From Issue: 519 [Read full issue]

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

A pious Muslim doubts whether his ritual ablutions are correct. He goes back and repeats them. This doubt becomes stronger. It becomes a regular part of his religious life. He takes 20 minutes to make his ablutions, repeating each act of washing over and over again.

The worshipper doubts whether he has made a mistake in his prayers. He repeats the acts of prayer, and even full prayers over and over again.

For such a person, daily worship, which should be his greatest comfort and solace, becomes a source of anxiety, frustration, and despair. The arrival of each prayer is welcomed with dread, though the person has strong faith and deep down inside truly loves prayer.

This person needs to understand that he is not having a problem of faith. Rather, he is suffering from an illness that brings him to suffer from worry and despair.. This illness is known as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The misgivings and doubts that dominate the persons mind and thoughts are obsessions. Obsessions have four characteristics:

1. They are specific thoughts that dominate a person's thinking.

2. These thoughts do not have any real connection to the problems that the person is facing.

3. Trying to ignore or dispel the thoughts causes great psychological stress for the person. This person is not schizophrenic. He fully realizes that his misgivings are baseless, but he simply cannot resist succumbing to them.

4. The person who has these thoughts is aware that they are the product of his own thinking. He is not adopting them from someone else.
Compulsions are the behaviours that the person cannot resist carrying out. The following can be said about compulsive actions:
1. The action is carried out over repeatedly even though the person carrying out the action wishes to cease doing so. However, the pressure to continue repeating the act is greater than the will to stop doing so. Washing hands over and over again is a common manifestation of compulsive behaviour.

2. The person afflicted with these compulsions constantly tries to overcome them. Every time he resists the urge to carry out the action, he suffers from severe psychological stress on account of it. This is only relived temporarily when he resumes the action again.
Muslims who suffer from obsessive-compulsive behaviour often suffer from doubts in relation to their purification (doubting their wud') and their prayer (doubting whether they performed their prayers properly).

The good news is that 80% of those who seek proper medical treatment respond readily and positively to the treatment. Some do suffer from relapses and need further treatment.

Compiled From:
"The Psychology of Severe Misgivings" - `Al Ism`l `Abd al-Rahmn