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Morality OCD

Morality OCD pertains to one’s self-concept as a morally upright individual. Concerns of morality are intertwined with many forms of OCD.

Common manifestations of morality OCD include:

  • Reassurance-seeking: Individuals may seek reassurance from others to confirm that they are, indeed, good people.
  • Confessing: They may have an urge to confess their perceived wrongdoings or intrusive thoughts, often hoping that confessing will alleviate their guilt.
  • Mental checking: This involves repeatedly analyzing and ruminating over one’s thoughts to ensure they align with the individual’s moral standards.
  • Neutralizing thoughts: People might try to counteract intrusive negative thoughts with positive thoughts or actions to “balance” their moral self-concept.
  • Excessive apologizing: Individuals may apologize frequently, even for minor things, as a way to seek forgiveness and affirm their morality.
  • Self-punishment: Some may engage in self-punitive behaviors, such as self-deprivation or self-harm, believing it will make amends for their perceived moral failings.
  • Excessive altruism: People with moral scrupulosity may go above and beyond in helping others, often driven by a need to prove their moral goodness.

Morality can also creep into other forms of OCD such as believing it would be morally wrong to:

  • Touch an item with dirty hands (contamination OCD)
  • Be careless in a way that could lead to harm (harm OCD)
  • Deceive others about my sexuality and let them continue to believe I am of one orientation when I could be another (sexuality OCD)
  • Have an intrusive thought about a child (pedophilia OCD)
  • Let my partner stay in a relationship with someone who has my thoughts (relationship OCD)

Many people struggle with why a thought is there as well as excessive questioning regarding what a thought may mean. Often, clients will report: What do these thoughts say about me? What if I want this thought to be there? Clients may also worry that if they don’t fight against them, the feared scenario may become reality. For instance: If I let these thoughts be in my head, it means I am as bad as if I were acting on them.

It is important to remember that intrusive thoughts do not:

  • Equate to actions or behaviors.
  • Make an event likely to happen.
  • Predict your behavior.
  • Represent who you are.

Instead, intrusive thoughts are:

  • Uncontrollable words that come from your mind.
  • Helpful or unhelpful, and you get to decide which ones you want to act on and which ones are not helpful. Therefore, you can accept that a thought is there and move on.

ERP is the gold-standard treatment for OCD. The goal of ERP is never to prove that you are or are not a good person. That goal would be impossible, subjective, and ambiguous. Instead, the goal is to: stop any unhelpful compulsions, tolerate the uncertainty of not knowing, and improve your ability to function while having intrusive thoughts and feelings of doubt. OCD is treatable. Contact a qualified OCD specialist today.