Stress and OCD

Scrupulosity Video Post

Jaimie Eckert

Published on Oct 22, 2020; Updated on Oct 22, 2020

In this article: follow along as I share a detailed and intimate case study of stress and OCD— my own. Let me walk you through the process of how stress activates my obsessive-compulsive tendencies and how I deal with it. I’ll share with you:

  • Connections between stress and OCD
  • How I walk myself through CBT and ERP
  • Biblical truths I cling to when my OCD makes me feel out of control

Everyone’s journey with OCD is a work in progress, and I certainly don’t get everything right along the way. But I hope that by sharing some of my own struggles and victories, I can encourage others who are leaning hard into treatment.

Stress and OCD: What’s the Connection?

Stress? Oh, yes. I can tell you a bit about that.

For the last 7 years, I’ve lived in Beirut. I have a lot of good memories, but there’s also an incredible amount of stress — the traffic, the constant political upheaval, the propensity to take advantage of foreigners, the economic strain, and the fallout effects from the Beirut blast in August.

I’m also in the latter stages of earning a PhD, which comes with unique academic stressors, expectations, and deadlines.

And now my husband and I are in the process of moving back to the United States. So that’s another check mark for life stressors. (Take this stress inventory to rate yourself!)

Life’s complexities, added up, can have consequences for our mental health. Psychologist Jordan Peterson believes that at the root of almost all mental health illnesses is stress — layer upon layer — which causes us to “blow out” at our weakest point, typically at whatever biological predisposition we have (OCD, depression, anxiety, etc.).

Stress doesn’t cause OCD, but it can worsen the symptoms.

But not a lot has been said about why that is the case. However, when we understand the three  big lies of scrupulosity, the connection between stress and OCD becomes clearer. Just for review, what are the three big lies that keep us stuck on the obsessive-compulsive rat wheel? They are:

  1. Doubt/Uncertainty is intolerable
  2. All guilt is true guilt
  3. I must always be in control

At some level, scrupulous sufferers buy deeply into one or more of these lies (typically all three, but sometimes only one or two). Put simply, obsessive compulsive disorder is an attempt to placate these underlying beliefs.

And then, along come those major life stressors. Stress reaches in and jams the gears on two of these beliefs — no. 1 and no. 3. Stress brings uncertainty, and stress brings a feeling like we are out of control.

The result is that our “blowout point” receives more pressure than normal, and our symptoms increase.

How I Manage My Stress and OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

When we have times of high stress in life and our OCD symptoms increase, we can react in one of three ways:

  1. Wallow in self-pity (“life is so unfair!”)
  2. Sink into unhealthy escape mechanisms (“I can’t deal with this.”)
  3. Use the stress as a catalyst for growth (“I will make it through this!”)

Clearly, the most mature and helpful response is to wield our struggles as a catalyst for growth. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy…

Sometimes I cycle through all three of the above — even in the same day! But I do believe my success in overcoming OCD is directly proportionate to the emphasis I place on growth. If we truly believe that God is in control of our lives, we can also believe that He is able to turn our pain into progress.

Self-pity and escapism are easy pits to fall into, but when I realize I’ve slipped inside, I try to get back up as soon as possible and keep going. Let me give you a few examples of how I face the challenges of increased stress and OCD and turn it into an opportunity for growth.

Stress and OCD is a catalyst for growth

The Misbehaving Brain: How I Do CBT on Myself

My husband (who is German) comes from a large family. He has two sisters and three brothers, and before we move back to the US we are trying to visit as many family members as possible. Right now, we are taking a road trip through Germany and Switzerland to see everyone.

As we go, the stress of travel, family visits, and background anxiety gives me opportunity to do cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) on myself more often than I normally would. Here’s how I do it.

The Dreaded Disease: I-can’t-stand-it-itis

It’s late afternoon when we arrive at his sister’s home on a picturesque mountainside overlooking snowcapped mountains. The scene from the living room windows is like a postcard that makes me remember reading Heidi as a child.

