“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?”
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?