Jinger Duggar Vuolo had a "happy childhood," though she now believes that she suffered from religious obsessive compulsive disorder stemming from her strict upbringing in the notorious Duggar family and their adherence to the beliefs espoused by the Institute in Basic Life Principles. In a lengthy conversation with Mayim Bialik on the actress's "Breakdown" podcast, the former "Counting On" star said her family's rules were "terrifying" and that she lived in constant fear of upsetting God — a primary symptom of faith OCD. The International OCD Foundation describes sufferers of faith OCD as "scrupulous individuals who are overly concerned that something they thought or did might be a sin or other violation" of their religious doctrine.
The "19 Kids and Counting" alum — who's the sixth eldest of the Duggar children — spoke to Mayim about all things Duggar, including how she was "trying to appease God at every turn," though she still won't label her former church a "cult."
Keep reading for more highlights from the women's chat…
Although she's now regarded as one of the "rebel Duggars," Jinger, 29, wasn't always that way. "I was a very compliant child. I was never one to push the boundaries. I wanted to do what was right," she explained on Mayim Bialik's "Breakdown" podcast. "If I was going to bed at night, I'd be terrified in fear thinking, 'Have I done what's right? Did I forget any of the principals?'"
Sometimes she'd even wake up in the middle of the night and read her bible if she felt she forgot a lesson from the Institute In Basic Life Principles doctrine. "Otherwise maybe God's gonna smite me dead," she explained. "You start to feel this fear or anxiety within because the teachings produce that." Her life, she said, revolved around God in every facet including her diet, hobbies and recreational activities.
She no longer practices the Institute In Basic Life Principles, but Jinger Duggar still struggled when asked if she was in a "cult." Said the former reality star on Mayim Bialik's "Breakdown" podcast, "I say now that you could have very cult-like stuff within it. It's hard to say was it a cult. It would have to be up to the experts to examine it and see. But there were elements of it that were cult-like, for sure."
Jinger feels lucky that her family still accepts her even though she left the church: "For some kids when they leave, their families no longer want to talk to them or they'll have this certain level of cutting them off," she said.
Jinger Duggar dropped many bombshells about her faith and family when she published her book, "Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear," earlier this year. (She called the Institute In Basic Life Principles teachings "harmful.") Still, it was a long time before the mother-of-two was comfortable publicly sharing her thoughts about the doctrine with which she grew up. "When I first thought, 'Should I write a book?' It took me years to get to that place because, for one, I wanted to work through first myself for those years on disentangling, taking apart the truth from the error myself before I came to the place of talking about it publicly," she said on Mayim Bialik's "Breakdown" podcast. "Why I wanted to write this book was to help those in the community who may still be there or to help those who have been harmed by it."
Jinger Duggar was so indoctrinated by the teachings of the Institute In Basic Life Principles that she believed anyone who strayed from the course was "putting their family's chance for success at risk." During an appearance on Mayim Bialik's "Breakdown" podcast, she said, "I would kind of look at other people outside of our circles and think, 'OK, maybe they're walking with God. Maybe they're not.' Because you kind of see differences. If women wore pants in their family, I was like, 'OK, well, I know they're not obeying every rule as they're supposed to.'"
Ultimately, one of her brothers-in-law — presumably sister Jessa Duggar's husband, Ben Seewald, who's a pastor — "challenged [her] way of thinking with how [she] read the Bible." Her husband, Jeremy Vuolo, also read the Bible entirely differently than she did, she noted.
Jinger Duggar is quick to point out that she still has a relationship with God, but it's not "burdensome" anymore. "I'm in this place of delight in my relationship [with God] where it's not burdensome, and it's not like if I don't read my bible today that God is up there like, 'Ok, now I'm going to have you be in a car accident because you didn't read your bible," she said. "There's a delight and a love for God that changed everything."
When Jinger reads the Bible now — which she "loves," she said — it's because she wants to. "It's not out of fear," she explained. "There's a relationship change of God as father — not [someone] looking like, 'I'm out to get you at every turn.'"