Scrupulosity—Or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

No matter what you call it, it's no day in the park for believers.

The word scrupulosity and its derivatives don't show up much in today's language. But the mental state it describes - an obsession with one's sins and ridding them at all costs - has caused the suffering of many a Christian both past and present. It's derived from the 14th century Latin word scrupulus, meaning a "sharp stone or pebble," used figuratively by Cicero to describe that which causes unease or anxiety. Think of it as a jagged pebble lodged firmly in the recesses of the mind, causing Martin Luther, for example, to go through confession marathons with annoyed priests to make sure he hadn't left one sin unconfessed.

An article on today's ABC News "Mind & Mood" website, a mental-health forum, shares the story of one modern-day sufferer. Cole M.'s scrupulosity (what psychiatrists have labeled a "religious form of obsessive-compulsive disorder") manifested as a fixation on counting the number of letters in his sentences to make sure they were multipliers of the number 7 (God, holiness) ...

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