Compulsive cleanliness is next to Godliness

Devout Roman Catholics appear to be vulnerable to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a maniacal drive for hygiene that can cripple their everyday lives, a study says.

Sufferers from OCD are often convinced that their surroundings are riddled with germs and in extreme cases can spend up to eight hours a day cleaning and scrubbing to banish the thought.

At least five million Americans and a million Britons are believed to suffer from the syndrome. Scientists led by Claudio Sica at Italy’s University of Parma compared Catholic nuns and priests with committed lay Catholics and with others who had virtually no religious commitment, the weekly New Scientist reports in next Saturday’s issue.

Each person was asked to document mild OCD symptoms, such as intrusive mental images or worries. The more devout Catholics reported more severe symptoms.

The study, published in full in a specialist journal, Behaviour Research and Therapy, leaves open the question as to why there is an apparent link between religious devotion and OCD.

Some psychiatrists suspect the cause is genetic.
But opinion is divided as to whether the urge is exacerbated by a strict religious upbringing—in which actions are seen as either right or wrong and black or white—or whether people with these characteristics are drawn to a religious lifestyle and devotion to God. - Sapa-AFP

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