Why Do I Have OCD? (Scrupulosity Is Not Your Fault)

Scrupulosity Video Post

Jaimie Eckert

Published on Jan 25, 2021; Updated on Jan 25, 2021

“Why do I have OCD? Is it my fault?”

The inspiration for this article came to me this evening as I met for the first time with a new client. As she told me about her harrowing childhood experience of trying to figure out why she had these awful doubts and intrusive thoughts — in essence, asking the “why do I have OCD” question — I responded by telling her something very simple. 

I told her, “your scrupulosity is not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

She nearly broke down in tears.

As she finished telling me a very touching story of her struggles with scrupulosity, I realized there are probably many others wondering why they have OCD. Many others who think they’ve done something wrong to get this way. 

They haven’t believed hard enough, haven’t worked hard enough to figure out their beliefs, haven’t been a good enough believer…

And here they are, feeling guilty about feeling guilty.

You also need to know that this isn’t your fault.

There’s abundant evidence that obsessive-compulsive disorder has biological elements. It’s not fully a biological disorder (only about 50% of its causality can be traced to genetic and physical factors) but hey, 50% is a lot. It’s more than enough for me to question religious leaders who, as in this dear woman’s situation, told her not to come back for pastoral counseling because they felt she was just being “rebellious.”

What a sad, sad misunderstanding of the OCD brain!

What if these leaders would have understood that there’s a loop inside the brain called the “singulo-operculer network” that is wired incorrectly in the OCD brain? What if they knew that this loop was overactive in the error processing segment and underactive in the inhibitory control segment?

Like ripping out the brake, welding the gas pedal to the floor, and installing an unlimited fuel tank. It is NOT the same as being “rebellious.”

Why Do I Have OCD? NOT for the Reason I Assumed.

No, dear friends, having scrupulosity is not your fault. Why do you have OCD? Not because you make some spiritual mishap in the past and are now reaping what you’ve sown. Not because you’ve grieved the Holy Spirit. Not because there’s something fundamentally wrong with you.

How about, “we live in a broken world and we’re all broken people?”

why do I have OCD? Explaining Scrupulosity

In my opinion, having scrupulosity is a bit like having a broken leg, or a broken toe. But in our case, we have a tiny part of the brain that is broken. And just like we can learn to hobble, walk, and even run marathons with a prosthetic leg, we can learn to override our natural brokenness as we develop new ways of thinking.

Why do I have OCD — really?

I can tell you one thing: it’s not because of something you did wrong.

And if racers with prosthetic legs can run faster than the never-broken racers, God can wield the wounds of our minds to make us into better people.

Let’s not hate ourselves for having OCD.

Let’s take gentle care.

If you had a broken leg, isn’t that what you would do?

  • We have a doubting disease Scrup and so when people tell us that we need to stop doubting or else we wont go to Heaven. I think that is the same as if they were to tell a blind person that unless they start seeing, they wont go to Heaven.

    Both would be unfair.

  • Question: I have Scrupulosity and oftne doubt I am saved. Some people say that if a person doubts they are saved, that means they are not. They also say things like unless you have 100% assurance you are saved, that means you are not.

    So questions I have are….

    How much faith is required to be saved? Does a person have to be doubt free?

    Also does a person have to maintain perfect faith literally every second after they are saved in order to remain saved?

    Also how on earth can a person with Scrup know they are saved and have trusted in Jesus alone when they have a disease that won't let them?

    Also um God won't hold against us doubts about our salvation or anything because of our Scrup. I mean it's not like it is us doing it of our choosing.

    Also why do some Christians put on so much stress and torment and impossibilities and take away Christians Scrupies hope of salvation by implying we must have perfect faith all the time?

    Thank you.

    • Michelle, thanks for sharing these questions…I’m sure you’re expressing the thoughts of many, many people with religious OCD. My best response would probably be to simply remember the story of “doubting Thomas.” When Jesus finally appeared to him, you might have expected Jesus to say, “away with you! Thou shalt no longer be my disciple, thou doubter!” Perhaps Thomas’ doubt signaled a “falling away,” no? But this wasn’t the case. Jesus tenderly admonished him to “be not faithless, but believing.” And then He invited Thomas to put forth his finger and touch the wounds so he could reassure himself that his doubts were groundless.

      So, too, it would seem that our doubt is unideal. I wouldn’t go so far as to say, “hey, doubt is great, let’s celebrate it.” No, it’s not ideal, and we all intuitively know that it doesn’t feel good. What we DON’T intuitively know is that doubting doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us or our spiritual lives. There are a lot of things in my mind that are full of questions and doubts — but the important thing is that these doubts do not change my *decision* for Christ. It’s ok to be totally confused yet still committed.

      Which is why I think it’s really neat that so-called “doubting” Thomas gives us one of the most profound utterances in support of the Trinity anywhere in Scripture (“my Lord and my God!”) and later went on to convert a substantial group of people in the Indian subcontinent, which is still a thriving Christian community today. Obviously, he was in no way cast off for his doubt.

      And, neither are we.

      • Ok thank. I think of Peter when he was walking on water. He started to doubt and panic. However, when he called to Jesus to save him, Jesus did immediately. He didn't say, "No! Thou hast imperfect faith! Thou hadst doubted! Fish food be thou!" Then walk off while Peter slowly sank to the bottom of the sea. Then go to the boat and say, "Peter didst doubt Me. Let this be a warning to you all."

        Poor Peter.

          • Hi, Michelle,

            I spent most of my childhood doubting my salvation, and what you're being told–that you are saved by having perfect faith and perfect assurance–is bad doctrine. Ephesians 2 says we are saved BY grace, THROUGH faith (not "by" or "because of" faith). No one can have perfect faith or perfect assurance. We are saved by the blood of Christ, not by how perfect our faith is. Otherwise, we'd be earning our salvation. (And because I have OCD and know what my brain would throw at me when hearing the above, I'll add this–don't start thinking that if you listened to the bad doctrine, it means you're not saved. We're not saved by perfect doctrine either. 🙂 )

            And I just wanted you to know that you're not alone. I think deep down, you probably know what you're being told is wrong, but OCD is throwing the "what ifs" back at you anyway. OCD is hard enough without people feeding us bad doctrine too. I will say a prayer for you, that you can rest in Christ. I know how you feel–I've been there.

            And Jaime–

            Thank you for this website. I've had OCD my whole life, though I didn't get diagnosed or medicated until I was 15. Most of my OCD took the form of scrupulosity, and I didn't realize there was a specific term for that kind of OCD until I came across your website. What you're doing is an important ministry for people like me. My OCD is a lot better than it used to be (yay, meds!), but I still have some symptoms, and I'm working to grow in my understanding of my illness and how to respond to intrusive thoughts, etc.

          • Thanks for chiming in, Kelly. I agree with you–we are saved by the incredible gift of grace that Jesus provided for us on the cross–not by our own superior intellects or fancy creeds or ability to rein our minds up to a high pitch of emotional security. (This is not to say that we ought not strive for good doctrine or deeper trust, but those things are not what save us, as you’ve said so well!) I’m glad to hear that you’re doing better. I am sure God will continue to lead you to a place of balance, serenity, and joy.

    • Hi, James! When I have availabilities, it’ll show up on my coaching page. That’s typically the best way to get together. I’m booked out now, but you can keep your eye open there for the future.

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