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Causes and Cures from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Exploring the Spiritual Roots of OCD
by Matt Moody, Ph.D. 

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? Here's a Definition compliments of the Mayo Clinic:

"Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). With obsessive-compulsive disorder, you may realize that your obsessions aren't reasonable, and you may try to ignore them or stop them. But that only increases your distress and anxiety. Ultimately, you feel driven to perform compulsive acts in an effort to ease your stressful feelings."

"Obsessive-compulsive disorder often centers around themes, such as a fear of getting contaminated by germs. To ease your contamination fears, you may compulsively wash your hands until they're sore and chapped. Despite your efforts, thoughts of obsessive-compulsive behavior keep coming back. This leads to more ritualistic behavior, and a vicious cycle that's characteristic of obsessive-compulsive disorder."

What follows will focus upon the Causes and Cures for so-called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I say "so-called" because embedded within its scientific definition is an implication that OCD is condition you HAVE or that you GET, like you GET the Flu or your HAVE Malaria. But instead of a bug or a virus causing OCD, it is assumed that something is disordered in your brain, and that you HAVE this bad-brain condition by no fault of your own.

In other words, traditional thinking surrounding "OCD" assumes that life choices play no role in the OCD-Condition appearing or departing -- the Condition is assumed to be the result of Bad Biology or Bad Upbringing.

In this article, I summarize traditional scientific conclusions about possible Causes and Cures of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. But first, patterns of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are explained from a perspective that most can Americans identify with: Belief in God.

Polls indicate that 90% of Americans "Believe in God." Let's assume that there is a God and that God has revealed his will and wisdom in the Bible. From this assumption, let's consider how patterns of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors might be explained assuming that the Bible contains God's word.

Instead of assuming that OCD happens because of chemical imbalance in the brain, I suggest that obsessive-compulsive patterns appears for spiritual reasons; in fact, OCD symptoms appear and disappear, depending upon the quality of our spiritual lives. Jesus offered these words of solace to those who are burdened by life's many challenges:

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matt. 11:28-29)

Jesus has promised "rest" for those who will come to Him, and learn of Him. "Rest" is an emotional state opposite from the overwhelming anxiety of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

At this point, a distinction must be made between physical ailments versus emotional and mental ailments. While you may feel spiritual "rest" by casting your burden upon Christ (Psalm 55:22), you may also need to take insulin if you have diabetes. Remember, "rest" is the opposite of anxiety, but is not the opposite of high blood sugar and insulin deficiency.

When it comes to mental and emotional ailments, the promises of the Bible directly apply. For example, the Apostle Paul identified "fruit" enjoyed by those who "Walk in the Spirit."

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, gentleness,
goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22-23)

Burning Question: Is is possible for a person to be filled with the "peace" of the Spirit, and at the same time, be tormented by obsessive thoughts?

To assume that anxiety and peace can happen in one person at the same time, is to falsely imagine that darkness can exist while standing in the full brightness of the Sun. Fact is, wherever there is Light, darkness disappears, for "darkness" IS the absence of Light.

This means that a person literally cannot bask in the Love and Joy and Peace of the Spirit, and at the same time, be tormented by the Darkness of anxious, obsessive thoughts. God gives this promise:

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:
but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able;
but will with the temptation also make a way to escape,
that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Cor. 10:13)

This passage promises that God will be faithful to "make a way to escape" temptation that is common to man. The Bible teaches that temptation is initiated by the powers of darkness. The Apostle writes:

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but ...
against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12)

Wresting with the powers of darkness happens more than we might imagine; in fact, I would guess that most who've been told "You HAVE OCD," do not even consider that their patterns of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors have anything to do with the temptations of Satan.

Unfortunately, Doctors and Drug Companies play a significant role in fostering the false idea that obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors happen because of a chemical imbalance in the brain, and have little or nothing to do with a person's spiritual life.

If there IS a God, and if God's word is written in the Bible, then whenever a person fails to "Walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16) that person, by default, is necessarily exposed to the "wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11).

