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Ways For A Christian To Deal With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

We live in a world where the average person is always on the run and flooded with information. Most are able to handle it, but some feel like everything is overwhelming and become obsessed with controlling everything to the point that it disrupts their life. Before long, many will go to a mental health professional and are diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). For Christians, many will ask, what are ways for a Christian to deal with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

What is OCD? 

According to the International OCD Foundation obsessive compulsive disorder is defined as follows (1):

“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder of the brain and behavior. OCD causes severe anxiety in those affected. OCD involves both obsessions and compulsions that take a lot of time and get in the way of important activities the person values.”

There are several points in their definition that need to be highlighted. First, OCD is a disorder of the brain and behavior. Second, OCD causes severe anxiety. Third, OCD involves obsessions and compulsions, Fourth, OCD gets in the way of important activities the person values. 

The foundation of dealing with OCD Biblically 

There is a foundation that must be in place before dealing with OCD. First, the person has to trust Christ as their Savior. This is because the power and the understanding to deal with OCD Biblically comes from the Holy Spirit living in the believer (1 Corinthians 2:9-16; Philippians 4:13). Second, they must be willing to accept that God’s Word applies to every situation in life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Third, they must also be willing to believe that God’s wisdom will work as much as they believe God saved them (Proverbs 3:5-6; James 1:2-8). They will receive no help from God if these foundations are absent (James 1:6-7).

" ...the person with OCD must trust that God can help them and they do not have to live with the constant disruption of fear and anxiety. " [1]

” …the person with OCD must trust that God can help them and they do not have to live with the constant disruption of fear and anxiety. “

Dealing with the brain and behavior 

There is a lot of debate about what causes OCD. Many researchers think it is related to fear and anxiety or personality. Some think physical differences in the brain and genes are the cause. Still others think it is a spiritual issue. The effect is the same in each; behavior that becomes problematic for the individual.

With abnormal brain function, objective medical tests can show that something is wrong. However, there are no objective tests to diagnose OCD. Instead, the diagnosis is made based on reported feelings or behaviors the person demonstrates. This leaves mental health professionals with limited options of dealing with OCD.

The Bible has a lot to say about dealing with the brain and behaviors. Isaiah 7:16 refers to the coming Messiah and says that He would know to refuse evil and choose the good. This means there is a point in life when we can understand and make moral choices. This is what is known as the age of accountability or maturity. However, in cases of birth defects or brain damage that may not happen; it is clear that God does not hold them accountable (James 4:17; Deuteronomy 1:39).

In James 1:13-15 the Bible addresses the roots of sin. It tells us that our sin, which is a behavior, is the result of our own lust enticing us to do something wrong. These lusts are listed in 1 John 2:15-16 as lust of the eyes, lusts of the flesh, and pride. When we give in to the temptation to please our own lusts, we mentally choose to disobey God, which is not pleasing to Him. This tells us that every decision starts with our thinking. Therefore, if a believer has the mental capacity to make sound decisions and act on them, they have the ability to choose what is pleasing to God and to deal with OCD Biblically (John 8:28-29; Philippians 4:13; Hebrews 11:6).

Dealing with anxiety 

The Bible has a much to say about dealing with anxiety in Philippians 4:4-9 as follows:

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9) 

In verses four and five we are told to rejoice in the Lord all the time and let our moderation be known to all men because the Lord is at hand. This tells us that because the Holy Spirit is in us we can live a life with self-control, which enables us to rejoice all the time. This is reinforced in Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4.

In verse six, we are told to be careful for nothing, which literally means be anxious for nothing. This is followed up with instruction to submit our requests to God in thankful prayer and allow God to mold our thinking. The result, according to verse seven, is that God gives us peace and protects our heart and mind through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In order to keep that peace and protection, verse eight says to think about things that are true, honest, just, etc. We do this by meditating on Bible verses that teach things that are true, honest, just, etc. This requires us to memorize Scripture [2], particularly the verses that address these things, as part of our Bible study. Verse nine tells us that when we do the things that we have learned in dealing with anxiety, God will give us peace. 

Dealing with obsessions and compulsions 

Obsessions and compulsions are very similar. An obsession is an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind (2). A compulsion, as related to OCD, is an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes (3). Given these two definitions, we can see that a compulsion is the result of an obsession.

For the person with OCD, the obsession can be something as simple as continually thinking that the stove must be turned off. The compulsion would be to go check the stove every three minutes for an hour or refusing to leave the house out of fear that the house will burn down. This compulsion causes disruptions in their life.

Many non-Biblical counselors will try retraining the person’s thinking by rehearsing the troubling scenario so they learn to overcome the anxiety of burning down the house. They may try documenting things using checklists so that they can be sure that it has been done. However, whenever dealing with manmade techniques, they are all subject to failure, which still leaves some people anxious. When this happens, medication is often prescribed.

Establishing habits to decrease anxiety may give a person confidence. However, leaving God out of the solution makes it so that we must trust a method to ensure everything turns out right. God’s Word is powerful (Hebrews 4:12). It not only can save us (Romans 10:12-17), but through it, God can and will protect and guide us (Psalms 91; Psalm 119:9-13; 119:97-104; Proverbs 3:25-26).

Dealing with disruptions of important activities and values 

Dealing with disruptions of important activities and values is best done proactively. If we are a believer and are doing things that are detrimental to us or is not pleasing to God, then we must focus on allowing Christ to control every thought (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). We must think of every decision as act of worship (Joshua 24:14-15). Using firestorm prayer (Philippians 4:4-9) is the best place to start. Employing techniques to help us be more organized such as calendars and checklists can also go a long way to helping.

Likewise, Biblical counseling [3] with a Pastor or mentor is invaluable. The Apostle Paul writes of this in 2 Timothy 2:1-7 and Titus 2. With Biblical counseling the person with OCD learns to deal with OCD Biblically, and affirms the values of being a child of God. They can also learn how to help others with OCD. 

Conclusion 

When someone struggles with OCD they should immediately ask themselves what they are feeling. If the answer is fear or anxiety, then they should ask what thoughts are going through their mind that is producing the fear and anxiety. If the thoughts are contrary to God’s Word, then they should reevaluate their thinking. In the case of the stove, a simple check to make sure it is off is all that is needed. Once checked, if the thoughts continue, then firestorm prayer and meditating on 2 Timothy 1:7 and other Scripture memory verses is in order. If necessary, a Biblical counselor or mentor should be sought.

Finally, the person with OCD must trust that God can help them and they do not have to live with the constant disruption of fear and anxiety. By relying upon God’s promises, strength, and wisdom found in His Word and through the counsel of a Godly mentor, they can live a life to the fullest and help others with OCD to the praise and glory of God.

Read more about help from the Bible: Christian Depression Help [4]

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) “What is OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?,” International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, http://www.ocfoundation.org/whatisocd.aspx, (2012). (2) “Obsession”, Google, https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=obsession, (2014). (3) “Compulsion” Google, https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=define+compulsion, (2014)

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