How to Overcome My Religious OCD?

26 October, 2017
Q I am having OCD for the last 13 years almost. For quite some time, I have been experiencing scrupulosity (religious ocd) along with many other fears and I’ve come to the point that the only solution left is to end my life since it’s the only possible way to get rid of all these evil things and find peace at last. Below are my current feelings: 1) Getting the thought to change my religion and accept some other religion. 2) I searched about the issue and watched many videos regarding Islamic perspective about ocd (waswasah) and all were focusing on one point that these are shaitan whispers and he wants to put you in doubt and just ignore these thoughts and pray to Allah and read Quranic supplications. 3) This concept increased my fear and I am having this continuous tension that there is a real entity (shaitan) which is after me all the time and I can ignore his whispers once or twice but not for every single second and for how long, I can fight with him and why did Allah create shaitan, when Allah knows that there are some people who have no control over their thoughts. 4) I joined a group on fb to search more regarding this issue and found out that many other people belonging to other religions also face issues regarding religious ocd e.g. having bad thoughts about Jesus and God etc etc and in all such situations, they just feel guilty and start reading bible etc. 5) This started a new series of questions in my mind that seemed to me a bit logical which were: a) If these thoughts are actually shaitan whispers then why does shaitan disturb people who are already non-Muslims, I mean the purpose of shaitan should be to misguide Muslims not non-Muslims and even if its shaitan then why does shaitan wants that these people suffer from these thoughts when they start praying more and get more close to Allah? b) From this logic, I started believing that these are not shaitan whisper and I try to relax myself that this is not because of shaitan and actually your mind is malfunctioning. 6) I am having extreme anxiety and all these thoughts are frustrating me so much that I am not able to find peace for a single moment and these thoughts are not in my control. 7) If I consider this ocd as a disease then the other frightening thought is why Allah is making me to suffer from this disease, I mean it’s so hard for me to pray a single prayer, then why does Allah want me to go through this. 8) I am having the feeling of hating God since no one in this world would have suffered that much that even I am trying my best to pray and get close to Allah yet still these thoughts don’t go away. 9) All the time I just want to talk to Allah and ask Allah that what should I do, what does He want. I just want to talk to him, just want to talk to Allah but how and why does He not responds? I don’t know what to say. I need help because its haram to commit suicide and this frustrates me more that I don’t even have this option.

Answer


In this counseling answer:

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as well as exposure and response prevention therapies, work really well to reduce/treat OCD of this nature.”


As Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,

I am so sorry to hear you are going through so much pain, confusion, and turmoil in your life right now because of the OCD.  As you stated, you have OCD and you are quite well read on the illness. I am wondering if you are seeing a counselor or were seeing a counselor in the past who did diagnose you with OCD. Have you engaged in therapy for this?

While I cannot diagnose you I can affirm that the symptoms you are having indicate a scrupulosity type of OCD experience.

Sister, you brought out many good points concerning this type of OCD and what you are feeling and going through, especially regarding the feelings of hatred for God which is present at a high rate in the scrupulosity/OCD regardless of religion. Your other points also indicate that you probably do have a mental health issue that desperately needs to be addressed. You have great insight and knowledge about the disorder. The question is, what will you do now to heal yourself from this condition?

Your first thought I see was to change your religion. However, you noticed through going to groups for help and support for your intrusive thoughts/OCD that people from other religions also suffer from this, so it is not Islam specifically.

As you have been suffering from OCD for 13 years, it appears my dear sister that at this point you really do want help. In sha’ Allah, I am confident that you will seek it out.

As you probably know, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as well as exposure and response prevention therapies, work really well to reduce/treat OCD of this nature. According to the OCD Center of LA, people with scrupulosity/OCD should challenge their thought processes through CBT as it consists of  “Building awareness of the problematic obsessive thoughts, Identifying how these obsessive thoughts are irrational and distorted and consistently challenging the distorted thoughts with more objectively realistic thoughts”.

If you can find a good therapist Insha’Allah, who is familiar with your type of OCD, I would kindly suggest dear sister start therapy as soon as possible.

