OCD and Christianity


I have saved this for last, but of course for the Christian this is the strategy par excellence!  It is the therapy of trust that is described in this website, and more fully in the book Can Christianity Cure Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Indeed, for the committed Christian, OCD represents a rare opportunity for spiritual growth. Martin Luther remarked that without his severe trials (we would now call them OCD) he would not have been able “to understand Scripture, faith, the fear or the love of God” or “the meaning of hope.” The therapy of trust, furthermore, provides a direct way for us to please God. Another famous OCDer, the Catholic Saint, Therese of Lisieux, put this clearly. By the end of her life, she had no interest other than glorifying God through her trust in him. “What pleases God,” she writes in a letter to her sister, “is the blind hope that I have in his mercy.

Although in most of my groups I do not bring up the subject of curing OCD through faith, the topic comes fairly frequently. A born-again Christian student explained that, when walking along the street, an image would flash into her mind of the person walking in front of her stumbling and falling.  She would have to immediately “undo” the image by imagining the person standing upright again.  Yet even as she would attempt to do this, the person would “fall” once more.  As she aptly put it, “Since I know what I don’t want to see, I keep on seeing it.”  Soon more rituals would be called on to chase away the obsessive images, such as exhaling deeply and tapping her fingers together.  After four months in group she began to make progress.  She reported to us: “What works is to stop and turn to God and leave the situation in his hands. My trust in God has to be stronger than the compulsions, though.  If it’s not, the compulsions win.” Another student said, “”The coping method I use now always starts with: ‘God, help me to accept your grace on this matter.” A  young mother tormented by knife obsessions after the birth of her first child offered the most common observation on this subject: “This is the most helpful thing: I pray and put my trust in God every day to heal my mind and help me deal with these thoughts.”

A group member with violent obsessions once shared a prayer that he found very helpful.  I will include it here, since it is the best prayer I have heard for OCD.  It is found in the classic fourteenth century text, The Imitation of Christ:

My Lord and God, do not abandon me; remember my need, for many evil thoughts and horrid fears trouble my mind and terrify my soul.  How shall I pass through them unhurt?  How shall I break their power over me?  You have said, “I will go before you.  I will open the gates of the prison.”  Do, O Lord, as you have said, and let Your coming put to flight all wicked thoughts.