Religious Scrupulosity FearCast Podcast: Guest Jaimie Eckert
How can Christians deal with Religious Scrupulosity?
Religious Scrupulosity, also known as Religious OCD, is a religion focused subtype of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It often occurs with those who already suffer from OCD and who also hold religious beliefs central to their character and personal values. Of course, OCD never bothered to ask for our opinion about which subtype we do or do not want, so naturally Religious Scrupulosity can impact people with minimal religious belief, or even no religious belief at all!
On a recent episode of the FearCast Podcast, adding to the Faith and Doubt Series, I interviewed Jaimie Eckert, a biblical scholar and writer, who coaches and guides Christians through their Religious Scrupulosity symptoms. While she is not therapist, she approaches the symptoms of Scrupulosity through a pastoral perspective by directly addressing and challenging the distorted religious beliefs, mistaken doctrine, and faulty interpretations of Christian theology and practice. By doing so, she hopes to help Scrupulosity sufferers gain a greater understanding of their faith in order to help promote confidence that they can endure doubt, uncertainty, and the ever present OCD guilt.
What everyone with Religious Scrupulosity needs to know
On this episode of the FearCast Podcast, Jaimie and I discuss six significant points that can help anyone suffering with Religious Scrupulosity.
Despite being a really old book, the bible is indeed relevant to people struggling with religious anxiety-related disorders
Many people write off the bible as an ancient book for people following a dead religion that has no bearing on today’s world. To the contrary. Jaimie discusses that while the bible is indeed old, its stories and examples offer the Scrupulous insight into how to effectively deal with doubt and uncertainty. In fact, Jaimie emphasizes again and again that modern Christianity often does not reflect a biblical stance on doubt. Instead, the bible shows that people can experience doubt without fear.
It’s ok for Christians to seek therapeutic interventions for OCD and anxiety disorders
Many people believe that therapy and religious belief cannot go together. More to the point, many religious people believe that therapy will offer an alternative perspective to their faith that may result in taking on false teaching, or even worse falling away from their faith entirely.
To address this, Jaimie discusses the bible’s encouragement to take care of one’s faith while also taking care of one’s body and mind. While this seems rather simple, recognizing that investing time and energy into improving one’s body and mind can be used as an act of faith just as investing in one’s spiritual health.
OCD’s doubt and uncertainty is not incompatible with faith and absolute truth
This is also where Jaimie really shows her passion for biblical scholarship and church history. Here, she discusses the notion of absolute truth, a concept used by the church to acknowledge that there are facts and truths to our life, world, and reality that can be fully known and stand above all other religions and philosophical beliefs. Absolute truth can often cause Scrupulosity sufferers to constantly seek certainty and full understanding, however we discuss the impossibility of this from an emotional and psychological perspective, and how this idea is not supported from a biblical perspective. In short, while there may be an absolute truth out there, we as people cannot fully understand it, so we must accept a level of uncertainty.
Normal guilt and OCD guilt are not the same thing.
Religious Scrupulosity often draws sufferers into an endless cycle of doubt, guilt, shame, and repentance with little to offer in genuine spiritual growth. Here, Jaimie and I discuss how to break out of this feedback loop by recognizing the difference between true religious guilt and the false guilt experienced by many Religious Scrupulosity sufferers.
The bible pro-exposure therapy!
Research suggests over and over again that we have to face our fears in order to overcome them. What’s even better for the Religious Scrupulosity sufferer is that the bible is a proponent of Exposure and Response Prevention. Sure, it doesn’t talk about ERP the way we do, but through an example from the Book of Numbers, Jaimie illustrates how the bible instructs believers to face their fears head on.
Reframing your beliefs is part of effective Scrupulosity treatment.
Lastly, in our discussion about treatment for Religious Scrupulosity, Jaimie and I discuss the importance of challenging one’s religious beliefs in order to come to a balanced, biblically supported belief that does not rely solely on fear and emotional certainty. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the therapeutic framework used by most OCD and anxiety therapists, and foundational to this approach is a review of thoughts, beliefs, and interpretations about one’s self and one’s world in order. This approach, known as Cognitive Restructuring, can be frightening for a religious person, however we discuss using this process as an act of faith whereby the sufferer trusts that truth will survive scrutiny, and beliefs that fall away during this process were distortions and erroneous beliefs from OCD’s distorted views.