hail s-t-n I heard in my head.
    I became extremely scared and very very hot. I started sweating. I thought the heat I was feeling was Gods anger with me . I was so upset that after the service I got up and quickly walked out . I did not stop to talk or shake hands with anyone.
    I have suffered with theses types of thought for about 6 months now. It is completely devastating to me .

    1. Yes, this is the world of religious OCD. These are called intrusive thoughts, and they are sometimes triggered during moments of religious importance. Have you reached out yet to any therapists who specialize in OCD?

      1. Hi Jaimie, Thank you for responding back. I’m still not certain if I want to see a therapist just yet. Your post and videos have been extremely helpful and have dramatically lowered my anxiety. I look forward to your lessons though . I will be signing up for them soon.

        Thanks again and God Bless you.

  6. That chart you have is incredible. I get a trigger, then I fight, and fight, and fight and finally I get pissed off, typically at God. I yell and ask "why do you hate me! Do you even care about me?!!" and then find myself near tears 20 mins later begging for forgivness. So yeah, veryyyyyy accurate.

    I mean, at this point God must just be like…"here we go again…*sigh*"

  7. Man it’s just like what happens to me. I thought why aren’t you guiding me or why don’t I feel that. Then a bad thought comes and my whole body goes into a hot flash sensation like I did something unforgivable and then I go into extreme anxiety it’s a horrible feeling I feel like i let God down so much

  8. I get a fear feeling in my stomach. The fear gives me nervous sensations. I don't know if it is due to my Epilepsy medicine being lowered. I had these feelings years ago.I don't know if it was my past religion, orEpilepsy before starting medicine or, homelife. I am more anxious about what others do, if they can control me. Is this OCD?

    1. Hi Debbie,
      As a religious blogger I can’t make medical diagnoses and say what is or isn’t OCD. But I will say that once medication and other comorbid disorders are involved, things can get blurry in figuring out what’s causing what. But the more factors we add into the equation (OCD, anxiety, epilepsy, medication, complicated home life) the less likely it is that you’re dealing with a “religious issue” here. It’s more likely that your nervous sensations are related to your anxiety and other medical conditions. Remember, God speaks to us through His Word, not through weird feelings in our stomachs.

  9. Hi! Your blog has helped me GREATLY, and I just want to say a massive THANK YOU for all that you do!

    However ive run into a problem.

    I like to use the new heavens and new earth as a way to push through the pain and mental hardships of OCD.

    But recently, whenever I think about this sorta stuff, ill get a "beesting" on my body, like a needle prick. That seems to say "no, thats not right" and makes me dread heaven.

    Im scared that this is actually God talking to my through these weird sensations because they are ACCURATE. And always happen with the same thoughts. They have a stance on a thought, and they stick with it, no matter how many times I test it.

    The other thing its made me start to fear is that all we do in heaven is stand around the throne and sing. That is not something I look forward to…so thats another thing OCD has now ruined for me, whether its true or not.

    Again thank you for all you do!

    God Bless!

    1. Hi GZ,
      What you’ve described is exactly what I was mentioning in this blog post. The reason we begin looking at bodily sensations as “communication” from “above” is because in some eerie way they always seem to be associated with certain thoughts or actions. The more we react to these bodily sensations when they came, the worse and more difficult it is to get rid of them (trust me: I have a sensory “thing” with my eyelids and I can tell you I never got it to go away by thinking about it and reacting to it).

      In regards to your other statement about what heaven will be like–don’t let that get ruined for you by the OCD. Heaven will be a wonderful place and will include much more than standing around singing. 🙂

      Keep moving forward and ignore these sensations. God has better ways of speaking to us than through bodily pricks and waves of dread.

      Best regards,

      1. Hi I apologize for not responding sooner! Thank you for your response!

        The only difference between what you desribe and what I experience is, these sensations are RESPONSES to the thoughts. Not the other way around. Ill think "Oh yeah xyz is going to happen" *BANG* I get a prick which basically means "no". And if I think it a gain itll do the same thing. Its the accuracy that I hate.

        Thanks again!