I ought to feel peaceful. I ought to be enjoying myself. (All those “oughts…”)

But I’m ruminating about our moving situation. There are so many details to figure out, and I’m struggling to not get stuck in my head.

As I’ve told a number of my clients, obsessives don’t just ruminate about our OCD themes. It’s possible to get obsessive about solving normal, everyday life issues and even exciting personal projects. We don’t just obsess about whether we committed the unpardonable sin and whether we prayed appropriately. We also obsess about crafting projects, birthday plans, shopping lists, and pet care. Even positive thoughts can become obsessive.

The crisp October air and emerald green slopes are beckoning from outside, but I’m glued to my computer. I can’t stop scrolling through real estate listings, looking for the perfect home back in the US.

An obsessive trip through Switzerland

But here’s the thing: I’ve seen everything in the real estate listings a dozen times already. Nothing is the right fit for us. As I scroll through the listings again, a sense of panic starts to rise in my chest.

It takes a moment of awareness for me to recognize that I am obsessing. I recognize my real estate search is obsessive because:

  1. Looking at the same listings over and over again isn’t actually helping me make progress, and
  2. Repetitive searches are only making my anxiety go up.

Once I come to the realization that what I’m doing has crossed a line from a normal, healthy activity to an obsessive one, I step away from the computer and ask myself some tough questions. This is how my CBT process begins:

  • What are my internal beliefs that make me feel I “must” do this?
  • What kind of self-talk is going on in the background that drives this obsessive cycle?

It isn’t difficult to tune into my internal narrative.

I NEED to know where we are going to live, says my internal self-talk. I can’t handle the uncertainty of being in limbo any longer.

It’s this self-talk that drives my obsessive internet searches. A feeling that uncertainty is somehow unsafe and intolerable, and that I truly can’t stand it. It’s the dreaded disease of I-can’t-stand-it-itis.

This belief leads me to feel that I must work hard (i.e. obsess) in order to save myself from this danger of uncertainty.

These beliefs feel true, but they are not. If I want this stressful time to be a catalyst for growth, my role is to replace the untrue self-talk with truth. Jesus said clearly,

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

John 8:32

The way to change my mental patterns is to change the internal self-talk that I allow. Just like parents don’t allow their children to use cuss words, I also need to police the dialogue that goes on inside my head. I make progress as I refuse to allow untrue self-talk.

I can’t stand this uncertainty, says the instinctive part of my brain.

Yes, you can stand this, I reply with my logical frontal lobe. It feels very uncomfortable to be in a sea of unknowns right now, but you CAN stand it. You will not die from these feelings.

I can stand this

It doesn’t make my anxiety or obsessions go away, but it completely removes the panic. Talking to myself with truth helps me start calming down.

Stress and OCD: Dealing with Chaos

But why does the uncertainty bother me? I push myself to dig deeper. I ask more uncomfortable questions.

  • Why am I so bothered by this feeling of being out of control?
  • What is it about a “surprise” future that makes me feel so unsafe?

I think back to my childhood. I pull up memories of chaos, confusion, fear, and disappointment. The emotional memories stored in my amygdala are far more influential than any “logic” I try to relay from my prefrontal cortex. This is why the truth-filled self-talk removes the panic but doesn’t entirely erase the anxious background static.

I work a bit at it until I can summarize my emotional memories in one phrase: chaos is always dangerous.

How many episodes from my young life taught me to associate “chaos” with bad things happening? These emotional associations work faster than logic. As soon as I find myself in an unpredictable, uncertain, chaotic situation, my amygdala activates.

Some people have compared the amygdala — the emotional center of the brain — to a gunslinger from the wild west. It doesn’t need a lot to provoke it, and it will shoot indiscriminately despite the voice of logic.

You can’t talk reason to the amygdala.

And that’s why I don’t waste time trying.

Some people with obsessive-compulsive disorder will get stuck with CBT because they try to force the background anxiety go away completely. While CBT appears to work very well for reducing panic, it isn’t going to restore us to a complete state of normalcy overnight. We have deep emotional memories stored in our brains. These are very powerful. CBT is not meant to help us argue our way out of our low-level background anxiety. It’s meant to help us understand where it’s coming from so that we can begin to build a new, competing set of emotional memories.

