Recently, a young woman with OCD described to me her experiences in a deliverance ministry. Her pastor, after hearing a full account of her symptoms, had explained that in his opinion she suffered not from a medical problem, but rather from a spiritual one. “It’s not God’s will that you should be mentally disabled,” he had said. “Fear is a spiritual stronghold, so you have to get rid of that stronghold. You need to cast it out, and cleanse yourself of it. You need to say, ‘Spirit of fear, I’m resisting you!’”
The patient, unfortunately, found no relief through this approach. It’s no wonder. There are two enormous problems with it. First of all, OCD is unquestionably a medical disorder. Although psychological and environmental factors contribute to it (just as with heart disease), the final result is a clear-cut, heavily researched, biochemical problem involving the brain. To discourage an individual with OCD from employing effective treatments such as medications or cognitive-behavioral therapy is a major error.
In addition to that, OCD is likely to be made worse by the treatment prescribed by the pastor. In other clinical conditions, such as cancer or severe depression, the deliverance approach might well be appropriate as long as medical treatments were not discouraged. But the basic problem with OCD is that resisting obsessional fears–in trying anything to cast them out of mind–actually makes the fears stronger. That’s the way OCD works.
“It took a little bit of time,” the young woman explained, “but nothing worked for me. If it was a spiritual stronghold, OCD should have weakened. But the more I tried to cast out the demon, the worse it got. The more I read about OCD; it is a biological problem, not a demon problem. I forgave those who hurt me… they were trying. But I still have God, and I’m better off than other people with OCD who don’t. Now, what I pray for is just the grace to trust God. I give God the responsibility of managing this whole big thing. I say, ‘God you are in control of OCD, and I have to trust you. Whatever happens, happens.’”