        1. Hi, I’ve a thought about your BANG. Could it be a conditioned response? If you read about Pavlov and his dogs you’ll find an experiment about this sort of thing. His dogs want their dinner, and salivate, and he rings a bell. And feeds them.
          Eventually, after many repeats, if he rang the bell the dogs salivated, with no food on offer at all. It’s called a Pavlovian response, and it’s just that you’ve now trained yourself to feel, and it’s predictable. I also suspect that if the dogs salivated or felt hungry they’d expect a bell!
          I believe you can beat it by believing this and ignoring it, discounting it in faith. And I pray you have success. I’m finding that understanding that these things fit the OCD profile gives us confidence that we can discount this, safely.
          You can also pray to the Lord and tell him what you think it is and how you’re going to try to overcome this battle and ask his help, and to be with you and not let you stray away from him. Ask him to keep you close. Ps 23 is always a wonderful reassurance. That rod and staff are his shepherding tools, with which he fights for us, guides us and digs us out of thickets and tight corners. He’s got you!

  10. I have been dealing with that chart for the past 5 months. I have had extreme fear that I thought or said in my mind that God is full of the dev_ _. I keep feeling terrified that I may have blaspheme the Holy Spirit because it felt like I was repeating it in my head (somewhat saying it). I don't believe in losing salvation but this has really brought some doubts and deep seated fear. Any advice is appreciated. – Tim

  11. Quick Question, I get extreme thoughts about some superior being taking things I hold dear away from me, such as activities and whatnot. And if I ask in my head "If im really going to lose X, make it so I get a ping in the next 5 seconds" and I always do. I ping is just like a needle prick somewhere on my body, and sometimes they really hurt. It is perfect every time. Could this be OCD? Cause while I know these thoughts of a higher power doing this is ridiculous, im starting to get worried at how consistent it is. Please help

    1. Hi KY,
      Great question. As you know, I’m not a medical specialist and can’t diagnose anybody, especially not from one short comment! So take what I say with a grain of salt.

      I can say with assurance that what you’re describing is not how the God of the Bible behaves. Nowhere do we have evidence that God communicates to us through pings or needle pricks or other bodily sensations, because these are very subjective and liable to human error.

      Since you used a more generic term “higher power” or “superior being,” I would need more information to give a proper spiritual answer. While the God of the Bible does not communicate through bodily sensations, there is much evidence that demonic forces do. Not to scare you or anything, it’s totally possible that you’re dealing with OCD, or another mental health disorder (again, I can’t diagnose), or simply a high level of sensory sensitivity combined with obsessive tendencies. Or, if you deal in magic, voodoo, ouija boards, tarot cards, palm readings, fantasy/witchcraft novels/movies, or other dark or pagan activities, it’s totally possible that your pings ARE from a supernatural being, but probably not one you’d like to get involved with.

      Again, I don’t say this to be scary, just to show you that there could be four or five possible explanations here. If you don’t deal in witchcraft and you can think of SOME instances in which you did not get a ping, it’s more likely to be mental health related. Do remember that the brain is biased, and we end up thinking these manifestations are perfectly consistent when in actuality it might be more like 51% of the time.

      Hope this helps,


      1. Thank you so much your feedback! No I dont do witchcraft haha, although I do enjoy a good horror movie/ novel.

        As for if there has been a time where it hasn't worked, occasionally, in fact, I was able to make it say the opposite (aka, I wasn't going to have X activity taken away).

    1. Yes, emotions are completely unreliable. I was just sharing today in our group coaching session that if I was an employer and my emotions were employees, they would have been fired a long time ago. 🙂 They are not performing well on the job!

      Emotions have a place. They should be honored in the sense of feeling them, not stuffing them, dealing with them as markers of “something wrong” in the life.

      But not always. Sometimes emotions are pure static and should be ignored.

      1. Sorry, not fully understanding, so at times we SHOULD view emotions as something being wrong in life? And other times ignore? How to know when? Thanks

        1. This is a hard question, Jared. It will vary from one person to another. I think emotions need to be honored when they relate to a REAL situation. Let’s say I get raped tomorrow. I’m going to feel really horrible, and nobody should rush me with what I call “toxic positivity” to be happy again right away. Or let’s say I get in a fender bender and am really bummed out about the new dent in my car. I think it would be very nice and nurturing if my husband takes time to listen to my story, wraps me in a hug, recognizes that I’m feeling bummed, and tries to cheer me up. That’s just being…nice.