In my case, the deep CBT questions help me to isolate and label these emotional memories: chaos is always dangerous. Once I figure that out, I refrain from arguing against it. This will, of course, lead me into another obsessive loop of trying to figure out why I can’t get the emotions to go away. My thought process is more like this:

I’ve had a lot of early life experiences that made me believe that chaos is always dangerous. Right now, my personal life is a bit chaotic and unpredictable, so all these emotional memories are surfacing and making me feel unsafe. I understand why I feel this way, and I understand that it’s not something that’s going to go away overnight. But as I lean into God and work through this transition with my husband, I’ll be able to form new, competing memories of chaos leading to security and joy. And one day, I’ll be able to look at life’s unknowns, not as “chaos,” but as “surprises.”

Creating Obsessional Boundaries

Practically speaking, there’s more that I do to control my compulsion for excessive internet searches. I create obsessional boundaries aimed at keeping transitional activities healthy.

I allow myself to scan new home listings once a day for a brief period. I only check what has been uploaded in the last 24 hours, and then I force myself to exit. This helps me maintain a healthy relationship with a necessary activity (home searching) while not allowing my obsessional tendencies to run away with me.

Stress and OCD: Response Prevention

How I Do ERP on Myself As I Deal with Stress and OCD

Like most people with OCD, I like control.

I like to know what’s coming next. I like to know where I will eat and sleep every day. I like to have time to prepare for anything new or different in my routine.

Visiting family members means that I don’t always have control.

Let me give you a very small example of how I do ERP on myself when I start to get into that OCD spiral. As I’ve learned to deal with my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, these episodes become more and more minor and less frequent — the following example probably isn’t something that will trigger anybody and it is much less significant than some of the exposures I’ve done in the past. It’s not even closely related to religious or moral themes, but it’s an example of how stress and OCD interact to exacerbate anxiety. So I hope you won’t mind this “minor” example — I do try to walk a fine line between giving helpful case studies and not writing about things that will exasperate and trigger my readers!

One day last week, we were on our way through the Black Forest of southern Germany to see family, and since the distance was too much to cover in one day, we planned to find a hotel and restaurant and continue driving the next day.

As we drove, I had trouble focusing on the gorgeous landscape out the window. I was obsessing about where we would sleep and eat.

These details were out of my control, and subconsciously I really disliked that. I wasn’t enjoying the drive at all.

How I Do ERP on Myself: A Brief Walkthrough

As I became aware of the cause for my discomfort (intolerance for feeling out of control, intolerance for uncertainty) I chose to respond with a gentle episode of ERP (exposure and response prevention therapy). It took two forms:

  1. Exposure: this part was unavoidable. I was in a car with my husband, driving through a landscape of forests and mountains, completely unsure of where I would eat and sleep that day (he didn’t know, either), which provoked feelings of anxiety and obsessive thought patterns. I didn’t choose this exposure, but I chose the next step.
  2. Response Prevention: rather than trying to regain a sense of control through obsessively trying to “figure out” my day, I chose not to engage. I sat back and prayed silently, “God, I give you complete control over everything that happens today. I will let You solve these problems instead of me.” It was difficult, but I forced myself not to ask my husband a single question or pressure him about booking a hotel reservation or finding a place to stop and eat (this might sound simple but it’s a little more difficult to find places to eat when you’re vegetarian).

This went on for several hours. I pushed through the uncomfortable feelings of “something’s not right and I have a responsibility to fix it.” I chose to enjoy the views and good conversation. When the urge to work on a solution resurfaced, I reminded myself that I’d given this responsibility to God and refused to take compulsive action.

Stress and OCD: Embracing Uncertainty

When lunchtime drew near, my husband found a place where we got vegetarian burgers.

Hmm, that wasn’t so bad, I thought to myself. God provided the first need. What about the second?

I’m terrified of chaos — but every time I have a positive experience with God bringing order out of my chaos (instead of ME doing it through obsessive-compulsive action), my amygdala is building a new emotional memory that says, “hey, unknowns are ok. You’ve got God on your side. Life’s unknowns are going to turn out fine if you let go and let Him be in control.”

