Scrupulosity is defined as intrusive, unwanted, offensive thoughts with reference to one's faith or belief system. It involves constant vigilance and fear of not “doing the right thing” according to one's God or religious hierarchy. A person who has scrupulosity might obsess about blaspheming, or regularly suffer the torment of perverted thoughts. While most religion involves ritual, as well as both proscribed and expected behaviors, individuals who have scrupulosity take their religious rituals too far, and become preoccupied with whether they and others are observing “correctly,” according to their own rigid standards.

They might pray for hours on end — even forgoing food and water — while obsessively examining their evil thoughts or “impure” impulses. The person may continually fear having committed a sin that he's forgotten or insufficiently atoned for. Scrupulosity often leads to tremendous guilt and shame.


Some people suffer only from obsessions, but not attendant compulsions. Obsessions may cover a wide range, including intrusive sexual or violent thoughts, worries about contamination or illness, or fears about causing harm to others. In many cases, the sufferer will fear that he might one day act on his violent or inappropriate impulses. This almost never actually happens, but a person with these kinds of obsessive thoughts rarely feels assured that it never will.

To entertain the possibility that one's apparently devout behavior is really reflective of a deep anxiety disorder is to risk feeling inadequate and insufficiently religious — in one's own eyes or in God's. The attendant guilt can be extremely hard to tolerate. Because these thoughts border so closely on the individual's religious belief system, they often involve “overvalued ideation” — that is, they tend to be rigidly held and firmly believed. Hence, scrupulosity may also prove more resistant to treatment than might other kinds of OCD.


Obsessive-compulsive behavior generally begins slowly and, over time, grows more and more extreme. The change may be so gradual that your behavior will continue to feel “normal” to you (or to people who are close to you and used to your ways of doing things), even if it looks mighty odd to other people.

Interestingly, while this type of OCD frequently plagues religious persons, it sometimes affects those who haven't been particularly observant. Often, a person who has this kind of disorder will fear that in displeasing the Almighty, she will bring untold harm to herself or her family. In response to this fear, she'll redouble her efforts to pray, atone, fast, spiritually cleanse, and more.

Non-Religious Scrupulosity

Scrupulosity may also refer to a preoccupation with (or, more accurately, persistent doubt when it comes to) business dealings, or rigidity in adhering to a more general code of good and appropriate conduct. A person with scrupulosity may incessantly fear that he may have unknowingly cheated his customers or broken the law.

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