          But on the flip side, sometimes my emotions roar without any specific external cause. For example, I often wake up anxious. It is pure biochemistry–spurting chemicals in my brain that might be a bit off-kilter. In these cases, I choose to go on with my day, giving as little attention to my emotions as possible. Or sometimes I might get triggered by a person, place, or thing that does not represent a real danger. There is a difference between a “trigger” and a “threat.” If there is a real threat, I need to honor my alarm system (my emotions) and get out of there. If there is no real threat, I can grow in my emotional strength by facing my triggers rather than creating patterns of avoidance around them.

          So yes. It’s tough sometimes to know the difference. But we try! 🙂

      2. Second question lol. In the cycle mentioned, after the trigger/anxiety spike, comes rumination. Isn’t the rumination something we are to be trying to let go of and not do? So if that isn’t done, how does the cycle continue through? Maybe I’m not understanding erp properly, most likely.

  12. I was just thinking about this today…about the diagram you shared above. I was starting to recognize the last couple of days this cycle of trigger, rumination, "must not ruminate", frustration and then an explosion of frustration…then feeling nothing or feeling like my head is "up in the clouds" type of thing. Is there a good place to interrupt this process or do we just let it take its course?

  13. Yes! I started having anxiety and panic attacks in July and have associated it with my conscience or the Holy Spirit or me bucking what I’m being asked to do this causing the sensations myself (self blame and shame). This post was really helpful. I have always used my gut reactions as a guide- I’m a very sensation oriented person. I get chills from beautiful music- my brain is super sensitive to certain medications- I have feelings of pain throughout my arms and legs after anxiety starts. I have been telling myself that these sensations are not God but do we have physical sensations from our conscience or is that wrong thinking or wrong association as well?

    1. As far as I know, the Bible does not give us any examples of physical sensations being a mode of communication or conviction from the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, idolatry relied on sensuality and physicality, as we see dancing around the golden calf, physical torture as they passed children through the fire, sexual immorality with temple prostitutes, etc. We could argue that the senses were involved in Biblical worship, such as seeing the temple, hearing the Levitical singers, and eating the sacred feasts. However, in comparison to the wild demonstrations of pagan worship styles, Old and New Testament worship was extremely calm and restrained. It seemed to encourage holy meditation rather than sensory abandon. Thus, we simply do not have examples of God communicating through physical sensations. Even the inspired prophets, pay attention to how they record their visions and dreams. It’s never an “I felt,” it’s always an “I saw.” They communicate cognitive content that they saw from the Lord. The feelings with which we receive these truths will be different for everyone, but what counts is that we open our hearts and receive the message no matter the subjective feelings.

      1. How can I or any of us practice receiving? This bugs me to no end, for even the salvation Jesus accomplished on the cross is for all, but each must believe or receive it, and that is most puzzling to me. I’ve been told I have a highly analytical mind, but I don’t know how to “open my heart” to receive or what that even is? I’m not meaning any rudeness or anything at all, I’m really seeking here. Thanks

        1. Jared, I too wonder about this – all the time. Phrases like “open your heart” and “receive through faith” and “surrender your life to Jesus” and even “believe in Jesus” cause me anxiety and frustration. They seem like empty words. I feel like I am being told what to do without being told how to do it, if that makes any sense (probably doesn’t)

          If you figure it out, let me know.

          1. Hi Patti and Jared,

            I was scanning the comments after reading this article and paused when I saw yours and Jared's comments because I tend to also get stuck on questions like the one you guys are asking–especially when it comes to the relationship between God's sovereignty and our free will. Without going down that rabbit hole, I did have one thought that came to mind:

            Evangelical Christianity often tends towards formulaic responses to the gospel. For example, a pastor finishes preaching a powerful sermon and then asks those who "feel" as if God is calling them to quietly raise their hands and repeat a prayer of salvation. Or the Pastor may open up the altar for someone to come down and pray with a leader if they have that "feeling".