After lunch we kept driving. Evening drew near, and we still hadn’t made a hotel booking. Of course, I still felt anxious, but my lips were sealed. This was God’s problem, because I’d given it to Him. When the time was right, He would prompt my husband to figure it out (because he’s the booking guy in the relationship, and I’m just the anxious nagger. I assume he probably enjoyed a day off from my OCD-driven pestering).

And, sure enough, evening came, we stopped in a cafe for buttered pretzels and wifi, and he made a booking at a comfortable hotel nearby.

Silly me, I thought, When has he ever failed to provide a roof over my head?

And when has God ever failed me?

OCD and Stress: Happy ERP Endings

It’s not logic, it’s emotion that drives our OCD. ERP is really about rebuilding emotional memories that teach us it’s ok to live through the experiences that scare us.

As we slipped into a warm, cozy bed in a hotel room with heated floors and a luxurious shower, I knew my day’s ERP had been successful. I felt anxious but prevented my normal obsessive-compulsive response, and things turned out just fine.

Score! One more point for my post-OCD brain structures…

It reminded me of those verses in Scripture that tell us to remember the mighty works of the Lord. As we recall His goodness for us, this is not just a cutesy way of passing our devotional time. We are literally building trust structures in our brains. We are developing a deep ability to lean into God, release that toxic OCD-ish control, and relate to Him as a genuinely dependent child.

Dependent on our Heavenly Father

I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.

Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.

The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me;
I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
Yes, our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

Psalm 116:1-7

The Lord dealt bountifully with me that day, and I can say every day. But ERP has to be an ongoing exercise because it consistently forces me to think through whether my dependence is on myself or on God.

Times of Stress and OCD: Scriptures to Lean On

Here’s a collection of verses I lean on during times when stress brings out my worst mental health weaknesses. Beside each passage, I’ll ask a question that might help you relate deeply with the text.

If you’re going through a time of heightened personal stress, I encourage you to cozy up with your Bible and prayerfully ponder these passages. Allow God’s words to speak to you and soothe your heart.

Passages About Letting Go of Control

  • Job 23:14 and Psalm 57:2 — who has ultimate responsibility for solving our problems?
  • John 15:5 — how can we embrace our powerlessness in light of this verse?
  • Exodus 14:14 — does God still do this today?
  • 1 Peter 5:7 — how can you cast your particular obsessive cares on God?
  • Psalm 34:17 — what is your only task during times of stress, according to this verse?
  • Romans 8:16-17 — how much “control” are children expected to have, and how much control should the parent (our heavenly Father) have?

Passages About Dealing with Stress

  • Psalm 62:8 — how do you feel after pouring out your heart to God in times of stress?
  • Matthew 11:28 — according to this passage, what will soothe our spirits in times of stress — trying to “figure out” our problems, or coming to the presence of Christ?
  • Isaiah 26:3 — what can I do with my mind that will bring relief from worries?
  • John 14:27 — can I manufacture my own sense of peace, or must it come from a supernatural source?

Passages About Uncertain Times

  • Psalm 131 — this psalm talks about humility in the face of uncertainty. What does the metaphor of the weaned child teach us about withdrawing from our need for absolute answers?
  • John 20:29 — when is it a positive thing in our spiritual lives to have a measure of uncertainty?
  • 1 Corinthians 13:12 — is it bad to have partial knowledge?
  • 2 Corinthians 5:7 — uncertain times give us an opportunity for growth in our spiritual lives; how is God calling you to grow through uncertainty?


In this article I’ve talked about some of the ways stress and OCD interact to bring a flareup of symptoms. We all deal with it at some point. If you find yourself having increased obsessive symptoms during times of stress or life transitions, don’t be discouraged. You are NOT regressing, you are in a stage of faster and more intense growth.

It is during these times that we develop new emotional memories of God’s deliverance and presence. We challenge incorrect thought patterns and refuse to respond to our typical triggers. And we lean heavily on God’s Word to soothe our spirits.

