OCD/Piety Link

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by goofyfish, May 30, 2002.

  1. goofyfish Analog By Birth, Digital By Design Valued Senior Member

    A study discussed in an article in New Scientist raises the possibility of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder being linked to piety. More devout Catholics reported more severe symptoms of OCD, raising the question of whether religious devotion early in life causes OCD symptoms or people with those character traits feel more drawn to a religious lifestyle and devote themselves to God.

    It is certainly an untrue generalization that religious upbringing causes OCD; however, it does seem reasonable that the roots of OCD are in childhood, and performing rigorous rituals in order to gain praise or avoid punishment can become a habitual response, leading to OCD which is sometimes manifested in religious ritual and sometimes other rituals, but the origin of the habitual response is still the religious ritual in childhood. The origin of the disorder could be any ritual performed in childhood, religious or not, which resulted in reward or punishment, which reinforced the behavior. So it would appear reasonable that sometimes an excessively devout upbringing can result in OCD where that OCD would not have occurred were it not for the habitual response learned in childhood.

    It's worth noting that what is addressed is piety -- how one lives out one's relationship to God -- not belief. And yes, while my first reaction would be one of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, I think that how a believer conceives of what he or she must do, apropos what God's Will might be, and in particular the idea of careful attention to the avoidance of specific sins, probably does have a fairly strong correlation to OCD.

    That's pure speculation on my part, but based on decades of observation of Christian behavior patterns, so I'd offer it as strong anecdotal evidence seeming to support the hypothesis. So what do you think, is it the religious upbringing, a genetic disposition, a combination of both, or is the study complete hooey?

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  3. Xev Registered Senior Member

    I don't think it proves much of anything. It is equally likely that people with OCD or OCD-like behavior would be

    A: Drawn such religious behaviors.
    B: More likely to take religious behaviors to the extreme.

    It does not show that religion causes OCD - it simply shows a correlation that could be explained in other ways.

    At the very least such a conclusion is inadequetly supported. At the most, we simply need to do more study on this issue.

    P.S: Methinks this linked article is interesting.
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  5. Xenu BBS Whore Registered Senior Member

    Yes, I'd very much agree with Xev, she knows what she's talking about. Correlation doesn't imply causality - an all important lesson. In order to find a more causal link researchers would have to randomly place people (at birth) into non-catholic and catholic environments. Thank goodness that's unethical.

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    Even then researchers couldn't possibly control for all the other factors that happen in people's lives.

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  7. Chagur .Seeker. Registered Senior Member

    Interesting ...

    "So what do you think, is it the religious upbringing, a genetic disposition,
    a combination of both, or is the study complete hooey?

    I would have to say, based also on personal observation, that there
    is an element of OCD in the extreme piety that I've seen although I
    had not previously considered an OCD link.

    Giving the matter some thought, the thing that strikes me is that the
    OCD aspect that I have observed has been primarily female oriented.

    So, based on the article presented, I'd say: Religious ritualism could
    well have an OCD aspect although whether or not it also has a genetic
    aspect is open to further study. As for the study being 'hooey' (haven't
    heard that expression in a while), I would say, 'Nix.'

    Take care.

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