Why Won’t the Sin Wash Away? When Thinking Ethically Goes Awry

Jesse Summers: Some people literally do have ‘moral OCD’, or ‘scrupulosity’, named after the scrupulous small concerns that can plague a person. This is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that focuses on moral or religious issues. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can take on many forms, but it is most visible by its meticulous and rigid compulsions, such as hand-washing and lock-checking. What makes it a disorder is that the compulsive behaviors are caused by an underlying anxiety. Intrusive, unwelcome thoughts or ‘obsessions’ provoke the person’s anxiety, which leads to the ‘compulsions’ that the person performs in order to reduce her anxiety.

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