OCD and Christianity

Our clinical understanding of OCD is a great development. Not long ago, a student told me about the moment when she first learned she had the disorder. She had struggled mightily with obsessions and compulsions throughout her childhood and adolescence—thoughts of harm and blasphemy tormented her almost constantly.

I grew up living insane. No one would believe what it was like. When I learned I had OCD, it changed everything. I had a medical problem! I wasn’t crazy or condemned to hell.  That was…the best day of my life.

Other people have made similar comments. It’s a revolutionary development when you realize that you suffer from a disorder of the fear system of the brain that makes you worry incessantly about concerns that are not worth worrying about.

Christians should fully embrace the medical view of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Jesus himself recognized various diseases and proceeded to heal them, sometimes employing physical treatments (Matt 9:35; John 9:6-7). The evidence that OCD is a biochemical brain-disorder is now overwhelming, as is the evidence that it can be effectively treated by medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Yet, of course, OCD is also a spiritual disorder. It is a specific and important part of God’s plan for our salvation. It is exactly what we need when we get it. And clinical treatment is also exactly what we need when we receive it. We also must strive to recognize God’s presence in all of this, and through it grow in faith.

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