Here's what we can learn from the Bible about the Cause and the Cure of OCD:

     1)  Rest, Love, Joy, and Peace are all emotional conditions opposite to the Anxiety of OCD.
     2)  To those who are weighed down by heavy burdens, Jesus promises "rest."  
     3)  "Rest" is the promise when believers cast their burdens upon Christ.  
     4)  "Rest" is the result when believers come unto Christ and "learn of" Him.  
     5)  Love, Joy, and Peace are the promised fruit of Walking in the Spirit.  
     6)  When we fail to Walk in the Spirit, by default, we wrestle with the powers of Darkness.  
     7)  God promises a "way to escape" out of every temptation that is "common to man."  

Now, let's review what science says about OCD, as to Cause and Cure. As you read, note that credible sources admit they don't know the Cause of OCD, nor do they have sure Cure.

Psychological Theories flow from Assumptions about the Origin of Human Life

All observations are theory-ladened. There are no neutral observations; all observations and assertions are informed by underlying assumptions and theories.

A theory is a coherent system of ideas that explain something. And even more foundational than theories are Ontological Assumptions: the primal assumptions that are invisible to most people as they weigh theory-ladened assertions. Ontology is the study of the meaning of being, the meaning and origin of existence. There are two fundamental ontological starting points:

     1)  The Assumption of Evolution, to include Big Bang Beginnings, and
     
2)  The Assumption of Creation, that a Supreme Being created all we see empirically,  
           to include the living miracle of you and me.


To fully understand the Spiritual Roots of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you must first realize how certain Ontological Assumptions determine both the initial questions that science takes up in the first place, and then recognize how those Assumptions shape the answers that science concludes.

Traditional Thinking about Behaviors called "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder"

Consider what the top 6 Google Search Results say about the cause of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:

1) "There are several theories about the cause of OCD, but none have been confirmed. Some reports have linked OCD to head injury and infections. Several studies have shown that there are brain abnormalities in patients with OCD, but more research is needed."
( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001926/ )

Dr Matt's Comment:
Scientific hypotheses are gleaned from coherent theories that make sense in terms of rational analysis backed by empirical proof. In science, a study will attempt to find empirical data to either confirm or disconfirm the validity of a hypothesis. The U.S. National Library of Medicine/PubMed Health concludes there is no empirical data that supports particular hypotheses derived from certain theories about OCD. Notice how the U.S. National Library of Medicine/PubMed Health speaks of "studies" that seek correlations to "head injury and infection," as well as "brain abnormalities."

2) "OCD has been linked to abnormalities with the neurotransmitter serotonin, although it could be either a cause or an effect of these abnormalities. Serotonin is thought to have a role in regulating anxiety. ... Researchers have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of OCD, but brain differences, genetic influences, and environmental factors are being studied. Brain scans of people with OCD have shown that they have different patterns of brain activity than people without OCD and that different functioning of circuitry within a certain part of the brain, the striatum, may cause the disorder."
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_disorder )

Dr Matt's Comment:
Wikipedia finds that
"Researchers have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of OCD." And then they add, "brain differences, genetic influences, and environmental factors are being studied." These are the basic questions of Nature vs. Nurture. Again, note how questions are raised about "brain scans" and "brain activity." Why? Because of the Ontological Assumptions that undergird scientific inquiry.

3) "OCD sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some people have it, while others don't. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain are involved in fear and anxiety. By learning more about fear and anxiety in the brain, scientists may be able to create better treatments. Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and environmental factors may play a role."
( http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml )

Dr Matt's Comment:
The National Institute of Mental Health offers a fair conclusion that does not over-reach beyond what empirical findings can confirm: "no one knows for sure why some people have it, while others don't." Again, notice the question about "several parts of the brain," and "fear and anxiety in the brain."