How have you seen stress impact your OCD? If you’ve had moments where you really saw God meet you in your pain point, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!

We have no reason to fear these uncomfortable moments, because we have the assurance that God is using them for our growth and sanctification.

Keep going forward, pilgrim. We’re almost home, and God is wrapping up His perfect work in you.

Best wishes on the journey,

  • I met with my pastor today to share my struggle lately. I’ve really been going through it with blasphemous thoughts. They don’t always cause anxiety, but it does often raise the what if questions we are all familiar with. I’m trying to go forward and not get caught up in picking apart every thought. One thing I’ve noticed is my fear of the blasphemous thoughts occurring when I’m stressed, and I think due to that fear the thoughts are immediately attached to stress. Anytime I get stressed, those are the first thoughts to pop up because of the anxiety I already have enforced about it happening. I’m trying to ignore it, but it feels so real and from my heart when those thoughts happen in stressful situations. I try to apply your strategy of recognizing that it isn’t a thought I’d commit to and truly mean no matter how real it feels, similar to the grocery store metaphor. Definitely still working on it, and I’m trying to learn that even if it is me at times, God will forgive me for cursing at Him and sanctify me of it. Easier said than done, but it’s nice to know that stress does increase these issues! Thanks for sharing

  • It's crucial to prioritize self-care and seek support when needed, as both stress and OCD can have a significant impact on one's mental and physical well-being. It's important to remember that both stress and OCD are treatable conditions. Seeking help from a healthcare professional can provide individuals with the necessary tools and resources to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Additionally, engaging in stress-reducing activities such as exercise, meditation, and spending time with loved ones can help alleviate symptoms of stress and OCD.

  • Finding your website is an absolute miracle and proof that God is GOOD, and that He is FOR us and never against us. I have hope again for the first time in a very, very long time. Thank you so much, and keep posting. I'm sure there are more of us who need this than much of the Christian world realizes.

  • Thank you! I am just starting on this life journey of dealing healthily with OCD and scrupulosity. My first memory of blasphemous thoughts was as a young teenager and I am now 60. A lifetime of angst. Thank you for your encouragement and writing of times of not being to do it "right" with the treatment. And that stress brings it on, which explains so much to me, about me and OCD. Please don't stop with your writing! I am so grateful for your wisdom and ability to put it out there for us to learn. Thank you for allowing God to use you.

  • Hello! Jamie. Can I manage my OCD on my own? I am not diagnosed with OCD but I see myself having the symptoms of OCD and I am not able to go to a therapist since my family is struggling. I am just a student as well suffering from unforgivable sin. Please reply, God bless you!

    • Hi Ellyn,
      Many people choose to manage OCD on their own with self-help books and online videos. Others can’t manage it because the OCD is too severe, and they need to get professional help. I’m not the right person to diagnose you or say whether you should get professional help or not, but at least I can tell you that yes, different people take different approaches, and in milder cases I think it’s totally possible to manage OCD without too much intervention. I think you know yourself best, and if after a few months of really working hard with self-help methods, if you don’t see yourself making any progress, you may wish to try to get additional help.
      Best regards,

  • Hi Jaimie,

    Is it reassurance seeking to lean on words of scripture like when Jesus said ‘neither do I condemn you’ to the woman caught in adultery

    • I wouldn’t consider it reassurance seeking if you’re not treating the passages like a repetitive mantra or an escape from facing your fears. There is a difference between unhealthy reassurance seeking and true Biblical comfort. God’s comfort gives us strength and courage to go forward in dealing with our mental health struggles in an appropriate way, but it will not keep us stuck in a rumination cycle.

      Hope that helps!


  • That was such a relevant read. We're currently away from the country where we normally serve as missionaries, which means I have more stressful circumstances than in my normal routine (largely because of the unknowns!). My husband asked me just yesterday if my OCD was worse than normal at the moment. This article certainly helps explains why!

