How should a Christian view Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Question: "How should a Christian view Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?"

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts termed "obsessions," and/or repetitive behaviors, termed "compulsions." Repetitive behaviors such as hand-washing, counting, checking or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Performing these so-called "rituals," however, provides only temporary relief, and not performing them usually increases anxiety.

People are often embarrassed to admit they have OCD because of a perceived social stigma attached to the disorder. Sufferers tend to keep it hidden and try, unsuccessfully, to treat it on their own. This only increases the anxiety and shame OCD sufferers experience, and, in turn, severely impacts their mental, emotional, and even spiritual health. Fortunately, most OCD afflictions can be effectively, and successfully, treated. Secular treatment includes behavior therapy, medication, exposure response-prevention, and sometimes a combination of these.

There also exists treatment beyond that of clinicians and secular medicine. There is a spiritual aspect to OCD that the world simply can't address--but the Bible can. The Bible does not mention OCD explicitly, nor does it mention most sicknesses or diseases. What the Bible does discuss, however, is the freedoms that can be enjoyed for those who believe.

These freedoms come through an understanding of who God is, and also who we are in relation to God. With respect to an affliction or disorder such as OCD, we must recognize that God is the Great Physician, and that He alone holds the power to truly heal (John 4:14). As such, we need to look to God first and foremost for our healing. God made this plain when He spoke to the Israelites after they had left Egypt. He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you" (Exodus 15:26). God may heal in a miraculous way, or He may use physicians and medicine. What is important to remember is that no matter which way He chooses to bring healing into somebody's life, healing ultimately comes from Him.

Not only is God our healer, but He is our Heavenly Father, also. "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11). As a father loves his children and desires them to be whole, so does God love us and desires to bless us with healing, whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual.

Coming to a greater understanding of who God is gives us a freedom to believe, to have faith. It frees us from the constraints the world places on healing, knowing that with God anything is possible. He created us in the first place, and desires us to experience life in fullness (John 10:10). Knowing more about God gives us a better perspective of ourselves, as well. He tells us, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

As believers in Christ we have freedom from sin, and are free to avail ourselves of the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the trials and tribulations that life in a sinful, fallen world brings (Romans 8:1-6). God exhorts us to focus on Him and allow our minds to be transformed that we might have a wholeness the world cannot offer (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Colossians 3:2; 1 Peter 1:13). By having the mind of Christ and no longer being shackled to sin, we become overcomers: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).

These truths (and many, many more found in the Bible), and their corresponding freedoms, have an enormous impact in the life of an OCD sufferer, and can bring about a complete restoration of their life. Therapy is extremely important, and should be sought. Medication may also be necessary to bring OCD down to a level where personal control is regained. However, as believers in Christ, the most important aspect of treatment is allowing God's hand to have a part in the healing process. We can cry out to God, "Have compassion on me, LORD, for I am weak. Heal me, LORD, for my body is in agony" (Psalm 6:2, NLT), and know that He will answer.

Recommended Resource: Competent to Counsel by Jay Adams.

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How should a Christian view Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?