4) "Unfortunately we still do not know the exact cause or causes of OCD. However, research suggests that differences in the brain and genes of those affected may play a role. Research suggests that OCD involves problems in communication between the front part of the brain and deeper structures. These brain structures use a chemical messenger called serotonin. Pictures of the brain at work also show that in some people, the brain circuits involved in OCD become more normal with serotonin medicines."
( http://www.ocfoundation.org/ )

Dr Matt's Comment:
The International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation wisely concludes that they:
"still do not know the exact cause or causes of OCD." Do you see a pattern yet? And note how the IOCDF, like the other sources, raises questions about "the brain and genes," as well as a possible problem with communication within the brain via "chemical messenger called serotonin."

5) "Although the exact cause of OCD is not fully understood, studies have shown that a combination of biological and environmental factors may be involved. The brain is a very complex structure. It contains billions of nerve cells -- called neurons -- that must communicate and work together for the body to function normally. The neurons communicate via electrical signals. Special chemicals, called neurotransmitters, help move these electrical messages from neuron to neuron. Research has found a link between low levels of one neurotransmitter -- called serotonin -- and the development of OCD."
( http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/obsessive-compulsive-disorder )

Dr Matt's Comment:
WebMD restates what the previous sources have said:
"the exact cause of OCD is not fully understood" and just like the other sources, note how WebMD emphasizes "biological" factors like, "low levels of one neurotransmitter, serotonin."

6) "The cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder isn't fully understood. Main theories include:
* Biology. OCD may be a result of changes in your body's own natural chemistry or brain functions. OCD also may have a genetic component, but specific genes have yet to be identified.
* Environment. OCD may stem from behavior-related habits that you learned over time.
* Insufficient serotonin. An insufficient level of serotonin, one of your brain's chemical messengers, may contribute to obsessive-compulsive disorder. In addition, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder who take medications that improve the action of serotonin often have fewer OCD symptoms.
"
( http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/DS00189/DSECTION=causes )

Dr Matt's Comment:
This is an excellent summary by the Mayo Clinic! They have identified the fundamental factors for explaining the Empirical World, which are Biology and Environment. Note the added emphasis upon Biology,
"insufficient level of serotonin." If we examine the 7th, 8th, and 9th Google Search Results, the same pattern of biological emphasis is confirmed. But different from the higher-rated search results, less-credible sources fail to say that science doesn't know the "cause" of dis-ordered
behavior called Obsessive-Compulsive; instead, lesser Sources simply
focus upon Brain and Biology as if Science knows the Cause.

Barking Up the WRONG Ontological Tree

What some researchers assume to be a "cause" of OCD, is essentially the same assumed-cause of Depression: "insufficient serotonin." But here's the problem with that assumption -- the facts simply don't back that conclusion.

Double-blind clinical trials have shown convincingly, over and over, that taking antidepressants designed to INCREASE serotonin to the brain, are no more effective than antidepressants that DECREASE serotonin levels. Further, antidepressants with active ingredients are not significantly more effective than taking placebos, a conclusion based on the findings of dozens of scientific studies.

The Serotonin-Deficiency Theory of Depression is not only NOT confirmed by empirical studies, the Serotonin-Deficiency Theory of Depression is directly disconfirmed as a credible explanation for Depression.

With the Serotonin-Deficiency Theory of Depression being convincingly disconfirmed, it is rather suspicious that the serotonin deficiency is identified as a prominent potential "cause" of OCD. Why? Again, it is due to the Ontological Assumptions that some scientists assume. To put it strait:

Because most scientific inquiry begins with atheistic assumption of Big Bang beginnings, this means there is no Christ to Save you, and no Devil to tempt you -- hence the explanation for all dis-orders and deviant behaviors must be found in bodily malfunction.

You see, when behavioral scientists begin with an Evolutionary Assumption of Big Bang Beginnings, this means that physical factors like Biology, Brains, and Serotonin Levels (NATURE ) is all that Psychology has for explaining OCD, aside from social learning theory, Environment (NURTURE).