    • Oh yes! I can definitely get a bit of obsessive uptick when I’m out of my regular routine. I always try to leave my thoughts on ice and refrain from making any conclusions until my stress levels go back down. 🙂

  • Hello Jamie. Jeff from Ontario, Canada. First of all, it is a relief to find others that have these problems. I too have terrible thoughts toward God that come to my mind and I fight them every step of the way. I googled the problem when I became desperate and almost couldn't believe it when I read your words. It was like you had an open book into what is happening to me and what the past and present has done to exacerbate the problem. It has helped me somewhat but the torment comes back. I've known and loved the Lord Jesus for forty plus years, since I was around eleven and this suddenly came on strong in the last month or so. No warning, just there. Through this article and your original one I can see what's happening. In the last three years I have dealt with cervicogenic vertigo and an injury to my spine. My OCD had been somewhat under control but recently, as my wife would say, it has gotten out of control. She is on dialysis and needs me and yet I now have my own issues. I also realize that although I love the Lord, I have so much trouble seeing Him loving me. So many troubles in my life, including my father, built a barrier to it. I don't have a therapist here as I am in a small town with not very good medical sources. Any thoughts on how I can get some therapy? I am desperate to stop these thoughts about the Lord, whom I hold as my everything. Another question is, have you had personal experience with terrible thoughts about God? God bless you and your work and I look forward to your reply.

    • Hi Jeff! Yes there are some great online therapy resources today. One place I might try first is the NOCD platform, where you can get specialized OCD therapy right through your phone or computer. Some insurance networks cover it. I don’t have personal experience with it, but some of my clients have used it.
      Many blessings!

      • Thank you, Jaimie. I will look into that. Do you still do group sessions and would that be something I should look into?
        God bless.

        • Hi Jeff,
          Yes, I do group sessions twice per week (same content both times, to accommodate different schedules). It may be good for you to take the free module of my master class to see if the content is something that resonates with you, and then if you like it, sign up for the paid group sessions. Hope it will be a blessing!

  • YOU are the most resourceful and caring person I KNOW. THANK YOU FOR YOUR EMAILS AND HELPING ME TO KNOW I'M NOT ALONE.

  • Can you lead me to an article that talks about how to get started. I am aware that stress and (for me) hormones play a part in OCD, but where do you start when you're just finding you have OCD? When it is a continual part of your day? And how do you treat anxiety as opposed to OCD?

  • This article is very helpful. Thank you. So, I'm assuming then that once you have determined the reason, you don't want to continue to "remind" yourself why you're feeling anxious? This would be a type of OCD. Am I correct?

    • Right. It sounds really wacky but most people in the OCD recovery community have reported that the most helpful thing is to just accept that feelings of discomfort are there without trying to “fix” them. You may wish to google ACT (acceptance-commitment therapy) or talk about it with your therapist, as this is somewhat related.

      But Biblically speaking (which is my specialty) it’s helpful to remember that God never asked us to be internalizing like this. The whole tenor of Scripture teaches us to externalize–to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself. It is about loving God and serving others, not looking inward to figure out our thoughts and emotions. Whatever is messed up in our hearts and minds is just something we ask God to take care of and trust that He will.


  • This is a very good & helpful article Jaimie God has definitely been there for me so many times Actually, as Paul says in Colossians, Jesus IS my life & my life is now hidden with Him in the Father <3 My struggle is my mind keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop OCD thoughts about ding & how it can happen all of a sudden & God wont stop it Just wanted to share more examples Thank you so much for sharing your personal journey & helpful wsdom!!!

  • Hi Jaimie- I’m a Jaime too and our name gets spelled so many ways! I love the variety 🙂

