Is having OCD or anxiety a sin?
I know you write quite a bit about OCD. I have had a diagnosis of it for well over half my life and sometimes it gets pretty bad. My questions are:
- As it's anxiety or worry, is it a sin? Even writing this is a result of worry so is it a wilful sin as in Hebrews 10?
- My urge to do compulsions has resulted in me lying and deceiving. For example, when I wanted to repeatedly vacuum the house, my Dad locked the vacuums away so I got family members to drive me home with their vacuum when my Dad wasn't there; thus, also involving them in the deception.
I also, strangely considering one of my worries is cleanliness, do unclean things such as not showering for months or, previously, kept putting my hands down my trousers to check so getting germs on them and then on things I touched. I am worried that this may cause or have caused harm or even death to someone and so becomes a sin.
As I cannot seem to stop compulsions, am I committing a habitual or wilful sin meaning that I'm not saved, particularly if they lead to lying? Obviously, I would love for my OCD to disappear but couldn't people, for example, some with homosexual impulses, which they act on sometimes, say that about a lot of sinful impulses?
I hope this email does not come across as too strange and that you don't mind me writing to you for advice.
Thanks for your help.
We need to distinguish between an impulse or temptation to do something and the actual doing. A man might see a pretty woman and feel an impulse to act sexually with her. That is a temptation. But if he rejects the idea as being inappropriate and does not act on his impulse, he has not sinned. If he dwells on it and accepts the idea then he has sinned by accepting sin even though he hasn't actually acted on the idea. This is what we call "lust" (Matthew 5:28).
Some people have the predisposition to become anxious. When connected to OCD, the root cause is a strong desire not to take any risks. Thus, the person spends a great deal of time worrying about what might happen and trying to ensure that all risks are avoided. What God teaches is that you have to accept that you cannot control most of your life. Risks are bound to happen. Thus, instead of wasting time worried about the nearly infinite number of possibilities, we deal with things as they come. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34). The impulse to worry will still be there, but it doesn't have to be accepted or entertained.
Is it worth spending time worrying about whether you might have purposely worried? No. Instead, you realize that worrying is bad and you take steps to focus on something else. At first, it is really hard to do because you have a lifetime of habits to overcome, but it is possible.
Lying is always wrong. There is no exception (Revelation 21:8). Yes, you had an impulse to vacuum. I assume that behind it is a vain attempt to avoid illnesses. While we should minimize the spread of illness, what you have to realize is that sickness happens in this world. If you catch something, you work at recovering from the illness.
What I've noticed in almost everyone who tells me they have OCD is that they let their emotions control their decision process. If I get a person to discuss their choices based on rational thought and God's Word, they almost always choose the right path. Thus, you need to temper your emotions with the wisdom that comes from God. "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered" (Proverbs 28:26).
I would guess the lack of showering and trying to check yourself for germs is also an emotional response to fears of illness and a vain attempt to keep yourself from catching an illness. Analytically, you realize that these actions don't stop diseases; instead, they increase the potential of spreading disease, which is why you've managed to stop these behaviors.
All people are tempted by impulses of one sort or another that lead them to commit sin. But the actions committed remain sinful. You have to make good choices regardless of your impulses.