            But in my experience, I've seen many acquaintances follow such instructions and now (many years later) they've completely abandoned the church and there is simply no fruit in their lives at all to suggest they were actually saved when they heard the gospel.

            So the question is really about what faith in Jesus actually is.

            One thing that has been very helpful to me with this is the research that apologist William Lane Craig has done on what Christ's work means from a "legal" perspective.

            Roman law (which is the basis for lour legal system here in the US) taught that a criminal could be granted a full pardon, but in order for the pardon to take effect, the criminal would actually have to "accept" it. This means that the criminal could also choose to refuse the pardon and remain in prison to serve out the rest of his sentence.

            Dr. Craig argues that the apostles' approach in elaborating on Christ's work in salvation in the New Testament parallels
            these themes of Roman law (which makes sense considering the historical/political
            context they lived in).

            What I take this to mean for us in spiritual terms, at least at a basic level, is that "accepting" Christ's pardon for us is as
            simple as it sounds…which is perhaps why we who have scrupulosity struggle with the
            idea so much–because we naturally anticipate and rely on formulas and rituals to make us right with God. But in reality, the starting point is simply a confession of our desire to accept the pardon that is offered to us. Baptism then follows, as we desire to share and celebrate our acceptance of this pardon with our fellow believers.

            I sincerely hope this made sense and encourages you in some way, as it has for me.

  14. I know it's not the main thing about this post, I still had a question. When you say God communicates with us through nature, what exactly does that mean?

    1. Hi Katie,
      Excellent question. Let me try to clarify with two examples.

      How God does NOT communicate to us through nature:

      One of my family members once was very anxious about having to decide whether to move to a different state or not. She was outside and prayed, “Lord, if you want us to move, please let me see a bluebird!” A little while later, a bluebird landed in the path in front of her. She took it as a “sign” and decided to move. This is probably an example of something to ignore if you have an anxiety disorder. I never recommend utilizing “signs” or “fleeces” if you have OCD. God may sometimes communicate this way but I’d guess that 97% of things people think are signs are actually just coincidences.

      How God DOES communicate to us through nature:

      Recently read about an atheist scientist who became a believer through his studies of natural science. He saw the presence of a Designer’s touch in his studies of biology and nature. Couple weeks ago, I talked to a non-Christian who lives in another country and has never before held or read a Bible. Yet, he said that when he looks at nature and sees how organized and sustainable it is, he feels convinced that there must have been someone who made all this. Others have understood grand moral truths by seeing the way human families interact, animal behavior, and patterns in nature. These would be some good examples. Please note that God gives us the big picture in nature and the details in His revealed Word. Look for principles, NOT signs.

      Hope this helps!


  15. Hi, Jaimie! I wonder if you had this experience before: feeling peace in your heart and having thoughts such as demonic, terrible, unspeakable thoughts? And peace only comes in when you allow or entertain these thoughts without agreeing or negating, just allowing them to be there in your mind? I just feel awful to have this peace in my heart, because it triggers more anxiety in me. Huhu, thanks!

    God bless!

  16. Is just that I feel scared about. I really don’t want
    This thoughts. I try to think about something else.
    Very painful. Thanks

  17. Jamie, I'm so thankful that you've dealt/dealing with your battle of Scrupulosity. I'm so grateful you share your journey with us. It must have been God who allowed me to find your website. Your articles feels as if God is saying to me, "Daughter, I understand." He gives me reassurance often that He's with Me but sometimes my OCD feelings can cause me to feel He's not. I pray that I'll be able to help others who deal with this. It suuucks! But everyone has their cross to bare. God is AWESOME anyways.

  18. I really appreciate your insights on this subject. I have religious OCD, and I am grateful for the explanations of what’s happening inside me. That it doesn’t mean anything about my spiritual standing with God. I have been on my own journey of how to navigate the triggers, rumination, resistance, explosion and silence. It’s definitely a trip I don’t love taking. I have learned much in the process which I am actually thankful for. I want to express my gratitude for your insights. They help me understand me. You’re awesome 🤩

    1. Hi Ashley, I’m so glad it’s been a bit helpful in some way. You’re right, weird bodily sensations mean nothing about your walk with God. You got it! Hold onto this truth the next time you get triggered. God is with you every step of the way!

