OCDANDCHRISTIANITY.COM
THE RELATIONSHIP OF CHRISTIANITY AND OCD


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    An epidemic of clinical obsessive-compulsive disorder struck the
    West during that great flowering of individualism known as the
    Renaissance. The primary obsession that tormented large numbers
    of Christians was fear of loss of salvation.

    Remarkably, among those who developed what we now call OCD
    were three of the greatest luminaries in the history of the Christian
    religion: Martin Luther, John Bunyan, and Saint Therese of Lisieux.
    Luther, architect of Europe’s sixteenth century Protestant
    Reformation, is a figure of incomparable importance in entire the
    history of Western civilization. Bunyan, author of the immensely
    influential Puritan classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, has perhaps
    influenced almost as many people as Luther. Saint Therese, the
    most popular Catholic saint of the present era, is also recognized as
    a pivotal reformer in the development of Catholic doctrine in twentieth
    century. Certainly all three of these remarkable individuals would be
    included on any list of the dozen most respected and influential
    Christians of the last millennium, and perhaps even of all time.

    Primarily, the obsessional fears of Luther, Bunyan, and Therese
    involved displeasing God and losing salvation. All three had other
    types of obsessions as well, however, such as unwanted violent and
    sexual thoughts.  Their compulsions included endlessly repeated
    prayers, confessions that could not be brought to a close, and
    various repeated physical acts and gestures done for no reason
    other than to fend off obseessional fears.  

    All three, even more remarkably, after receiving unhelpful advice from
    their church elders, found a way to conquer their tormenting thoughts
    through faith. Each found the same solution: Trusting absolutely in
    God’s power and mercy. In psychological terms, they transferred the
    responsibility for their obsessional fears to God.

    It is worth noting that Luther, Bunyan, and Therese all believed that
    their struggle with tormenting thoughts was, in the end, a very good
    thing. It brought them to a closeness with God--a degree of faith and
    trust--that they otherwise could not have accomplished. In this sense,
    OCD proved to have been a grace for them. Their full stories are
    contained in the book, Can Christianity Cure Obsessive-Compulsive
    Disorder?: A Psychiatrirst Examines the Role of Faith in Treatment.

    Christian teachings can, it appears,
    both cause and cure OCD

    (note: wrong ones cause it; right ones
    cure it.  See discussion on the right type
    of faith)