Scrupulosity is a subtype of OCD centered around religious and moral obsessions. Individuals with this subtype of OCD become significantly distressed at the thought of possibly committing or having thoughts that may be viewed as sinful or immoral. The guilt and uncertainty brought on by the obsessive thoughts will often lead the individual to engage in compulsions to alleviate any anxiety.
Your intrusive thoughts may include moral or religious scrupulosity or both. An example of moral scrupulosity is a fear of lying. Meaning you feel the need to tell the truth 100% of the time. You may constantly replay conversations in your mind to reassure yourself you did not lie and constantly question if you have lied. Other concerns in the domain of moral scrupulosity is being concerned about being a good person in any of the areas you value most: kindness, inclusivity, honesty and following rules.
Religious scrupulosity involves believing you have been deliberately or inadvertently sinful or blasphemous. This can include having concerns about whether or not you have indeed committed a sinful act, doubting your faith or beliefs, or having unacceptable thoughts about religious figures. Compulsions you may engage in to relieve intolerable feelings can be both behavioral and/or mental. This may look like several daily confessions, writing down prayers and rereading them to ensure they are accurate, and/or performing religious rituals for extended periods of time.
It’s important to distinguish OCD scrupulosity from regular religious practices in that scrupulosity is most often accompanied by an increase in distress. According to the IOCDF website, most often the individual is focusing on one area of religious law and ignoring other important practices.
Melissa Mose, LMFT is a graduate of the International OCD Foundation’s Behavioral Therapy Training Institute’s basic and advanced courses. She has had extensive experience treating OCD, starting with her work at the OCD Center of Los Angeles and continuing in her private practice in Calabasas and she presents regularly at the IOCDF Virtual and in person conferences. Melissa Mose and her associates provide highly specialized individual and group therapy for children, teens, and adults with Contamination OCD.