OCD and Christianity

A young mother came to me thinking that she ought to be put in a psychiatry ward and locked up. She suffered from a gut-wrenching: that she would initiate a sexual relationship with her two month old son. We worked for a little while on this, and I explained to her the nature of OCD and some strategies to deal with the obsessional fear. When she was better, I asked her what had been most helpful for her. She said, ““When I realized that terrible thought was not really from me. It wasn’t my true self.  It was OCD.”  It was then that I realized the full strength of the insight “It’s not me, it’s OCD!”

Obsessional thoughts are by nature “egodystonic,” a word psychiatrists use to describe a thought that seems foreign to one’s sense of self. Obsessions are like that. It is as if they come from somewhere else. And they do! They come from a disordered chemical process in the brain.

We have a self, our “true self,” that we realize in a moment of quiet reflection when we take a look at our deepest, most authentic, values and desires. For a Christian, this is the new life in Christ. OCD is a remnant of our old self. We want to keep an eye on it, recognize it, and keep it in its place.

How important it is for us to realize that obsessions do not come from our true self. The mind plays tricks, and we must know who we really are.

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