  19. So I experienced something far greater than any man probably ever experienced…I got tricked into saying"I love you" to the devil and opened my heart to him years ago in 2017..I was so afraid of the devil after he attacked me in New Hampshire that I thought I needed to love him in order to conquer that fear…I thought that's what god wanted me to do…so there was a memory of a women I saw on a Jesus movie that played satan in the flesh…To make it easier to love the devil, I envisioned the women I remembered from the Jesus movie and pretended we were out for dinner…(as an act)..I was a real good actor back in that day and really could pull off meaning it well…then my heart opened up and I loved (like a love you would give to your wife) the women I remembered but directed the love towards satan and then not even a second goes by, a big thunderstorm hit my house and then I felt almost I can describe as blackness thick as cigarette smoke and fast like the wind cover my heart (my love/care/intimacy/feelings) I couldn't cry anymore because the blackness was covering my entire heart! Then the devil came inside me and told me that I was going to hell…My gut told me I was cursed by god for doing that and since then…Iv never experienced my heart again…Iv never experienced the in depth fullness of my love/care/feelings that come from the heart again. Those feelings are hidden, engulfed by blackness thick as smoke…and idk if it's the enemy's blackness or gods curse upon me for what I have done…
    Just the other day, I felt some kind of love from my heart to Christ and I thought in order to move this spiritual black smoke out from my heart, the smoke that’s hiding my heart, I have to say “I love you” with my whole heart to Christ like I did to the devil that very day so it may reverse the curse but as I attempted to say “I love you” to Christ with my whole heart the other night, the darkness thick like smoke engulfed whatever little love I had for Christ and now I’m back to square one again…my love is hidden again and I can’t feel it…it’s like there’s a spiritual tapeworm that keeps engulfing my love/care everytime I try to love someone! Could it be the devils evil power around my heart or could it be a physical sensation like described in this article? It was like dark invisible smoke fast like the wind coming into my mouth and into my heart covering my love/care/took my ability to cry. What could it possibly be?

    1. Hi Joey,
      I can’t tell you all the exact answers you’re looking for, but I can tell you a few principles from Scripture.
      1. God does not tell us anywhere in Scripture that we must love the devil in order to overcome our fear. Instead, we are told to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
      2. The cure to our problems is to love and depend upon Christ, as you’ve intuited…but it’s not really possible for us to say “I love you” with the whole heart. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?” We don’t have power over our hearts to do anything good with them. We are dependent upon God to make an act of grace, to reach down and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Thus, it would be a misnomer to think that if only we can do some good deed with our whole heart, we’ll be fixed. This places the focus on you, when the focus should be on God. Instead, trust that God will heal you in His time and His way. Trust Him, thank Him, pray to Him. But do not get caught in the compulsive loops of trying to fix yourself.
      3. If you feel very bothered by physical sensations, or if you cannot “feel” as much as you wish, it may be helpful to look into the concept of depersonalization/derealization. This can affect a portion of people with scrupulosity. It isn’t my specialty per se, but what I can say is that the Bible doesn’t say anything about DP/DR. If you have this absence of emotions/feelings, I’d classify it more like blindness or a broken leg rather than any sort of spiritual defect. Try not to view emotional problems as spiritual problems, because this will just make it more worrisome and harder to deal with.

      All the best,


  20. Hi,,,,Your writing is extremely helpful and I can relate to the bodily sensations that you are talking about. I especially want to focus on how God communicates with us. I watched Shawna’s video below and it was helpful. Are there any other resources that you suggest learning more about communication from God? Thank you.

  21. What about the positive feelings we recieve when a particular verse in Scripture speaks to our particular issue, or the comfort we feel when we recognize that God is in control and things will turn out okay, or the feelings we have when sometimes, the Holy Spirit consoles us during the times when His presence isn't obvious in our life? I have some OCD issues; most about whether God loves me because I haven't been good enough or prayed enough or was not forgiving enough. Since I have approached Christ's Church; moments of consolation and the comfort of God's mercy has come through healings that were preceded by feelings of contrition and feelings of love for the Father and peace that has stilled my ragged soul. Jesus promises to make me a new person and the OCD feelings will dissipate over time; but I will keep the positive feelings that God gifts us and during the dry seasons, I will drink from His word and wait. At some point in my journey, I will come to believe more fully, that God's grace is sufficient and consolations will be rarer and my faith will be stronger; and I won't need the feelings.