    I am just realizing that I have obsessive tendencies and it is around religious thoughts. I have been a Bible learner and teacher for 20 years so it’s a bit of a shock and caused some shame that I could fall prey to this. I had the “thought” in 2019 that God wanted me to go pray for a little girl in a far away state. I had seen her story in Instagram. The thought became all the time and it slowly started causing anxiety, and then eventually panic attacks. I also am finally connecting dots after therapy, and talking with my pastor and even reaching out to the family, that these thoughts get worse around the second half of my menstrual cycle and that I’m in premenopause. I never knew your hormones could play with your anxiety so much! It’s been a hard journey. I am not completely through it and have learned that I have to try and not keep the the thoughts at bay but to not give so much energy into analyzing and trying to figure everything out. I have a clinic Ph.D. in my field so researching is my thing. I have also leaned that some of our strengths can become our greatest weaknesses not kept in check. Have you written any articles that deal with feeling like you’ve been called to do something by God in your thoughts and how to deal with it when you can’t do it, or you try and feel like you failed, and since you didn’t accomplish it the way you thought you were told to it then feels left undone or
    incomplete? Essentially how to let it go and trust God to take care of the whole thing without feeling spiritually lazy? Uggh!

    • Hi Jaime, sorry to hear about the struggle but I’m so glad you’re connecting the dots and making progress. It’s interesting that you have a Ph.D. and enjoy research…I have often felt that my underlying OCD has served me in academic research. Once I get going on a topic I can go for hours researching–and hey, for a grad student that’s kind of a superpower. 🙂 It’s only when this ability to focus for HOURS on the nuances of a topic at hand turns against us that this becomes a disorder. Try not to view your highly detailed mind and razor-sharp focus as a purely bad thing. It has its good qualities, too, as long as we learn which thoughts are worth our time.

      Regarding the feeling of being “called” to do something…hmm no articles that I can think of, though in my upper membership tier in the Scrupulosity Academy I do have a one-hour course on how to know God’s will for your life, and I do deal with topics like Providence, “impressions,” “fleeces,” signs, and feelings that relate to knowing God’s will. That might be something helpful for you. I will try also to get some articles or videos out on that topic!

      Yes, learning to let go is not easy. This is the path of Christian discipleship. You’re not crazy for struggling on this point, it is the same point that the apostles and prophets faltered and grew through themselves. Keep up the hope and faith! God is with you and will never leave you!

      Best regards,

  • Hi Jamie!
    I am so thankful for your content! It has been a blessing to me for the last few months since I found it! I just recently had a second child, moved cities and my husband is in school. My OCD has been so bad the last few months with all the transition and I was so thankful to find this article today! Praise God for His work in your life and the way you are helping others!

    • Whoa, what a pile of stressful transitions! I can imagine your OCD would be clamoring for attention. Try to view this as a “season” that will get better as your external stressors even out.
      Be blessed,

  • Hey, I have also been reading your articles and have been of help. The story for me started when I was 10, am currently 15 with thoughts that I was going to give my soul to the enemy, now Psalm 121:7 I know God will not ever do that. I am currently 15 and OCD worsened this year, came back. Thanks to God he is guiding my therapy CBT and are doing with her ERP too. I just pray that she would also accept the biblical truths to overcome OCD. Have a great day and God bless all of you!

  • Hello there. My name is Robert and I'm from Romania. I've been reading your articles and watched your videos too and found a slight improvement. Thank you 🙂
    Long story short because I don't want the take up too much of  your time; maybe other people need your help more than me.
    I was born orthodox, but started believing again about 6 years ago. Since then I've been having intrusive thoughts about God. In the beginning it was very harsh, I could not sleep and tortured myself with the thoughts. I want to say that this thought was troubling me only when I prayed, but now, sometimes, I think about it obsessively for the whole day. It's more like a subtle course rather than being a thought. I learned to live with it because I know it comes from the devil, but the thing is that I can't get rid of it completely. It was times when I stopped praying and the thought went away.  When I came back to Jesus again the troubling started and it was so frustrating and anxious that it made me say to God with tears in my eyes that if He wants me dead to kill me rather than letting me think like that.
    I've tried to gather a lot of information about this and many people seem to face it. I even found a few videos on youtube with holy men that say the solution is to keep your mind in hell, but never give up, among many other solutions. I don't seem to get rid of this thought and it follows me all day long sometimes, which affects my family life. I have a wife and a 2 year old daughter. The wife recently told me that I'm changed and that she sees me that I'm worried and always thinking (with my head in the clouds. if i translate from romanian).
    I decided to write you, hoping you could point me in the right direction to overcome this struggle in my life!
    Thank you Jaimie!