To be clear, I do appreciate and give credence to credible scientific research. Further, I do not discount that Environmental and Biological Factors constrain OCD phenomena, but "constraint" is all that Biology and Environment can ever do in terms of Obsessive-Compulsive patterns, they cannot "cause." Let me explain why. For a moment, let's begin with the Ontological Assumption of Creation, and visualize this scenario:

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

A person is standing in the presence of the Creator and giving an account of the choices he or she made in mortal life, and the person says "I'm very sorry I was addicted to alcohol and pornography during my life, but it wasn't my fault: I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder due to low serotonin levels in my brain."

Do you really think that explanation will fly with the Creator of Heaven and Earth? If that explanation had legitimate wings, this would mean that the Creator created human beings with an accountability flaw; meaning, some human beings are supposedly not accountable for their choices because they are afflicted by Mental Disorders that were Biological in origin, Disorders that allegedly override a person's ability to choose.

Can you imagine the Creator saying to Himself, "Darn, I really need to fix that next time I create a world!" Or, do you think He will stand behind this promise:

"The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations,
and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment" (2 Peter 2:9)

Some may say, but wait a minute OCD isn't about "temptations," it about having a medical disorder, a biological disease!

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Now let's return to an idea I've introduced previously:

"All observations are theory-ladened. ... all observations and assertions are informed by an underlying theory, with an associated set of underlying assumptions."

The underlying ontological assumption of Big Bang and Evolution is the starting point from which the "Medical Model of Mental Illness" was spawned. To repeat, if there is No God and there is No Devil, then there is no salvation or temptation either.

When underlying assumptions are wrong, then conclusions based upon those erroneous assumptions will also be wrong.

So when people behave badly, the only explanations available are: Biology and Environment, Nature and Nurture. This explains why every scientific explanation for Obsessive Compulsive behaviors boil down to Bad Parents, Bad Peers, and/or Bad Biology -- to include bad genes or insufficient serotonin to the brain.

Barking Up the RIGHT Ontological Tree

Now let's return to the assumption of the real existence of a Creator who is infinitely wise, perfectly powerful to save, and this God speaks! God inspires prophets to write His wisdom and will in scripture.

This means persistent pattern of Obsessive thoughts and Compulsive behaviors are literally explained by the quality of one's spiritual life. If one believes the Bible, that is the conclusion that must be drawn. Let's review what the Bible teaches about "peace," which is the opposite of OCD anxiety:

     1)  Rest, Love, Joy, and Peace are all emotional conditions opposite to the Anxiety of OCD.
     2)  To those who are weighed down by heavy burdens, Jesus promises "rest."  
     3)  "Rest" is the promise when believers cast their burdens upon Christ.  
     4)  "Rest" is the result when believers come unto Christ and "learn of" Him.  
     5)  Love, Joy, and Peace are the promised fruit of Walking in the Spirit.  
     6)  When we fail to Walk in the Spirit, by default, we wrestle with the powers of Darkness.  
     7)  God promises a "way to escape" out of every temptation that is "common to man."  

For a moment, think about the 9/11 hijackers who crashed commercial jets into the twin towers; does anyone really think that these people were afflicted by a biologically-based "mental disorder" and they couldn't help themselves, they couldn't choose otherwise? Hence, they are not accountable for their actions?

If this were true, then that means the God we call "omniscient" . . . isn't very smart. Why? Clearly God has intentionaly designed our mortal world so His children would be genuinely free will to choose between of "good" and "evil" (see Genesis chapters 1, 2, & 3). In a world where all humanity is free to choose, it's "smarter" for human beings to be accountable for their choices, and especially for horrific choices of abuse, torture, or murder.

Whenever there is a tragedy in our country, two perspectives inevitably arise that explain the tragedy:

    1)  One camp will emphasize how mental health professionals need to improve abilities
          to diagnose and treat mental illness; whereas,

    2)  The other camp will talk in terms of individual accountability and a person's free will  
          to choose acts of evil or good.

Is the person who commits horrific acts of atrocity evil or just ill?
Is a tragic incident explained by a person's choice to sin or is that person simply sick.

