Ramadhan and mental health

A Muslim faithful reading the Quran during prayers at Jamia Mosque to mark Idd-Ul-Fitr on 4th June 2019. [Wilberfoce Okwiri, Standard]

It is no hidden fact that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be troublesome in spiritual times like Ramadhan.

“While Ramadhan is a month of reaping spiritual benefits among Muslims globally, persons with OCD may be affected negatively due to the nature of obsession in their condition thus repeating religious rituals,” says psychologist Timah Khamis.

Puzzled by this discovery, we sought to find out more regarding the relationship between Ramadhan and mental health.

“Persons with OCD tend to repeat spiritual rituals more frequently due to obsession and linking it to the heightened nature of performing acts of worship during the holy month,” she further states. 

According to Mind, a UK organisation, OCD has two main parts: obsessions which are unwelcome thoughts, images, urges, worries or doubts that repeatedly appear in your mind and compulsions which are repetitive activities that you do to reduce the anxiety caused by obsession.

OCD might seem similar to habits like scratching your head frequently or bearing negative thoughts. OCD is a type of anxiety disorder and diagnosis has to be made by mental health professionals after administering psychological assessments.

A compulsive habit might be taking Wudhu (ablution) seven times after touching dirt. A good number of persons afflicted with OCD have distressing thoughts and repetitiveness which makes them more anxious.

At the same time, the month of Ramadhan is an opportunity of positivity in regards to spiritual nourishment and mental health. This holy month creates an opportunity for believers to witness a piece of mind, calmness, optimism and tranquility which enhances mental well-being. 

The devotion of believers in connecting with the higher power through religious rituals such as supplications and reading to internalise the holy Qur’an is a boost to mental well-being.

These religious activities that are enhanced during the period of Ramadan are commendable in relieving the stressful times overstretching us during this Covid-19 pandemic. Spirituality and mental health are like a vehicle and energy; they need each other to function better.

“There is a direct link between spirituality and people with OCD, it might get worse. They might read the Qur’an in a more chaotic manner rather than the preferred harmonious way due to their obsessiveness,” Timah Khamis elaborates. 

Persons with OCD can perform Wudhu then after performing a sunnah prayer they go back to perform Wudhu despite still being in a state of ritual purity.

They tend to be stuck on rituals thus making their current condition worse by obsessing over acts of worship.

It is important for persons with OCD to strike that balance in performing acts of worship in a harmonious way so that it doesn’t get obsessive.

During this holy month, as believers, we need to help people suffering from mental health and understand their plight.

Most importantly keeping in mind that failing to plan is planning to fail. When afflicted with hardship instead of asking yourself, why is this happening to me? Approach this with the alternative question, what is this situation trying to teach me? 


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