    • Hi, Robert,

      I have friends and family from Romania, so I hope to one day visit your beautiful country. I always enjoy it when they give me sarmale and zacusca and other nice foods to eat. 🙂

      Thank you for sharing a bit about your situation. I do have a few thoughts that might be of help.

      First of all, when you mention that your thoughts were so intense that you “tortured” yourself and could not sleep, this is more of the spiritual panic than the lower-level background anxiety. With panic we can respond with CBT and also something called “flooding,” which I encourage you to look up online since I don’t have an article about that yet; with the consistent, bothersome thoughts we can respond with ERP and just plain learning to ignore them.

      Another thought is related to your observation that the religious OCD increased more when you came back to Christ. OCD will cling to whatever is most important to us. Developing a deeper relationship with God is obviously something valuable and important, and may be surfacing some of your deepest fears. It can be helpful to try to understand what your fear actually is. Try to boil it down to a single statement: “I obsess about _______ because I’m afraid of ________.” Fairly often, I find that the spiritual fear is related to one of four things:

      1. A misconception of God’s character (a subconscious belief that God is not safe, loving, good, approachable, etc.)
      2. Doctrinal misunderstandings (typically imbalanced or unbiblical views about sin, hell, or salvation)
      3. Spiritual traumas (being sexually or emotionally abused by clergy, being in a cult, feeling judged by church members)
      4. Biological predisposition to anxiety (sometimes there is no underlying spiritual issue at all)

      Don’t overanalyze this list. 🙂 But do think it through!

      • Hello again Jaimie! Thanks very much fir all the tips. It's very nice to hear that you've got family from Romania. I also love sarmale and zacusca 🙂 Zacusca is also good for when I'm fasting.
        I recently started therapy with a psychologist, but didn't do much therapy because it was the first session and I mostly told him about myself and the situation. I will tell the psychologist about CBT and ERP too. He told me he will help me accept the thoughts and teach me some relaxation techniques in the next session. I've tried too pin down the problem too with him, but can't figurenout whether is my misconception about God or it's about myself trying to straddle beteeen the pleasures of life and thinking I'm not good enough for God.

        PS: If the things won't work with this psychologist, could I book an online therapy session with you on Skype?

        Thank you very much!

        • Hi, Robert,
          How is it going with your therapy sessions? I’m a Biblical scholar and not a psychologist, so I don’t offer any therapy — just coaching sessions to work through the spiritual side of religious OCD. But what I can tell you is that when your therapist talks about “accepting” the thoughts, he/she probably means that you need to accept the presence of these thoughts, not necessarily the content of them. And that is completely Biblical. Remember when Jesus stood before King Herod? The king and the pharisees hurled all kinds of false accusations at Jesus, but He didn’t answer a single word. We could say He “coexisted” in the presence of unwelcome, untrue thoughts. He didn’t answer because He knew it wouldn’t do any good — at another time in His ministry, He said we shouldn’t cast our pearls before swine. Same idea. Responding can sometimes do more harm than good. So when your therapist asks you to accept the presence of unwanted thoughts rather than argue back against them, remember that from a Christian perspective it’s ok to do this. I almost always encourage people in the religious OCD community to try and stick it out with their therapists, even if there is a bit of confusion on the therapist’s part about how to deal with the religious aspects of the disorder. Try to explain your beliefs and why they are important to you. Help them understand your situation by explaining which parts of your spiritual life are typical for your religious community and demands are unique to you — that is, what spiritual things do you feel pressured to do that nobody else in your church does. This will help your therapist help you the most.

          • Hello,

            The therapy is going alright. Regarding the thoughts, we didn't get into detail with the contenent of them. The psychologist just told me that it's ok to have the thoughts and just to observ them as they would be cars going down the motorday or clouds which you can't control. He also said it's ok to have them and the key is not to get rid of them, because that's the problem in my head, thrying for so many years to get rid of them made them stronger. In fact he asked me to analize how I feel when I have the thoughs and then to relax. He showed me some relaxation techniques and they work. I am much better now!

            Thank you and all the best!

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