    1. Hi Randy, thanks for sharing your thoughts. There is nothing wrong with the consolations received through our feelings. However, it’s good to be cautious because feelings can be a double-edged sword. They can bring consolation and they can bring unnecessary anxiety. I do think God soothes us in our emotional center and can even give us what one of my Bible professors called “the tingles.” People speak of feelings of warmth, joy, a physical sensation like a hug, etc. And that’s fine. Feelings are God’s to give, but there are two things we shouldn’t do. We shouldn’t demand them, negating our entire spiritual journey in the moments when they aren’t there; and we shouldn’t pin spiritual interpretations on every single bodily sensation that we experience. Otherwise, I do understand what you’re getting at. There are moments when “feelings” bring a lot of consolation, and that is fine. 🙂

      1. I agree completely, concerning "demanding" feelings of consolation. From personal experience, I can see an addictive component to the "feel goods". I believe God understands that about us and allows us to go through dry times to test our faith. I thank you for your insights and will continue to seek out your learned opinions.

  22. Hi, I’m not sure how much my issue is scrupulously or plain OCD that is tied to my faith.
    I just feel like God is always against things I’m interested in because I feel more drawn to them than to Him. So then I feel tension at the possibility He wants me to get rid of that thing.
    So I’m the end I just am afraid of my interests being prohibited by God.

  23. This is a great read Jaimie. I've been wondering about this myself and I'm glad to see the biblical connect behind it. Thank you for this!

  24. Thank god for this, I watched
    The Scrupulous Mind Knowing God’s voice and she talked about having something in your life that shows god love and I think it this two of my biggest questions have been answered through this your first article (i forgot the name but there's a pic of a guy holding a bible you went REALLY into the topic about blasphemy OCD, and now I have been feeling the same numbness like Emily when I read the first article the thoughts went away I still had some I think its bc the stress went away knowing what I have is normal and I realized I was "doing too much" I went "loose" and wore earrings and ate junk food this was big for me bc I was overthinking these things, right now my mind repats I am cursed god is blessed EVen I say it in my head bc when I stop blasphemy happens and sometimes my mind can get quite then when I don't think anything then I wonder if I've been healed this whole time and its me saying all this? I also saw this person comment on a youtube video something in between the lines of "when your saved by Jesus you completely changed " I do compare my self to others who live for christ, and the " are you really a born again Christian? ", and they talk about the "renewing of mind ", and " if you don't seek his face you'll go back to the world" I took a break from the bible bc to much blasphemy came and there was a time when I couldn't feel anything, right now I would say I'm at a good point I don't plan an hour to read the word or how much pages i need to read, and NOW I like when I'm reading. I deleted my youtube acc and made a new one bc I just felt like it wasn't good for me to many Christian youtube channels and with my ocd I can't handle that it makes it more confusing of hearing gods voice, and the videos like – I had a dream of girls being tormented in hell for abortion- Im not with abourtion but like idk videos like that just move me in a werid way expecially the comments like " there going to hell for wearing clothes like that" It's not a comment from love, I feel I must wait for God to tell me what he wants me to wear not sum1 else bc then when I see sum1 in a crop top its the most UNnormal thing and then my OCD kicks in saying "It's bc your not of this world no more you "woke" and don't go back", thinking like this makes life uncomfortable and then the " this walk isnt susposed to be an easy deal with it this may be the cross you have to carry and your damed if u regect it " comes in and I just get lost. Right now the best things i do to just stop working thank god bc i think he put this in my head is just trusting him I don't plan out my day or think of ways to be righteous I just let it happen when I think of a "good day" I don't think ab if I prayed more that day or if it was bc I prayed less.

