I have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It started when I was a teenager, originally manifesting behaviorally as excessive confessing of sins to my bishop. I was a textbook case of a subtype of OCD sometimes called “scrupulosity”. My story provides a good example of a bishop not having the training necessary to deal with certain situations.
I did some curiosity-driven things of a sexual nature in my preteen or early preteen years, I don’t remember. Anyways, once I learned that the church considered these actions wrong a few years later, I confessed to my bishop. However, the relief I felt after confessing never seemed to last – I kept confessing things, in more and more detail, in order to get rid of the doubts telling me that I had not yet fully repented. In my desire to give an increasingly “full confession”, I ended up sharing explicit details of what I had done. At some point I think he did tell me not to confess anymore, but this went on for months.
I am now obtaining a PhD in clinical psychology and know that performing an OCD compulsion increases anxiety. In my opinion, it was not my bishop’s fault that he failed to recognize the symptoms of OCD and unwittingly facilitated the intensification of my OCD obsessions by continuing to hear my confessions. After all, he had not received any graduate level training in diagnosis or treatment of mental illness. However, his actions are a prime example of how under-equipped the vast majority of bishops are to deal with a relatively common manifestation of OCD. OCD occurs in about 1% of the population per year and has an average onset of 19.5 years of age. Assuming that there are around 2.5 million LDS people (about 15% of all church members) between the ages of 10 and 20 and 0.5% have OCD, we can figure that about 12,000 have OCD and are at risk of having similar experiences to what I did.
It wasn’t necessary and it wasn’t good. Worthiness interviews had a negative overall impact on my life, and there are almost certainly other people like me out there. Protect them.