Inseparably tied to the assumption that an abuser may be ill and sickis the idea that a person is not ultimately accountable for his or her thoughts and behaviors, due to a mental illness. Whereas assumptions of evil and sin are tied to an ontological premise that each human being has a choice to refrain from acts that harm, cripple, or kill others.

Certain mental-health experts steer the debate toward conclusions of "ill" and "sick," and calls for improvements in mental health diagnosis and treatment; they will sometimes imply that the "sick" person just needed the right medication, and then that person would not have committed the abuse.

Unseen Angel & Devil are parallel notion to Unseen Id & SuperEgo

In contrast, when murderers claim "insanity," juries of ordinary citizens have listened to legal arguments explaining that a person is "insane" and therefore "not accountable."

Judge Jeanine Pirro says that "juries buy insanity in 2 percent of the cases." Notice how Judge Pirro uses the word "buy." Here, the Judge is implying that the vast majority of "insanity defenses" are contrived excuses that attempt to get guilty people from accepting accountability for their choices.

When counseling a couple, I remember one occasion when a client said to me, "so when are you going to quit talking about religion, and give us some psychology?" Here was my answer: "I'm not talking about religion, I'm talking about reality. You see, there is either a Creator, or there is not. And if there IS, then that Reality forms the foundation of every explanation of behavior."

The reason why most researchers are narrowly focused upon finding correlations to factors of biology and brain, is because atheist-evolutionary assumptions are the default position of traditional science. If there is no Creator as atheists assume, then Biology and Environment is ALL THERE IS to talk about, and look to, for explanation of behavior. This "default" position of science, thus, excludes the broadest view of Reality (to include interactions with unseen spirit beings). To put it bluntly, scientific inquiries that are limited to Biology and Environment (Nature and Nurture) are explanation of behavior that are basically barking up the wrong tree on certain issues.

Drawing inspiration, and an example, from Stephen R. Covey's book "Spiritual Roots of Human Relations," I maintain that the primary causes of OCD are explained by spiritual roots, in two fundamental ways:

1) Spiritual Influence: How a person is constrained to think compulsively and behave obsessively because of a interaction with unseen beings within a spirit realm; such interaction with unseen beings constrains and shapes thoughts and behavior, often unwittingly.

2) Spiritual Inclinations: Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior due to who a person IS as a spirit self, to include personality inclinations that are divinely given at mortal birth.

The reason why science doesn't talk about Spirit Realities, is because Spirit Phenomena is assumed to be UN-observable. It's true that Spirit Beings are invisible most of the time. But Wind is also invisible, yet the consequences of Wind are entirely empirical and observable. So it is with the Consequences of Spirit Influence of Good and Evil. The holocaust and 9/11 are both empirical evidence of Evil Winds.

Assumptions of Science are Invisible too!

When phenomena is NOT visible, such non-empirical things are beyond the realm of scientific inquiry. However, ideas associated with the sub-conscious mind, Id, Ego, and SuperEgo, are NOT visible.

No one has ever seen the so-called "sub-conscious mind." Truth is, this Freudian mind is a theoretical construct that many behavioral scientists have "faith" in; they have faith that Id, Ego, and Super Ego are real. The scientific synonym for faith is . . . Assumption. Thus scientific types assume a Real Existence for Un-Seen phenomena -- how ironic!

Just as political science majors tend to get a liberal indoctrination, similarly, psychology majors get an atheist-based indoctrination. Atheist-based psychology sees human behavior as determined by a cause & effect environment, where "free will" is illusory -- this conclusion comes compliments of the "Behaviorism" of John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner.

Matt Moody, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist

Related Articles:
Do I Really Have a Choice NOT to Be Stressed Out?

Why You Cannot Directly Think Yourself into Being Happy
As A Man Thinks So Is He: Clarifying A Commonly Misinterpreted Proverb
The Secret of Life is Everyone's Possession: Principles of Emotional Healing and Lasting Change

* * * * * * *

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for Life's labors isn't
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You labor for your own becoming, this is your richest reward.
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(Changing Your Stripes, 2nd Edition, page 274)
 

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