  25. Oh my. The numbness in the cycle is the worst for me. It makes me feel as if I don’t care about my faith anymore and THAT scares me (but in the moment, it’s hard to even feel scared-ness). So I have to rely on intellectual knowledge a lot, as in, I have to mentally remind myself that I still want to choose Jesus (and then my OCD will lie to me even about that 😭). It’s SO HARD to believe it’s OCD, because scrupulosity is that torturous—it really attacks EVERYTHING and will morph your doubts, fears and thoughts into worse things when your brain moves on from the current ones. I’m in the numbness right now and even writing this feels so flat and insincere, as if I’m lying or something. It’s frightening. The “what ifs” get so loud when you’re numb too.

    1. You’re doing it right, though, Emily–relying on what we know to be true from God’s promises rather than our feelings…this is the essence of “walking by faith.” No, it isn’t always easy or comfortable, but this is the way we will make it through. We must hang our souls on the Word of God, believing that it is more true than our own emotions.

  26. Best article ever, because I can relate to 100% of the these symptoms. This article gave me hope today after 4 years of thinking that it was over for me. I pray that more people come into contact with your website. This is bigger than anything. HSP with OCD do suffer a lot, they are misunderstood in every aspect and that made me think about Jesus being a HSP. It really must have sucked for Him feeling everybody’s suffering. The truth really set you free. I will be sharing your page to everybody that I know going through this, I pray that they will be blessed and let go of the control..

    1. Thank you, Daniel, I’m glad something resonated with you in this article. You are right, there is LOTS of hope for you! Keep pressing forward and keep your eye on Jesus instead of the challenges and weaknesses of “self.” He’ll never let you down!

  27. This blog post is awesome for someone of the Christian perspective. People of other views may or may not find it helpful depending on how open they are to other perspectives. I’m a Christian and found it very educational and insightful.
    That being said I have one thought on which I will expound – though our thoughts and feelings (emotional, physical and mental) are not a reliable source of information, God does sometimes confirm things through them when they line up with His Word. I give the example in your chart of Psalm 96:9 where the feeling of trembling “can mean awe and wonder” in worship. I think the important thing is not to rely on or or use emotions/thoughts/sensations to dictate to us what God says or what truth is.
    I have a lot more to say on this about discerning God’s voice for the individual having Scrupulosity. I talk a little bit about in the video I’ll link below: Knowing God’s voice. I will likely make sequels to this as there are treasures in God’s Word for those who seek Him – delightful things that bring healing, deliverance and that abundant life Jesus promised in John 10, even to and especially to those who have religious OCD. We are the bruised reeds He will not break and the smoldering wicks He will not snuff out (Isaiah 42:3).
    Thank you, Jaimie Eckert, for your anointed blog post. I pray many read it and recognize God’s voice speaking to them personally. There is no voice like Jesus’ voice and no words like God’s Word. May our thoughts, feelings and sensations line up with His. In Jesus Name, Amen.

    1. Hi, Shawna! Thank you so much for your kind words. I have appreciated your videos on scrupulosity and hope you will keep sharing your journey. One thing I loved in the video you linked is when you said, “if you don’t know what God wants you to do, just stay the course.” Such practical advice!

      I think it’s really difficult for the scrupulous person to discern God’s voice/will. Harder than for the average person. It’s so common for the intrusive thoughts of religious OCD to end up seeming like God’s voice, and then we spend excessive amounts of time trying to pick apart the sensations, impressions, and feelings to figure out whether it was really God or not. I don’t doubt that God speaks to us through many ways. You mentioned in your video feeling the love of God through your dog — while I think it’s definitely valid (I would call “pet love” part of general revelation, i.e. what we can know about God through the natural created world) the caveat I would add is that I wouldn’t recommend making important decisions or conclusions about my spiritual destiny based on sensations, coincidences, song lyrics, feelings, etc.

      I think the crucial difference is knowing God’s LOVE AND PRESENCE (what you addressed in your video) versus knowing God’s OBJECTIVE TRUTH and WILL. For scrupulous people like us, I think we can balance our tendency to go overboard by reining ourselves in from subjective, experiential ideas that God is speaking His WILL to us while continuing to be open to seeing His LOVE and PRESENCE. And, I think that is what you are getting at, too, from a little bit different angle.

      Glad to have you here at the blog! You’re a very encouraging, kind person and wonderful to have in support group. I wish you the very best in your recovery!

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