Additionally, I would kindly suggest speaking with a trusted imam about your illness and see if he would be willing to assist in your treatment plan. Part of some treatment plans for this type of OCD includes the help of religious scholars to assist you through the process.

OCD Center of LA further suggests that “Lastly, we encourage you to communicate with a trusted spiritual advisor (priest, rabbi, imam, etc.) who is willing to work with you and your therapist on developing appropriate behavioral interventions that honor your religious tradition, while at the same time challenging your distorted approaches to it. With introspection, willingness, and the hard work of therapy, you will be able to more comfortably experience any unwanted thoughts you have on your spiritual journey”.

While this might be hard to do depending on where you live and your relationship with the Masjid and imam, please do try, sister. Perhaps, ask a family member to help you secure the imam’s assistance, if possible.

As you are suffering greatly right now, I would even refer you to the emergency room for an assessment as well as having the attending physician give you a referral to a specialist. I suggest this due to the severity of your symptoms, your thought processes as well as your talk of suicide.

If you do feel suicidal sister, please do reach out for help. You stated it was not an option as it is haram. However, I am giving you a number in case you ever do need it.

I would like you to make a contract as well, in sha’ Allah. Please write a contract stating that 1) you will not harm yourself, and if you ever feel like hurting yourself (to include suicide) that you will tell someone (a safe person) and call the suicide hotline. While there is no number listed for your country, this one is a toll-free international number based in the US. 2)You will seek out therapy as soon as possible so you can begin to heal from the torment you are going through. This is part of loving yourself and having a better life than what you are going through now. You do not have to suffer like this. I feel sad you are going through this. My prayers are with you for a full recovery.

Starting therapy for OCD is something that you will have to commit yourself to sister and really be dedicated to healing. Allah (swt) does not want to see you suffer.  Allah (swt) loves you.

We are all born with a predisposition to certain illnesses, whether they are physical or mental or intellectual. We were not born perfect; however, we are given the tools needed (in most cases) to overcome our problems or at least make them manageable.

If you read about the lives of the prophets, especially our beloved Prophet Mohammad (saw), they all were tested severely and went through many trials much worse than you or I could imagine. It did not mean Allah (swt) did not love them, sister. It meant that they had to endure trials and tribulations like most humans, some had more severe tests.

If we look at some of the tests and trials that others go through, for instance, in war-torn countries, or children born without limbs, some people have intellectual defects. However, most people garner the strength and turn it into a positive.

Look at the smiling faces of children/adults born with Down’s Syndrome. Look at the athletes who have no legs-running. It is all about how badly we want to overcome as well as how much we love Allah (swt) and want to please Him by giving this life the best we have.

I cannot say that what you are going through is or is not from Allah (swt). Allah (swt) tests us as He wills. However, I can say that the Prophet Mohammad (saw) was severely tested and Allah (swt) tests those He loves the hardest. Allah (swt) knows best.

What you can rest assured of, sister is that Allah (swt) does love you and for everything you have suffered a sin is removed. When you are healed, what a blessed day that will be.  Who knows, maybe you went through this so you could help others one day who are suffering as you did.

I am confident, dear sister that you will overcome this. You are strong, you love Allah (swt) and you have great insight and ability. Allah (swt) is most merciful, just trust in Him, not what these intrusive thoughts are telling you. When you try to pray, ask Allah (swt) to remove the thoughts. If they persist, just pray as much as you can. If you cannot continue, Allah (swt) knows your heart and it is good. However, your mind needs healing and it is through no fault of you.

Talk to Allah (swt), cry to Him about how much you want this to be gone, ask Him for healing as well. Allah (swt) is most merciful. He does hear our pleas to Him. Allah (swt) answers us, but often times not in the way we think.

Please, be open sister to trying therapy and new ways of looking at things, and never give up for you were created for a wonderful thing in this life. Soon insha’Allah these intrusive thoughts will be gone and you will have a happy, peaceful life.

You are in our prayers, please let us know how you are doing and if you went to therapy.

Salam,

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach.
Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.