Moral Scrupulosity OCD
We're all built with a moral compass. It tells us what's important. Who we are and what decisions are right for us to be a good person. What happens when it that compass breaks, jumping around the dial trying to find a good spot to land and never satisfied with your final decision. In this video, we will go over the characteristics of moral scrupulosity to see if you can relate and 3 ways we are going to fight it.
If you're obsessing about your ethics, it might not be such a good thing after all. Hear me out, your ethics and morals matter. It's when you have moral dilemmas throughout the day. Questioning and obsessing about your decisions, your ethics, and if you are doing things morally right.
I may have heard the term scrupulosity used to describe religious obsessions. But there are individuals oh, actually a lot of individuals the struggle with scrupulosity have nothing to do with religion. Simply put, they just want to make sure they are a good person. Moral scrupulosity is an obsessive concern about this very thing. Your life might depend on it. You value yourself as it's a very black and white person. This was a good decision, this was a bad decision. This can be determined before the decision is even made. Putting value on something that hasn't even happened yet. Once the person makes this final decision, the brain may say.....you know what bro, ARE YOU SURE?
Here is a checklist of how moral scrupulosity shows itself.
-An excessive concern with being 100% honest at all times.
-Overthinking about the possibility of getting in trouble or breaking the rules.
-Concern and ruminating about past experiences. Those things you can't change and wondering if they were immoral or not.
-Researching if others would make "this" decision. If it makes them good or bad.
-Concern that others would reject you if they really knew about a decision you made.
-Obsessing about an actual moral mistake made and feeling the need to punish oneself.
-Concerned that you've made a mistake because the brain poped in the idea. Having to replay the moments to find out for sure.
-Worried about being disloyal to a partner or spouse or caused someone else to be immoral. A glance at someone may mean you committed adultery.
-All decisions are over-evaluated for their ethics and morals.
Often other themes of OCD like to join the party. It could be contamination, I touched this thing that someone else touched, and if I get them sick, it was wrong of me. Checking - I didn't check all the doors multiple times and if something happens, it may be morally wrong to risk this.
Accidentally causing harm means I'm a bad person. I tripped my child, my carelessness determines who I am as a person.
You get the picture. This all is mingled with anxiety and fear. It may not be worth the risk of being a "bad" person. The compulsions that happen show this:
Lots of reassurance asking - "am I good person" - they may be mentally reviewing their day or doing certain behaviors to make the situation "right" again. Rumination is a big big big one. I'm just thinking and evaluating. Fixing in my brain but never being satisfied.
Now that you know what moral scrupulosity looks like, let's dive into the three ways we're going to fight this.
Okay, here's really #1. use exposure and response prevention. many individuals believe that they must go against their value system when using this type of treatment but this is not the case. In this treatment your whole goal is to be uncertain. this me mean got the problem solving in your brain is no longer something you're going to engage with. You are choosing to stick with what you know and leave the rest uncertain. For instance, send me think that if they have a fear of lying or being deceitful that their exposure must be to lie and be deceitful. If this is not part of your value system it is actually not something you need to do. Instead we focus on those things that you think happened. Those things that you feel you may have lied or have been deceitful. What we end up finding through this whole thing is that what the brain says and what actually happened are two different things. We are exposing to the uncertainty of not knowing if you are a good person or a bad person. We are not going out of our way to make sure that you didn't lie. We are letting life happen as it is. so when the brain says or you completely honest with your boss? my job is to not fall in the Trap of ruminating and trying to figure this out. My job is to respond differently to this.
which brings us to #2 - Respond differently -- Anytime the rain comes up with an idea and it's mixed with anxiety and you have that urge to fix it we are choosing to respond differently. You are almost committing to not find this answer. So I might say. yeah man totally, probably did. what do you think happens when I do this? I almost imagine the brain exploding. It's like, what the heck are you saying. I just told you that you are in such danger right now and that's the response you give me? it actually takes all the value away from this thing. It doesn't take value away from you are values or morals. instead, it is teaching your brain to move forward. To not fall for any threats then you can't physically see in front of you. Responding differently means that you are not doing the compulsions anymore. You might spend some time writing down all the compulsions you do. Compulsions are those things you were doing to be sure that you're a good person, be sure that you didn't lie be sure you'll never hurt somebody be sure you're honest in all your dealings. People tend to be so scared but if they no longer put so much control in this area they will just go off the rails. This is so untrue. We are just simply not responding to OCD and anxiety anymore. Allowing the body and brain to just do it sting when it comes to your values and morals.
#3 - Acceptance - It's important when choosing to do treatment that you have the mindset of acceptance. Acceptance means that you're allowing thoughts to be and choosing to not do anything with them. You accept that you're going to be moving forward in life regardless of the doubting noise in your head. You're not going to make sense and problem solve if you're a good person or not. That is one of the toughest points, choosing to not figure this out. What a lot of people say is, "but if I'm not a good person, I can't live with myself" -- But here's the thing, it's not your job. Your job is to be you, whatever YOU is. We're not determined by what we think we are or what we think we're not. Be you.
The doubts that come in can often be answered with a "maybe, maybe not." or a "okay"
Do you ever excessively question if you're making the right decisions or if you're a good person? Let me know in the comments.
Moral Scrupulosity OCD Program
Treat Moral Scrupulosity OCD
Nathan Peterson, LCSW
OCD can be tricky! I want to provide useful information for your OCD, anxiety, tics, tourette's, BFRBs, and many other anxiety related disorders.