Everyone struggles with moral dilemmas and making decisions about right and wrong. However, these concerns are much more distressing for people with scrupulosity and take up much time and energy. Scrupulosity is OCD characterized by excessive worry and anxiety over moral or religious issues. People with scrupulosity often doubt their moral character and worry that they may have committed an act that is sinful or offensive to God. They may also doubt their religious beliefs and worry that they are not good enough Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. Scrupulosity can be very debilitating, making it difficult for people to function in their everyday lives.
What is scrupulosity?
Scrupulosity is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in which a person is excessively concerned with morality, ethics, or religion. They might doubt whether they have sinned or are living by their religious or moral values. Scrupulosity can also include excessive worry about making mistakes or breaking the rules.
People with scrupulosity often feel pronounced guilt or shame, and they might go to great lengths to avoid perceived moral threats. They might also seek reassurance from others about their actions or agonize over decisions. Scrupulosity can lead to avoidance of people, places, and activities that trigger fears. In severe cases, it can interfere with work, school, and relationships.
While scrupulosity is often associated with religious obsessions, it can also be linked to ethical concerns, such as worries about lying or cheating. It is important to note that scrupulosity is not simply having strong moral convictions or being conscientious. Rather, it is the excessive and irrational worry that interferes with daily life.
Causes of scrupulosity
There are a variety of different causes of scrupulosity. Sometimes, it can be due to a traumatic event or abuse in the individual’s life. Other times, it may be due to an unrealistic fear of God or religious figures. Additionally, scrupulosity can be caused by a mental illness such as OCD or anxiety.
Symptoms of scrupulosity
The following are some common symptoms of scrupulosity:
• Perfectionism: An excessive need to do things perfectly or flawlessly.
• Excessive doubt: plagued by constant doubts regardless of evidence to the contrary. For example, a student might be convinced they flunked a test even after being told they got an A.
• Black-and-white thinking: difficulty seeing shades of gray; perceiving situations as either good or bad with no middle ground.
• Images of harm or intrusive thoughts: persistent, unwanted thoughts about harming oneself or others. Intense feelings of anxiety or distress may accompany these.
• Fear of losing control: a sense that one might lose control and act on their impulses, leading to catastrophe.
How to overcome scrupulosity
Scrupulosity is a challenge that many people face every day. It cannot be easy to overcome, but it is possible. There are many ways to get help with scrupulosity, including therapy, medication, and support groups.
Identify your core values
Once you have identified your careful thoughts and behaviors, it is time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. What values or principles are you trying to uphold? Are there other ways to uphold these values that do not involve excessive worry or doubt? For example, if you are conscientious about being honest, are there other ways to be honest that do not involve obsessing over whether or not you have lied in the past?
It is also important to remember that no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and has moments where they fall short of their ideals. What is important is that you learn from your mistakes and strive to do better in the future.
Set realistic standards for yourself
When you’re evaluating your behavior, be realistic in setting your standards. Everyone makes mistakes. No one is perfect.
Aim for excellence, not perfection. When you make a mistake, learn from it and move on. Forgive yourself, just as you would forgive others.
Challenge your perfectionistic thinking
Scrupulosity is a type of OCD characterized by an excessive focus on morality, ethics, or religion. People with scrupulosity obsessively worry that they have violated their code of ethics or morality and may go to great lengths to avoid doing so. This can lead to significant anxiety and distress.
There are several ways to challenge perfectionistic thinking and overcome scrupulosity. One way is to question the rules that you have set for yourself. Are they as inflexible as you think? Please allow yourself some flexibility.
Another way to challenge perfectionistic thinking is to question your assumptions about what is right and wrong. Are your standards realistic? Do you know your actions will lead to the outcomes you are afraid of?
Finally, it is important to remember that everyone makes mistakes. No one is perfect. It is okay to make mistakes and learn from them. What matters most is how you respond to your mistakes. Do you beat yourself up over them, or do you learn from them and move on?
Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness, care, and understanding that you would show to a friend. It involves recognizing that all humans are imperfect and have weaknesses and that we all sometimes make mistakes.
When you’re struggling with scrupulosity, self-compassion can help you feel more forgiving and less harsh in your self-criticism. It can also help you to feel more motivated to make changes in your life because you’ll be coming from a place of self-love rather than self-loathing.
If you’d like to learn more about self-compassion