Music, OCD, and Scrupulosity

If you haven’t already heard, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Until recently, I never fully considered the impact anxiety and other related disorders have on people’s lives. It’s almost like the “in” thing to write about anxiety in music, magazines, or television. I mean, I have fear. I lived with it for years. But it’s the full impact I never understood until recently.

Two months ago, I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive order, more commonly known as OCD. To some, OCD is nothing more than someone who likes their kitchen spotless or their luggage packed a certain way. But it’s so much more than that.

OCD is a mental health disorder where people have thoughts or fears that bother them a lot. And to cope with these thoughts, they do certain things repeatedly, like washing their hands or checking things many times. This can cause much distress and make it hard for them to do everyday things. OCD can be treated with therapy or medication.

Musicians Justin Timberlake, Camilla Cabello, and Katy Perry have gone public with their struggles with OCD, as well as Christian artists NF, Melanie Penn, and Jamie Grace. I can only imagine how songwriters manage OCD. The need for the perfect composition, the ideal lyric, means excessive writing and editing of their music. Others might have unwanted thoughts about how fans respond to their new music or not living up to their standards.

Melanie Penn’s “Peace,” Jamie Grace’s “Faithful,” and NF’s “Leave Me Alone” all tell stories of the respective artist’s journey with OCD.

For this music fan, it’s curating music for playlists. I must have the perfect order, and it must have nothing inappropriate in it. This brings me to another form of OCD: scrupulosity.

Scrupulosity is OCD focused on excessive concerns about religious or moral matters. People with scrupulosity have intense guilt or fear of committing moral wrongs and may experience distressing thoughts and doubts about their faith, religious rituals, or ethical behavior.

But music is a form of worship and expression that glorifies God. The Bible encourages believers to use music to praise God and uplift their spirits—read Psalm 150:1-6. As for scrupulosity, some Christian traditions emphasize the importance of faith and trust in God’s grace rather than being overly concerned with minor details or stringent moral standards.



Creating playlists has always been an essential part of my life, but I never fully understood music’s power over me until I became a Christian over 15 years ago. That’s when I began to eliminate songs deemed “inappropriate” from my catalog, and this process was not easy. It sparked anxiety, OCD, and other not-so-nice struggles that still affect me today.

As someone who struggles with OCD and anxiety, I found that pre-curated playlists were the source of most of my anxiety. I began eliminating songs with inappropriate lyrics, which made sense, but it wasn’t easy to part with some of my favorite music. My playlists are like a journal I put together yearly, so discarding them felt like losing a part of my past.

I tried redoing every playlist years ago, but it was a worse move. All it did was give me something else to obsess over. Over the years, I’ve reverted them to almost the originals, and most of the songs are back, except a few are inappropriate (in other words, they’re not redeemable). 

Amid these struggles, specific Bible verses have provided solace and encouragement. Psalm 34:17-18 (NIV) says, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” These words remind us that God is near, ready to bring comfort and deliverance to those burdened by mental health challenges.

Another verse, Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV), offers a soothing invitation from Jesus himself: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This passage reassures us that we can find rest and relief in Christ in our struggles.

Mental health issues like OCD and anxiety are complex and affect people from all backgrounds, including musicians and music fans. It’s essential to recognize the impact of mental health and offer support and understanding to those facing these challenges.

May Mental Health Awareness Month can be a reminder to foster empathy and promote understanding in our communities, particularly in music, where its healing power can make a significant difference.

Paul Phillips is a Canadian journalist with 20 years of experience writing and editing digital and print content. He specializes in health, fitness, nutrition, and travel. He loves music, movies, and, of course, living for Jesus. Portions of this article were written with the help of