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Does your child seem to continuously want to confess?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can take on many forms, and today we’ll be talking about the need to confess. The typical characteristics of OCD are:

1. Obsessions – these are intrusive, unwanted thoughts, images, urges, sensations that people experience as negative and uncomfortable.

2. Compulsions – These are the acts people do to make themselves feel more comfortable and to ‘get rid’ of the discomfort that the obsession brought up. Compulsions can be overt (e.g. confessing to one’s parents or a priest) or covert (e.g. confessing through mental prayer ); they can also be ritualized (e.g. I have to confess a certain number of times, or in a particular order such as “god please forgive me for…”) or non-ritualized (e.g. I continue to confess until I ‘feel okay’).

OCD-related confessions aim to reduce the feeling of guilt people feel, and also often elicit reassurance from other people Click To Tweet

There is a particular type of OCD referred as “scrupulosity OCD” in which one of the most common compulsions is to confess. Confessions, as compulsions, serves – to reduce anxiety. Here is a list of several examples of OCD-related confessions.

• Repeatedly and excessively going to confession to a religious figure.
• Repeatedly and excessively confessing to friends, family, and loved ones.
• Excessive praying
Scrupulosity OCD is characterized by different types of obsessions:
• Fear of having committed a sin or behaving immorally
• Fear of going to hell
• Fear of a loss of impulse control
Confessions can take many forms as well:

• Confessions could be directed towards one’s religion and take the form of confession through prayer,
• Confessions could be directed towards one’s partner and constantly confessing about every small thing that they may have done – such as looking at an attractive person.
• Confessions could be directed towards parents and triggered by small things – such as not putting away toys or having a mean thought towards another child.
• Confessions could come after events such as driving – e.g. ‘I think I might have hit something with my car as I was driving here’
• Confessions could come in the form of apologies – e.g. ‘I’m so sorry I was confused, I’m sorry I wasn’t listening/was distracted’

A confession could be pretty much about anything – as is the case with OCD. However, when you’re dealing with OCD, these confessions serve specific purposes. OCD-related confessions aim to reduce the feeling of guilt people feel, and also often elicit reassurance from other people – e.g. “don’t worry about it I’m sure you would know if you hit someone with your car!”. OCD confessions remove the experience of doubt, fear, or uncertainty involved with whatever the triggering situation may be.

To clarify, not all confessions suggest OCD, confessing is an important way that people align with their own morality and code of ethics. However, if these confessions are repetitive and excessive, driven by a core fear or anxiety, elicit reassurance from other people, and interfere with functioning, then it’s important to consider OCD as the driver.

Fortunately, the treatment for OCD-related confessions is similar to that of the majority of OCD – Exposure Response Prevention (ERP). This consists of identifying the typical OCD-related confessions, and preventing these responses. If you struggle to figure out if your confessions might be OCD-related, nothing is better than a consultation with a professional.