What Is Religious OCD?

Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT

Published 06/24/2022

If you're searching the web for terms such as "religious OCD," "OCD religion," "spirituality OCD," or "OCD and religion," it's likely that you're looking for information about religious OCD, which is also referred to as "scrupulosity". Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can impact people in many different ways, and each person living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is unique. If you're just now hearing about religious OCD, you're not on your own. While this form of OCD has been recognized for quite some time, it's not discussed as frequently as other manifestations of the disorder. Even legitimate sources for information on OCD sometimes fail to mention religious OCD. In this article, we will answer the question "what is religious OCD?" as well as the history of this OCD subtype and general information about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and what it is.

About OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is characterized by obsessions, compulsions, and other symptoms. To be diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, your symptoms must take up a significant portion of your day, impact your functioning in areas of life such as interpersonal relationships, work, or school, or cause clinically significant distress. About one in every 40 adults and one in every 100 children under 18 lives with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, making it a common condition. If you think about standing in a room of 40 people, you'll realize that it's really not that rare. If you're living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, you're not alone! That said, it can be debilitating, and the good news about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is that it's a highly treatable and well-researched mental health condition.

There are many different ways that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can manifest, which are often described as subtypes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. In other words, subtypes of OCD are recognized to differentiate the specific obsessions that people living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder face, and often, the compulsions that are most commonly seen alongside those obsessions. Religious OCD is one of those subtypes. But, you might wonder, what is religious OCD, and what does it entail?

What Is Religious OCD?

Religious OCD is a subtype of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder where someone living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder experiences obsessions related to morals, ethics, or religion. For example, they may worry that they said something that will cause a negative moral consequence by accident, worry that their thoughts have a dual meaning, or fear that they are practicing their religion incorrectly. Someone with religious OCD might constantly wonder if they are doing the right or moral thing, even when there is no reason to have this concern. Common compulsions seen in religious OCD include ruminating over what one said, excessive prayer or praying excessively, excessive religious confessions, and repetitive thoughts.

Not all people living with OCD have religious obsessions or compulsions related to religion. While one person may have religious OCD characterized by obsessions and compulsions similar to those listed above, another person may have contamination OCD and engage in excessive hand washing, or someone may have symmetry obsessions with arranging or ordering compulsions. It's different for everyone, so it's important to listen to people's individual experiences and understand that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder impacts everyone living with OCD in a unique way, including those living with religious OCD specifically.

History Of Religious OCD

Religious OCD is not new. Records of religious OCD actually date all the way back to the 1600s, but at the time, it was not called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD. One very interesting fact about religious OCD, is that many of the first recorded cases that would likely now be considered Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder were surrounding religion. In the 1700s and 1800s, other compulsions such as washing compulsions, checking compulsions, and ordering compulsions started to get noticed and recorded more often. The term scrupulosity, which is another term used for religious OCD, was coined before the medical community settled on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as a name for OCD. OCD was not called OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder until the 20th century.

Is Scrupulosity A Mental Illness?

Yes, religious OCD or scrupulosity is a mental illness. Scrupulosity is a subtype of OCD, meaning that if someone struggles with it, they have OCD, which is a diagnosable mental health condition and a recognized disability. Any subtype of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder has the potential to be debilitating. All subtypes of OCD are diagnosed simply as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, meaning that no matter what subtype you have, it will most likely simply be written down as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder on paper. Before the most recent version of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders or DSM-V, OCD was diagnosed as an anxiety disorder. It is diagnosed separately and is listed under the category of obsessive-compulsive and related disorders in the DSM now-V.

Finding Help For Religious OCD

If you believe that you may have OCD, it's important to talk to a medical or mental health care provider. Common treatment types used for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. For all information regarding specific treatments and therapies, make sure to reach out to a medical or mental health professional. Here are some options for finding a counselor or therapist in your area:

  • Make an appointment with your primary care physician or any general doctor so that you can ask for a referral to a counselor or therapist.
  • Call your insurance company or visit their website, if applicable, to see what they cover. Some insurance company websites have a directory of mental health providers that they cover. Some do not, so this will depend on what kind of insurance you have if you decide to pay for therapy or counseling with insurance.
  • Use an online mental health provider directory or a search tool such as the one on the Mind Diagnostics website's upper right-hand corner.

You can also conduct a web search for OCD specialists in your area or OCD centers. Another potential option for counseling and therapy is to use an online counseling website like BetterHelp. BetterHelp is often less expensive than traditional in-person therapy without insurance. All of the providers at BetterHelp are licensed with at least three years of experience under their belt. You do not need to have a diagnosed mental illness to seek counseling or therapy. Many people seek counseling for various other reasons, such as relationship issues and life stressors. Again, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a highly treatable condition, so don't be afraid to reach out for help if you have it or believe that you might.

Peer Support For Religious OCD

There are various support options for those living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Although peer support is not a replacement for mental health treatment, it can be incredibly cathartic to talk to people who understand what you are going through. In support groups for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, you might see any OCD subtypes, whether that is purely obsessive OCD, religious OCD, contamination OCD, harm OCD, symmetry OCD, or any other manifestation of the disorder. Here are two common peer support options for people living with OCD:

Support Groups

You can find support groups meet online, in your local area, or via voice call. To find a support group, you can conduct a web search for OCD support groups in your area, ask a mental health provider for a recommendation, or use a resource locator or directory, such as the one on the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) website or the support group finder on the National Alliance on mental illness or NAMI website. Note that, besides support groups made for people living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, there are also support groups for loved ones, such as the family members or romantic partners of those living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Online Forums

Online forums are another excellent way to get peer support. They are particularly beneficial for people who cannot attend support groups regularly due to scheduling or other concerns because you can access an online forum at any time. Popular forums for those living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder include:

The OCD Action forum, which can be found here: https://www.ocdaction.org.uk/forum.

The My OCD Community forum on healthunlocked.com, which can be found here: https://healthunlocked.com/my-ocd.

The Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder forum on mentalhealthforum.net, which can be found here:


Some of these forums also have a place for loved ones of those living with OCD.

Take The Mind Diagnostics OCD Test

Are you wondering if you could have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? If so, consider taking the Mind Diagnostics OCD test. While taking the Mind Diagnostics Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder test can't replace an evaluation from a medical professional, it can give you insight into your symptoms. Taking the test might just be the first step to getting the help you need. Although Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can affect people of all ages, the Mind Diagnostics Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder test is for those aged 18 and older. Taking the Mind Diagnostics OCD test is fast, free, and confidential.

Click the following link or copy and paste it into your browser to take the Mind Diagnostics Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder test: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/ocd-test.