What about me with my OCD and anxiety attacks?



I am from Australia. I am 46 years old and have been a Catholic all my life. Unfortunately I suffer from an anxiety disorder which developed about 8 years ago.

My problem is I cannot attend mass. I fear crowds. I have tried but find I need to leave. For example last Easter I was unable to worship with my wife and kids because I felt too anxious in mass.It’s not just mass but meetings for work etc. I try to avoid these situations.

My wife might say we will go to mass tonight and I dont say I dont want to go but I dont. I fear the anxiety I could suffer, the light headedness and feelings that I will collapse.

Another part of my condition is Obsessive Compulsory Disorder. This can manifest itself in many ways. Mine is unwanted thoughts. For example bad thoughts when I try to pray. I have not told this to anyone.

I cannot go to mass and I cannot really say prayers. What a mess. In fact if I go to mass I often wont go to communion because I dont feel like I have really and honestly been to mass, because I often leave or go outside, due to my condition.

What can you advise me ? Only my doctor knows my condition and my wife knows most though not all. I feel ashamed and am thankful I can express myself here with annonimity.

PS on TV here there is “Mass For You” a TV mass I guess for persons who may be unwell and cannot attend.Its good but obviously not the same.


Dear Friend,

I realize that telling you that you have no reason to feel ashamed isn’t going to make such feelings go away. But nevertheless, it is important for you to be assured of this intellectually. Also, I want to assure you that many, many people carry this same cross. Perhaps because of the anonymity you mention, many such people contact me here on a regular basis. Know that this is a cross that the Lord has deliberately and lovingly chosen for you. His hand is definitely upon you. He understands and there is no reason for shame as you stand before Him.

If you find yourself spending much of Mass time outside of the church, for you it is still appropriate to receive Holy Communion. I would also suggest that you check around for a cloistered monastery of nuns or a convent where you could attend Mass with a small number of people. Early Masses tend to have small congregations as do daily Masses. Because of your affliction, the Church makes exceptions for you. I realize that any drastic change in your church-going habits will be noticed by those close to you. Do what you can and always feel free to contact me here privately. You can just click on my name and then click on ‘private message.’ You are in m y prayers.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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